(With enormous thanks to guardian.com/sport editor James Dart.)


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It’s not too trite to say that neither side really deserved to go out. England were the better side in normal time and West Germany in extra time. The Germans will go on to their third consecutive final, hoping to avenge their defeats in 1982 and 1986. England go into a third-place play-off with Italy on Saturday after a night of raw emotion and proud heartbreak that will live with us all for ever. Gazza has tears streaming down his reddened face as he salutes the England fans. Time to listen to ‘World in Motion’ on loop while drowning a million sweet sorrows.

WADDLE MISSES AND ENGLAND ARE OUT! England 1–1 West Germany (3–4 pens) Waddle smashes his penalty inches over the bar – although such is its dramatic trajectory it soon looks like he’s missed by yards – and England’s dream is over. It’s the cruellest way to go out, particularly after such a wonderful performance. Many of us have never seen them play better. Waddle sinks to his knees, crestfallen. Matthäus breaks away from the German celebrations to help him to his feet, which is a nice touch from a truly world-class player. Bobby Robson smiles ruefully but also proudly, gently punching the air as if to say, ‘Bugger our luck.’ He knows how desperately close England were – not just to reaching the final but to winning the World Cup. Their campaign started farcically and ended glori­ously. Yes, okay, gloriously and farcically.

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THON SCORES! England 3–4 West Germany. England are on the brink now. Thon places another accurate penalty into the bottom-right corner. Shilton went the right way yet again but, again, got nowhere near it. It’ll be Waddle rather than Gascoigne, who is presumably too much of an emotional wreck to take a penalty, and if he doesn’t score England are out.

PEARCE MISSES! England 3–3 West Germany. Oh no. Stuart Pearce, so reliable from the spot for Nottingham Forest, has had his kick saved by Illgner. In truth it wasn’t a great penalty, blasted almost straight down the middle but low enough so that, even though Illgner had dived to his right, he was able to save it with his feet.

RIEDLE SCORES! England 3–3 West Germany. Again Shilton goes the right way and again he’s nowhere near saving it. In fact, it seems he’s waiting to see where the kick is going before he dives. That’s a dodgy tactic because the German penalties are so accurate. That one, from Riedle, was whipped high into the right of the net.

PLATT SCORES! England 3–2 West Germany. That was a bit close for comfort. Platt sidefooted it to his left but it was at a saveable height and Illgner managed to get fingertips on it. Thankfully for England it was far enough out of his reach that he couldn’t get a full hand on it and he could only help it into the net. Platt trots back to the halfway line with the nervous smile of a man who has avoided a firing squad.

MATTHAUS SCORES! England 2–2 West Germany. You don’t save those. Matthäus booms a frighteningly certain penalty low to Shilton’s right. Shilton went the right way again but was getting nowhere near that.

BEARDSLEY SCORES! England 2–1 West Germany. Beardsley shuffles forward a little nervously then takes another excellent penalty, high to his right. Illgner went the right way but couldn’t get near it.

BREHME SCORES! England 1–1 West Germany. An even better penalty, placed carefully into the bottom-left corner with his right foot. Shilton dived the right way but it was a wonder­fully accurate penalty, right into the side-netting. When Brehme took a penalty at the 1986 World Cup he used his left foot. You can’t get much more two-footed than that.

LINEKER SCORES! England 1–0 West Germany. Did you expect anything else? Lineker drills it confidently into the left side of the net as Illgner dives the other way.

Before Sunday’s game against Cameroon, England had not had a penalty for four years. Now they will have taken at least seven in four days. There are 17 years between the goalkeepers: Peter Shilton, 40, and Bodo Illgner, 23. Illgner will be first in action because England are going to kick first. It’ll be Lineker, in fact.

EXTRA TIME, FULL TIME: England 1–1 West Germany

With England hanging on for dear life, the referee blows five seconds early. So England are into virgin territory: a penalty shoot-out. Both sets of players embrace warmly. This has been a cracking game and there’s a general recognition that neither side deserves to lose. The mutual respect is quite moving.

