World Cup Sports Comment

A goal by Costa Rica's Juan Cayaso (right) was enough to see off Dave MacPherson (also pictured) and his Scotland team-mates at the 1990 World Cup in Italy
A goal by Costa Rica's Juan Cayaso (right) was enough to see off Dave MacPherson (also pictured) and his Scotland team-mates at the 1990 World Cup in Italy

Only once in my life have I feared being lynched by a baying mob of England fans due to the inflammatory actions of a nine-year-old family member, writes Craig Goldthorp.

Allow me to explain.

It was the Italian resort of Lido di Jesolo and it was July 1, 1990. I was 13 years old and Scotland had long since flown home after suffering a shock 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in the group stages (pictured).

My brother Alan and I were in a large lounge watching the England v Cameroon World Cup quarter-final from Naples live on a hotel TV while surrounded by approximately 200 England fans.

I can still remember a truly raucous atmosphere which included the English continually shouting: ‘Come on Gaz, Come on Gaz’ at the telly as they urged their hero Paul Gascoigne to take them one step nearer winning the tournament for the first time since 1966.

To me, any mention of England winning that particular World Cup is received about as warmly as the news that Craig Thomson is refereeing an upcoming Motherwell match.

Anyway, you can picture the scene around the big screen as midfielder David Platt scores to put England 1-0 up against the African underdogs within the first 25 minutes.

Loud cheering, high fiving and chants of ‘Enger-lund, Enger-lund, Enger-lund’ as the English men, women and children wave their St George’s flags and generally go ballistic.

Meantime, Alan and I are displaying all the enthusiasm of the average bloke who’s just been told by his missus that he must studiously sit through an entire series of TV’s Love Island.

Faces tripping us, we thought that our adopted nation of Cameroon were heading home after an incredible run which had seen them memorably beat eventual runners-up Argentina 1-0 in the opening match, Romania 2-1 in game two and then put out Colombia by the same score in the last 16.

But our spirits were suddenly lifted just one minute into the second half when Cameroon substituted Emmanuel Maboang (I promise I didn’t just Google that) and replaced him with the legend that is Roger Milla.

Yes, Milla was the man who – at age 38 – had scored two goals in each of the earlier successes against Romania and Colombia, before marking them in stunning celebration by rushing off and performing an unforgettable ‘shimmy’ of his backside at the corner flag.

If anyone could inspire a fightback against the English, this guy could.

And, sure enough, within 15 minutes of coming on Milla produced a thrilling run into the penalty area which saw him fouled and win a penalty which Emmanuel Kunde thumped past Peter Shilton to make it 1-1.

Cue despair from the vast majority of fans around the telly, other than the few Italians and my brother who proceeded to sprint around, cheering gleefully, extending his arms pretending to be an aeroplane and generally threatening to start a riot.

A perplexed Italian man witnessed Alan’s display and asked me: ‘He no English?’

My reply of: ‘No, Scottish’ invoked considerable hilarity from the now laughing Venice native.

And Alan was at it again on 65 minutes when Milla slid through Eugene Ekeke to put Cameroon 2-1 up.

Although England eventually fought back to win 3-2 after extra time, it remained an unforgettable night!

* The 2018 World Cup starts tomorrow (Thursday) with hosts Russia v Saudi Arabia, kick-off 4pm.