One of my most memorable Cup matches was the semifinal in Italy between England and Germany
in 1990. Two different cultures with the same bull-dogged tenacity. Tactics cast to the wind, it's up and down the pitch the whole match, no quarter asked none given, like when "two nations came to death grips on the farm lands of Pennsylvania".
England's horse is Gascoigne, aka Gazza, a rough, mercurial character who knew every trick, both high and low
. Well midway through the second half, Gazza seizes the ball at midfield, and he's off to the races down the left sideline, Brehme breathing down his neck in hot pursuit. Just before Gazza reaches the corner to strike a cross, Brehme pulls the emergency brakes from behind. Bang. Down goes Gazza, hard, like a sack of cement. Gazza immediately leaps to his feet, and - to the astonishment of millions of spectators - with a big grin on his face turns to offer a handshake to the equally astonished Brehme. Gazza, for all his faults, could take it as well as he dished it out. Respect.
Regulation ends, deservedly, 1:1. Second act, overtime, same as the first, so that we arrive at that last, unfair but most dramatic and tragic of them all, the penalty shoot-out. Some poor soul standing alone at the penalty mark with the crushing weight of an entire nation's hopes on his shoulders will eventually misfire, and as fate would have it, it's Pearce and Waddle for England.