118 min: NOW BUCHWALD HITS THE POST! Can you take any more of this? Germany were so close to winning the match there. Riedle broke forward from the halfway line and played the ball to the right of the box for Matthäus, who came inside and had his left-footed shot blocked by Pearce. It broke to Buchwald – the bloody centre-back – who controlled it calmly 20 yards from goal and then, using Steven as a screen, placed a lovely curler to the left of Shilton that bounced up on to the outside of the post! Unbelievable stuff.

117 min: The corner comes to nothing and Germany break dan­gerously. Augenthaler drills a superb 40-yard pass to Klinsmann, who heads it beyond the last man Walker and, for a moment, looks like he has him beaten for pace. Don’t be silly. Walker catches him up on the right of the box, stays on his feet and makes a superb interception. He has been simply majestic.

116 min: John Motson says that Bobby Robson told him this afternoon that the five penalty takers, if needed, would be Lineker, Beardsley, Gascoigne, Pearce and Platt. We almost didn’t need them because Illgner fumbled Steven’s cross from the left awkwardly over his own bar for a corner.

115 min: England are starting to look tired now. Brehme, a man with two right feet, zips infield from the left and plays a one-two with Riedle before spanking a vicious right-footed shot just over the bar from 20 yards. Shilton had it covered but it came right off the sweet spot.

114 min: GOOD SAVE FROM SHILTON! Thon has far too much space to take possession on the edge of the D and shape a lovely right-footed curler towards the far post. Shilton springs a long way to his left to catch the ball – a slightly showy save but still a good one.

113 min: It’s credit to Platt and Gascoigne in particular that Matthäus has been so quiet as an attacking force tonight. He has had his hands full defensively.

112 min Platt, arriving late in the box, leaps almost backwards to head Parker’s flat cross over the bar from the penalty spot.

111 min: PLATT HAS A GOAL DISALLOWED! From the resulting free-kick, swung in by Waddle, Platt flicked a smart header past Illgner but he had been flagged offside a split-second earlier. There are no complaints but that was seriously tight. The Germans pushed up but Berthold stayed a bit deeper and was so close to playing Platt onside. He was level at worst, as was Gascoigne further across the line. Platt was fractionally onside and Gascoigne fractionally off. So it’s the right decision but it was painfully close.

110 min: Gascoigne shields the ball down the right wing and Brehme simply boots him up in the air from behind. That’s an appalling tackle – much worse than Gascoigne’s on Berthold – and he is rightly booked. Brehme and Gascoigne shake hands and pat each other on the head. There’s been a huge amount of goodwill in this game. You have to admire Gascoigne’s response to that yellow card. If anything it’s given him a second wind.

109 min: Riedle nutmegs Walker down the left and toe-bungs a dangerous cross towards Klinsmann. Gascoigne, running towards his own goal at the near post, just manages to divert the ball away from Klinsmann.

107 min: England have switched their wingers so that they are playing on the ‘wrong’ side: Steven on the left and Waddle on the right. Steven plays a beautiful pass on the turn down the left but Pearce is fractionally offside.

106 min: England kick off the second period of extra time. Fifteen minutes without a goal and England will be involved in their first-ever penalty shoot-out. West Germany have had three: they lost in the final of Euro 76 but won matches at the World Cup in 1982 and 1986.

EXTRA TIME, HALF TIME: England 1–1 West Germany

Who needs a drink?

105 min: WADDLE HITS THE POST! England come within an inch of going ahead with the last kick of the half. When Steven’s cross from the left was partially cleared, the same man leapt above Berthold to head it back towards the area. It came to Waddle, 12 yards out on the left side of the box, and he smacked a brilliant first-time shot across Illgner and flush off the inside of the far post. That’s desperately unlucky – not least because Platt was within a whisker of putting the rebound in, but it flew off the post so quickly that he couldn’t react in time.

103 min: After that initial wobble, Gascoigne has managed to refocus and is doing some diligent defensive work.

101 min: Thon, 25 yards out, swooshes a very good shot not too far wide of the near post. West Germany have been much the better side in this half.

