- David Platt celebrates 119th-minute winner against Belgium in 1990
- The goal transformed the midfielder’s career
- England and Belgium will face off again at Russia 2018
A few familiar fixtures emerged from last week’s Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with England-Belgium among the most evocative.
Though only pitted together twice at the global finals, this European duo have served up fireworks on each occasion. A remarkable 4-4 draw in 1954 set the standard, and while their Round of 16 meeting at Italy 1990 didn’t produce the same number of goals, it certainly delivered on drama.
For David Platt, it was a life-changing, career-defining encounter. The then Aston Villa midfielder was the youngest member of England’s squad and came into the match as a bit-part player, having started every one of their matches on the bench.
The Belgium game extended that run to four, and Platt watched the opening 71 minutes from the sidelines as the Three Lions toiled against their dominant, Enzo Scifo-inspired opponents. He, too, initially struggled to make an impact, and with 119 minutes on the clock and the scoreline blank, a penalty shoot-out beckoned. But then, with the final seconds ticking down, England won a free-kick 40 yards from goal.
Paul Gascoigne decided to go directly for goal but manager Bobby Robson, bellowing from the sidelines, demanded a cross. It proved to be sage advice, with Gascoigne’s clipped delivery clearing the retreating defence and setting the stage for the substitute to grab his moment.
"I was spinning, the ball dropped over my shoulder and I just tried to get something on it,” Platt recalled. “There wasn't a great deal of power. It was all technique."
The skill involved, with Platt swivelling to volley first-time beyond the helpless Michel Preud’homme, earned him new-found fame – and a starting place for England’s three remaining matches. He would score again in the 3-2 quarter-final win over Cameroon, and then once more against the hosts in the play-off for third place. It paved the way for an extended stay in Italy, as Platt went on to enjoy spells with Bari, Juventus and Sampdoria in the then-star-studded Serie A.
"I might still have ended up playing in Italy but, realistically, I'm sure [the goal against Belgium] was the catalyst,” he admitted. “Italian clubs were looking for international names and, before that goal, I was only really known as a club player with Aston Villa.”
Platt went on to enjoy an excellent career, winning domestic and European trophies in Italy before returning to England to help Arsenal to a league-and-cup double. For many, though, he is still remembered for the volley against Belgium and the celebration captured above.
"Everything was intuitive,” he later reflected. “The way I met and hit the ball, and then dropping to my knees. It was just one of life's rare, perfect moments."