Quite a game, no? Nick Miller watched Arsenal's thrilling 1-1 draw with Everton and saw two teams who have improved, leaving certain others trailing...
Another rotten day for David Moyes, whose desperation for a win was epitomised by the selection of an unfit Robin van Persie in attack. It's looking pretty worrying indeed...
England history does not repeat itself in football, except in quarter-final penalty shootouts but, after watching us labour to a goalless draw in Kiev that nonetheless edged the Group H leaders closer to the finals, thoughts went back 24 years. Such memories were reinforced when it emerged Gary Lineker was so prominent among the critics of his successors' performance.
Qualification for the 1990 World Cup was as dire and painful experience as has ever ended in success. Bobby Robson's team did not lose a game between the quarter-final defeat to Maradona's Argentina at Mexico 86 and arriving in West Germany for the 1988 European Championship, but proceeded to lose to the Republic of Ireland and Holland. Three defeats constituted England's worst ever tournament performance and thank God we have never sunk lower, even under Graham Taylor or Kevin Keegan. And it was all made worse by expectations buoyed by a triumphant qualification: needing a draw away to Yugoslavia to reach the Euro 88 finals, goals from Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Bryan Robson and Tony Adams gave England a 4-0 lead in Belgrade inside 25 minutes. The team headed to West Germany with belief more widely spread than I can remember, only to fail so calamitously.
Many - most - wanted Robson to go, despite mitigating circumstances such as Lineker's undiagnosed hepatitis and the narrowness of the defeat to Ireland. The manager clung on amid such headlines as "In the name of Allah go!" after a 1-1 friendly draw in Saudi Arabia.
England were drawn against Sweden, Albania and Poland - and draw was the word in half the matches. Just as Hodgson's team have four wins and four draws, so Robson's had three and three. Albania were beaten 2-0 and 5-0, and Poland were dispatched 3-0 at Wembley, but not a single goal was scored against Sweden. A draw in Poland would secure a place in the finals and 90 tense minutes almost ended in disaster when a pot shot hit Peter Shilton's bar in the dying moments.
The home win against Poland was rewarding viewing, but otherwise the high spots of qualifying were not conceding a single goal and Terry Butcher's blood-spattered shirt after he stood firm in Stockholm, a symbol of the yeoman defending that carried Robson's side through. But inspirational it was not and, though the manager wanted to continue, the FA made clear that he would not be offered a new contract. Needing the work, Robson accepted an offer from PSV Eindhoven. We headed to Italia 90 knowing it would be his swansong and with few hopes of progression. Robson looked like a wreck after eight years in the impossible job.
In truth it was a dire World Cup and England played poorly in many of their games, starting in the 1-1 draw against Ireland. We were better against Holland and deservedly beat Egypt, but bar a wrongly disallowed Barnes goal were lucky against Belgium and most neutrals felt we should have lost to Cameroon. Only against West Germany in the last four did England play like a side worthy of the semi-finals.
God knows we did not play like World Cup semi-finalists in Kiev but those who did in 1990, such as Lineker, should heed the history of Robson's qualification trials. In the end, Italia 90's drama reinspired the whole English game after the depths of post-Heysel and Hillsborough depression, showing the size of audience that unfashionable football could reach and making the Premier League a possibility.
There are no guarantees that England will qualify or do well next summer, and there is much that needs to be put right in both the short and long term. But some sense of perspective is surely due from those who were denied such an accommodation from the media immediately before the high spot of their own careers.
England are average in respect of world football, ajsr1982. I think they are generally consistent in qualifying and getting out of the groups in the finals.(Last 16, Qtr finals generally) In their qualifying groups they are expected to qualify, therefore they are favourites in that context. Hodgson should have the like of Linekers support- jericho