100 min: . . . AND GAZZA MISSES THE FINAL. England have to get there first, of course, but if they do, Gascoigne will not feature against Argentina on Sunday. This is horrible. He is on the cusp of tears and the proud English tradition of the stiff upper lip is taking a serious hit: Gazza’s is wobbling all over the place. Lineker says something to Gascoigne and then pulls his Grave Face before saying ‘Have a word with him’ to the bench. That is just too cruel. It does rather seem that the West Germans got him booked, which is a desperate shame because this game has otherwise been played in an incredibly good spirit. Poor old Gazza. He has been the star of England’s tournament and now his whole world has collapsed. It’s not just Gazza, either; English football has just had its heart broken into a million tiny pieces.

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99 min: HOLD ON . . . THERE COULD BE TROUBLE HERE . . . Gascoigne overruns the ball in midfield and then lunges with typically naive enthusiasm at Berthold. It’s a clear foul but does not merit Berthold’s reaction – 77 rollovers – or that of the rest of the German camp, who are all at the referee, both on the field and from the bench. Gascoigne, realizing the implications, put both hands up in apology like a kid who has used that whoopee cushion on his teacher once too often and will never do it again I promise but please don’t punish me this time. He immediately goes to apologize to Berthold. It looks like he’s got away with it, for ten seconds at least, but then, with Hitchcockian suddenness, out comes the card . . .

97 min: England are rocking. Beardsley gives the ball away cheaply on the halfway line and, seconds later, Walker just gets in front of Riedle at the near post to put Brehme’s cross out for a corner.

96 min: KLINSMANN MISSES ANOTHER CHANCE! West Germany could easily be ahead. Wright came deep with Klinsmann to try to win possession and, as he followed the ball, Klinsmann kept running into the space behind. The ball came to the sweeper Augenthaler, who flipped an inviting angled pass over the top. Klinsmann was free, 12 yards from goal and in line with the left-hand post, but he screwed his left-footed volley across goal and just wide. It was a harder chance than it looked because the pass was coming almost over his shoulder and there was no pace on the ball, but again a player of his class should surely have done better.

95 min: GREAT SAVE FROM SHILTON! Shilton has had scarcely anything to do all night but now produces a superb save from Klinsmann. West Germany moved the ball slowly, all the way across the field from right to left, with Thon eventually shifting it down the line to Brehme. He curled over a wonderful first-time cross and Klinsmann, towering above Walker on the six-yard line, thumped a downward header towards goal. Shilton plunged to his right to make a superb reaction stop with both hands. It wasn’t right in the corner, and someone as good in the air as Klinsmann might feel he should have done better, but it was a brilliant save. That mistake against Uruguay just before the tournament seems a long, long time ago.

93 min Pearce wins the first corner of extra-time. It’s swung in by Gascoigne and nicks off the head of a defender at the near post, but the stretching Wright can only loop the ball up in the air for Illgner to claim easily.

92 min: A bit of danger for England as West Germany break two on two. Klinsmann runs into the box but is superbly tackled by Walker. He really is imperious.

91 min: West Germany kick off from left to right. England haven’t used their final substitution.

Bobby Robson is wandering round rallying the troops and giving tactical instructions to Parker; Waddle and Bull are having a laugh about something. England look pretty relaxed. ‘We’ve got another half-hour and we might have penalties,’ says Des Lynam. ‘Are you ready for this?’

FULL TIME: England 1–1 West Germany

How’s your ticker? For the third game in a row, England are going to extra time – the first time that has ever happened in any World Cup. It’s the least they deserve after a fine, sophisticated performance, their best of the tournament by a mile.

89 min: England are passing the ball around at the back and both sides look happy to take extra time now. That’s all well and good for them but some of us planned to watch M*A*S*H on BBC2 at nine.

87 min: A little bit of West German pressure, with an extended series of throw-ins on the right wing, but England defend them comfortably enough. Walker and Wright have been outstanding.

85 min: Beardsley is still on, the plan to introduce Bull having been aborted after the goal.

84 min: Gascoigne nails a glorious 60-yard crossfield pass to Lineker, who is just about to put the ball back in the box when Platt is penalized for some off-the-ball tomfoolery

83 min: That’s Lineker’s tenth World Cup goal: four this year and six in 1986. What a gem. He started this tournament slowly but has looked really sharp tonight and he took that beautifully. It was a more difficult chance than it looked.

81 min: GOAL! England 1–1 West Germany (Lineker)

England have saved themselves in the last ten minutes again! Parker swung over a long cross towards Lineker from near the halfway line on the right. It hit the thigh of Kohler, who was running towards his own goal, and as it bounced up Lineker kneed it away from Augenthaler and Berthold before cracking an excellent left-footed shot across goal and into the far corner. The Germans had too many cooks in the box but it was clinical finishing. On the bench Bobby Robson reclines in his seat while wearing the most beautiful smile: warm, benign and extremely proud.

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79 min: The tireless Parker runs Brehme down the right to win a corner. It’s tossed deep by Beardsley and Wright’s looping header is comfortably saved by Illgner. Bobby Robson is about to roll the dice for the last time: Steve Bull is preparing to come on, presum­ably for Beardsley.

75 min: The game is meandering a bit. England are doing okay but West Germany look reasonably comfortable.

71 min: Pearce goes on a barnstorming, leggy surge from the halfway line, all the way to the edge of the box where he falls over after a double challenge from Berthold and Augenthaler. It looked like Berthold got something on the ball but the referee gives the free-kick, 20 yards from goal. This is a great opportunity for Gascoigne – but in fact Waddle lays it square to Beardsley, whose shot is blocked desperately by Matthäus. Before the kick was taken, Trevor Steven came on to replace Butcher, so England are back to 4-4-2.

69 min: HOW IS THAT NOT A PENALTY? England are des­perately unlucky here. Waddle, on the left of the box, draws the tackle from Augenthaler with a swing of the hips and then shifts the ball to his left just before Augenthaler takes him down. That is a clear penalty but the referee waves play on. In his defence, nobody appealed – Waddle just got straight up with that hangdog gait – and on first viewing it was hard to be certain it was a penalty. But when you see the replays there is no doubt whatsoever.

68 min Waddle makes a lovely angled run behind the defence but Gascoigne overhits his through ball this much and that allows the last man Kohler to come across and concede a corner. Kohler has been fantastic tonight.

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67 min: West Germany make their second substitution: Stefan Reuter replaces Hässler, who hasn’t recovered from the tackle from Pearce that led to Brehme’s goal. Reuter is normally a right wing-back but he has gone straight into midfield.

65 min: You have to admire the spirit England have shown since going behind. No sulking or feeling sorry for themselves after such an unfortunate goal; just a quiet determination to get an equalizer. Gascoigne swerves away from Augenthaler on the edge of the area and is baulked. He is so good at taking defend­ers out of the game in the middle of the pitch, a rare quality indeed among midfield players. The free-kick hits the wall and moments later Parker clatters Buchwald, bringing the first yellow card of the game.

63 min: WHAT A CHANCE FOR ENGLAND! That was des­perately close to an equalizer. After he was fouled on the left, Gascoigne swung in a superb free-kick and Pearce, getting in front of Riedle at the near post, flicked a backheader across goal and just wide of the far post with Illgner motionless.

62 min: Matthäus moves away from Butcher far too easily and charges to within 25 yards of Shilton before shooting across goal and well wide. England just need to keep their nerve and make sure they don’t go two down because if they do it’s over.

61 min: Is Shilton at fault for the goal? Difficult to know. His feet didn’t move quite as quickly as they might but it was a horrible and unexpected deflection.

59 min: GOAL! England 0–1 West Germany (Brehme)

It had been coming but England are desperately unlucky with the manner of this goal. Pearce fouled Hässler 22 yards from goal, to the right of centre. The free-kick was touched off to Brehme, whose shot took a vicious deflection off Parker before looping high in the air and agonizingly over the stranded Shilton, who couldn’t back-pedal quickly enough and ended up helping it into the net as he fell backwards.

58 min: A lucky escape for England. Matthus goes on a trade­mark robotic charge down the left wing, away from Waddle, Gascoigne and Walker, but when he gets into the box he slips over just as he is about to pick out a cross. ‘England are under siege now,’ says John Motson.

57 min West Germany are really turning the screw. Matthäus lays the ball back invitingly for Thon, who drags a 25-yard shot well wide of the near post.

56 min: Lineker is flattened by Kohler, who then picks him up and pats his sweaty head. There’s been a lot of that in a match that has been played in a really good spirit.

54 min: This game is extremely open at the moment – too open – and Wright makes a really important block from Riedle on the edge of the box.

53 min: England win a corner – and almost concede a goal within 20 seconds. After Pearce miscontrolled the ball 35 yards from goal, West Germany broke in a flash. Walker tackled Klinsmann but the ball came to Thon, who ran 25 yards into the box before shifting the ball to the left of the last man Parker and hitting a shot that Shilton had to beat away to his left.

49 min A good move from England. Waddle, on the right wing, flips a superb first-time return pass over the top for the onrushing Parker. He gets beyond Brehme and into the box, but his touch is a little heavy and Augenthaler comes across to clear.

48 min: West Germany have started this half as they finished the first and are having a lot of the ball.

47 min: Matthäus plays a dangerous one-two with Riedle before breaking into the box but four England defenders manage to crowd him out.

46 min: West Germany kick off from right to left.

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Half-time chit-chat. The BBC boys are full of praise for Walker, with Terry Venables describing him as ‘unbeatable’. That’s what they sing. Jimmy Hill, channelling William Morris, says it’s ‘a pleasure to see an England team give such a display in the arts and crafts of the game’.

HALF TIME: England 0–0 West Germany. After a few hairy minutes, England get the breather they need and deserve for a superb first-half performance: controlled, mature and rousing. There weren’t any clear-cut chances for either side but it’s been a very good game.

42 min: GET BEHIND THE SOFA. IT’S HAPPENING! West Germany are suddenly all over England, having their best spell of the game by a mile. A sustained spell of high-tempo pos­session in the England half ends with Buchwald failing to win a free-kick on the edge of the area. England are hanging on and could really do with half time.

41 min: West Germany’s best chance yet. They win a free-kick 25 yards out, left of centre, and while everyone is expecting a shot Brehme instead lays it square to Augenthaler. He cuts across a very good, swooshing right-footed strike and Shilton has to move smartly to his right to tip it over two-handed, falling off his feet in the process.

39 min: Riedle replaces Völler, who is being helped down the touchline. He must be doubtful for Sunday’s final when, sorry, if West Germany get there. What a tournament he has had: sent off for being flobbed on in the second round, suspended for the quarter-final, now injured in the semi.

38 min A patient West German move ends with Hassler finding Thon 25 yards out. He dummies Platt and then crunches a good left-footed shot that Shilton saves comfortably despite a potentially awkward bounce just in front of him.

36 min Völler is still down and Karl-Heinz Riedle is getting ready. Völler barely got a kick from Walker, who has been immense. Again.

34 min: CHRIS WADDLE HITS THE BAR FROM 45 YARDS! It wouldn’t have counted, as the referee had blown for a foul by Platt a split-second earlier, but that was an incred­ible effort. The ball broke loose off Augenthaler and Waddle lofted it first time towards goal, a golf shot really, and Illgner had to jump backwards to tip it on to the bar. That was reminis­cent of Pelé in 1970 but this time it was a bloody Englishman doing it.

33 min Völler may have to go off here: he deliberately kicked the ball out of play and immediately waved to the physio. It looks like he’s pulled something in the back of his leg.

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30 min: That was a bit of a scare for England. Völler ran down the right-hand side of the box on to an angled pass from the sweeper Augenthaler. Shilton came to meet him unnecessarily and Völler moved away from him before Gascoigne came round to block his cross. That was an important interception because Shilton was out of the game.

28 min: Platt and Gascoigne play a classy one-two on the halfway line, and Platt keeps running into the space down the left wing, all the way into the area before trying and failing to take on Augenthaler. He should have looked for Waddle or Lineker but that was a rare bit of immaturity from a player who has been one of the surprise joys of this tournament.

27 min: Terry Butcher does a backheel! We’ve seen everything now. Butcher, in the centre circle, backheels the ball to Gascoigne and then swans off back to his position with the studied indiffer­ence of a man who has just saved the world but, honestly, it’s no biggie.

24 min: Another good effort from Gascoigne. Waddle’s free-kick from the right is headed clear by Klinsmann; it comes to Gascoigne, who controls the ball on his chest 22 yards from goal and then lashes the bouncing ball towards goal. It was a sweet strike but straight at Illgner, who held on.

23 min John Motson reminds us that there are three England players who will miss the match if they get booked tonight: Pearce, Gascoigne and McMahon. West Germany also have three on a yellow card: Berthold, Matthaus and Klinsmann. Argentina will be without four players in Sunday’s final because of cards they received last night.

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19 min: Lineker’s movement and link play have been really smart. He shifts the ball away from Kohler on the left and hammers over a deep cross towards Parker of all people, and he heads wide under pressure. The BBC co-commentator Trevor Brooking says this is ‘easily England’s best start’ of the tournament.

17 min: A delightful move from England. Platt, with six West German defenders surrounding him, waits and waits and then plays a smart pass in behind the defence for the onrushing Pearce. He hits a first-time cross towards Lineker at the near post and Kohler slides in desperately to concede a corner. A great tackle, and lovely stuff from England.

15 min: Gazza cockily Cruyff-turns away from Klinsmann on the halfway line. He has been very confident and influential so far, more so than Matthäus. This really is his stage.

12 min: West Germany have their first half-chance. Hässler, a mischievous little player, dupes Butcher on the edge of the box before hitting a left-footed shot that spins off Pearce and not too far wide of the far post.

11 min: ‘England are playing some tidy football,’ exclaims the BBC’s John Motson, shocked by a display of incontrovertible Anglo-competence.

10 min: Another decent opening for England. Beardsley breaks the offside trap on the right wing but, with only Lineker in support, he shanks his cross wide of the near post.

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8 min West Germany haven’t got into this game at all as an attacking force yet. Walker and Wright are jockstrap-tight on Voller and Klinsmann.

5 min: Difficult to know how to break this to you, but England have started brilliantly. Lineker lays a loose ball off to Gascoigne, who shimmies smartly inside Augenthaler on the edge of the box before his thumping left-footed shot is well blocked by Kohler.

3 min: Butcher, rather than Wright, is playing as the spare man at the back. Perhaps they don’t trust his legs in a one-on-one against these two quick West German forwards. Walker is taking Völler and Wright is on Klinsmann.

2 min: WHAT A START FROM ENGLAND! England come storming out of the traps and Lineker wins a corner on the right inside 15 seconds. It’s taken by Beardsley and half-cleared to the edge of the box, where Gascoigne hooks the bouncing ball back whence it came with his left foot. It’s a beautiful effort and, although it’s swerving just wide of the near post, Illgner leaps to his left to palm it behind. That leads to a second corner, which leads to a third. That leads to nothing but England almost get in again thirty seconds later when Beardsley, played onside by Buchwald, breaks into the box from the left. He has Lineker and Waddle in support but tries to take on Buchwald, who dispos­sesses him well. Rousing stuff from England.

1 min: England kick off from right to left. They are in white; West Germany are in their funky epilepsy-inducing green away kit.

Anthemwatch: The England fans boo the West German anthem. For heaven’s sake, you bastards. Gascoigne, who has had some absurd criticism from humourless clowns for sticking his tongue out during the anthem, settles for just easing the tip out and smiling gently.

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The players are in the tunnel. Wright has a big plaster on his left eye; it’s a right mess, like someone applied it while blindfolded and high on Hofmeister. Waddle has chopped off his mullet (insert your own Samson joke here). Gascoigne gives Beardsley a kiss on the right cheek. This is just another game in the park to him, isn’t it? He has spent the last month taking the piss out of everyone, from Ronald Koeman to Mark Goodier on Top of the Pops, so why should this faze him? West Germany look calm, businesslike and other German clichés. This really is just another game for them, their eighth semi-final out of nine attempts in the last 20 years. You probably don’t need me to tell you how many England have been in during that time. Clue: it’s less than one.

Back in the studio, homoerotic comedy duo Terry Venables and Jimmy Hill shake hands before saying a word. Let’s give it two minutes before they disagree over something. They make for great TV. Alongside them, Bryan Robson exudes the impo­tent frustration of a man looking in on his own party. Hill says he is ‘frightened out of my life’. He’s not the only one.

Build-up: The BBC – don’t say you’re watching it on ITV, you’ll have missed Pavarotti for a start – begin their coverage with an obvious but neat montage contrasting the classes of 1966 and 1990. The highlight is Bobby Robson shaking his head back and forth in utter confusion, like a man contemplating the promise of a night of unbridled lust with Cindy Crawford, as he considers the possibility of winning the World Cup: ‘Well . . . I’ve been in the game now 40 years . . . it would be lovely to . . . To win the . . . the biggest prize the game had to offer, the world championship.’ What a lovely man he is.

Team news

Bobby Robson said that ‘4–4–2 saved us’ against Cameroon on Sunday but while that formation will always be his beloved wife, he was always likely to return to his sexy foreign bit on the side against such formidable opposition. That means the extra defensive cover of a sweeper system and just one change from the side that started against Cameroon: Peter Beardsley for the injured John Barnes. Des Walker and Mark Wright have been passed fit, although Wright has six stitches above his left eye. England’s five substitutes include Trevor Steven, so impres­sive when he came on against Cameroon, and Steve Bull of the Second Division.

West Germany bring in two impish schemers, Thomas Hässler and Olaf Thon, for Pierre Littbarski and Uwe Bein. Rudi Völler also returns, having served his one-match suspension for being used as a hankie by Frank Rijkaard; Karl-Heinz Riedle drops to the bench.

England (5-3-2): Peter Shilton; Paul Parker, Terry Butcher, Mark Wright, Des Walker, Stuart Pearce; Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, David Platt; Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley.

West Germany (3-5-2): Bodo Illgner; Guido Buchwald, Klaus Augenthaler, Jürgen Kohler; Thomas Berthold, Thomas Hässler, Lothar Matthäus, Olaf Thon, Andreas Brehme; Jürgen Klinsmann, Rudi Völler.

Referee: José Roberto Wright (Brazil).

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Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then we’ll begin. This is England’s biggest match for 24 years, since the day some people were on the pitch thinking it was all over. You might want to lie down as you contemplate this, but when England step on to the field to face West Germany tonight, they will be 90 minutes away from a World Cup final.

In real terms, they are arguably already in one. ‘If we can win tonight, we’re in the final, with a great chance of beating Argentina,’ says Bobby Robson. ‘Great chance. This is the big one. Germany’s the big one.’ Although Diego Maradona’s side played well to lubricate Italian eyes last night, they have otherwise been poor in this tournament and will be without four suspended players for the final, including the superb but very stupid basketball star Claudio Caniggia.

That said, England haven’t exactly been pulling up trees all over Italy this last month. They were incredibly lucky to beat Cameroon in the quarter-final and only really excelled in the 0–0 draw against Holland. West Germany, by contrast, have been immense: they are the modern power team par excellence. Having already wiped the floor with two very good European sides in Yugoslavia and Holland, and eased past another in Czechoslovakia, they must be strong favourites tonight. England will not so much have to raise their game as redefine it.

That’s the logical viewpoint, anyway. But balls to logic. As has been mentioned before, England are in a World Cup semi-final!!!

Kick-off: 7pm. English time, 8pm. in Turin. (And 1.30pm. in the year 2014.)

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