As another international break looms, I thought I’d take a look back on some famous and infamous moments involving Liverpool players on international duty.
Roger Hunt – England v West Germany, 1966 World Cup final
I’d love to eulogise about the greatest football moment of 1966. But this is an article about international football, so I’ll have to save Bill Shankly’s second league championship for another time!
Something else happened that year that was quite a big deal, namely the only World Cup to be held on these shores, and England were drawing 2-2 with West Germany as a dramatic final entered extra time.
Enter Geoff Hurst, a cross bar, a goal-line, a Russian (actually Azerbaijani) linesman and all that. What is often understated is Roger Hunt’s part in that extraordinary moment. Legend has it that as the ball bounced off the underside of the bar and onto/over the line, Sir Roger turned away to celebrate rather than follow the rebound in, such was his confidence that the ball was in. It’s a version of events I recently heard Ian Callaghan recount.
Sir Roger and England had won the World Cup, but unlike these days when the kitman’s next door neighbour’s milkman gets one, only the starting 11 that day received winners medals. Thankfully, in a rare instance of FIFA actually doing something decent, Cally, Gerry Byrne and the remaining squad members were finally given winners medals in 2009.
It would be 44 years before a Liverpool player next appeared for the winning side in a World Cup final when Fernando Torres came on as a late sub against Holland. More of him later!
Ray Clemence – Scotland v England, 1976
I have no recollection of this game whatsoever, but in my defence I wasn’t born until 2 years later! But I had a particular footy video** when I was a kid and this goal was on it, so it’s always stuck in my mind.
Ray Clemence is regarded as Liverpool’s finest ever goalkeeper, but had to battle it out with Peter Shilton for the England jersey, much to the chagrin of many Reds who regarded our number one as the superior keeper.
Clem got the nod that afternoon at Hampden, but had a day to forget in Glasgow as a tame-enough shot from Scotland’s number 7 snook through his legs to give the hosts a 2-1 win.
His tormentor in chief that day, Kenny Dalglish, would become his team mate twelve months later. The rest, as they say, is history!
**The video in question was Kenny’s life story.
Ray Houghton – Ireland v England, Euro 88
Ireland had qualified for their first major tournament, and couldn’t have asked for a bigger game to make their debut in tournament football as they took on Bobby Robson’s much fancied England side
There was plenty of interest for Liverpool fans as half of the side that had romped to the 1988 league title was on show -Barnes and Beardsley started for England, while John Aldridge, Ronnie Whelan and Ray Houghton began for Jack Charlton’s men.
And it was Ray Houghton, arguably the most unheralded of Kenny’s signings that transformed the Reds in the wake of Ian Rush’s departure, who grabbed the headlines as his early header proved to be the only goal of the game.
England flopped, losing all 3 games, while the Irish missed out on the semi finals in heart breaking fashion thanks to a late Dutch goal in the final group game. Houghton meanwhile, by then an Aston Villa player, repeated his heroics six years later by scoring the winner against Italy in the 1994 World Cup.
Michael Owen – England v Argentina, France 98
Michael Owen had ended his first full season in top flight football as the Premier League’s top scorer, aged just 18. As France 98 approached, this kid had the world at his feet.
Hoddle left him on the bench for the first two games of the tournament, keeping the tried and trusted front two of Shearer and Sheringham, but the clamour to include him from the start intensified. A goal from the bench in a defeat to Romania only made the cries grow louder.
With barely a quarter of an hour of England’s last 16 tie against Argentina gone, Michael Owen exploded onto the world stage. Owen picked the ball up just inside the Argentine half before running half the length of the pitch at the speed of lightning and producing an emphatic right foot finish. The Argentinian defenders couldn’t get near him as he netted arguably the finest goal scored by a Liverpool player at a World Cup.
Much has been said and written since then about Owen’s place in our history, especially given some of his subsequent career choices. But on that night 18 years ago, I can’t imagine there was a single Liverpool fan who wasn’t delighted he was ours.
England 0 Liverpool 1/Germany 1 Liverpool 5 – 2002 World Cup
England and Germany were paired together in a mouth watering World Cup qualification group, with only one side guaranteed a place in Japan and South Korea
This first clash was the last ever game at the old Wembley, and a piece of opportunism from Didi Hamann won the day for Germany and spelled the end of Kevin Keagan’s tenure as England manager.
Didi’s Liverpool team mates got their own back in emphatic style a year later in Munich’s Olympic Stadium as a Michael Owen hat trick plus goals from Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey produced one of the most celebrated results in England’s history.
Owen’s heroics in Munich, along with his contribution to the Reds’ unprecedented cup treble, led to him winning the 2001 Balon D’Or. He remains the only man ever to do so while playing for Liverpool.
El Hadji Diouf – Senegal v France. 2002 World Cup
Senegal were the surprise package of the 2002 World Cup. Prior to the tournament, the Reds had already paid £10 million for El Hadji Diouf, a not inconsiderable sum at the time, after Gerard Houllier chose not to take up the option to sign Nicolas Anelka on a permanent deal.
In the opening game of the tournament, Diouf ran holders France ragged as the Africans secured a shock but deserved 1-0 win. I was working that day so didn’t see the game live, but received messages from mates laden with optimism about our exciting new signing.
If only we knew…………..
Fernando Torres – Spain v Germany, Euro 2008 final
Fernando Torres had enjoyed a dream debut season at Anfield, scoring over 30 goals, and had gained instant hero status. Liverpool had lacked a world class striker since Michael Owen departed for Real Madrid, but the man signed from Atletico Madrid filled that void emphatically.
At that summer’s Euros, Torres had played second fiddle to David Villa for most of the tournament, but when it came to the biggest moment of them all, he delivered.
Twelve minutes before half time, Torres capitalised on hesitancy in Germany’s defence, using his explosive pace to leave Phillip Lahm in his wake before beating Jens Lehmann with an ice cool finish. Spain’s four decade wait for a trophy was over and it heralded a period of dominance as they also went on to lift the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Luis Suarez – Uruguay v Italy, 2014 World Cup
Luis Suarez was no stranger to World Cup controversy, having infamously handled on the line against Ghana 4 years earlier, before celebrating on the touchline when the Ghanians missed the resulting spot kick.
He’d already made his mark in Brazil with 2 goals against England, but in the second half of the final group game against Italy, one moment of madness ended his tournament and with it his country’s hopes of emulating their semi final appearance in South Africa.
Suarez sunk his teeth into Georgio Chiellini’s shoulder and the inevitable shit storm ensued. For us Reds, the feel good factor generated by seeing us go so close to the title evaporated almost on the spot as we faced the prospect of coping without him for yet another prolonged spell. That problem would soon become Barcelona’s as the most gifted player of this generation to wear a red shirt moved to the Nou Camp a few weeks later.
Daniel Sturridge – England v Wales, Euro 2016
England had very few moments to savour in tournament football under Roy Hodgson and I suppose that’s what you get for appointing an out-of-his-depth imbecile to a supposedly top international job!
One of those few moments came in the last minute of their Euro 2016 clash with Wales as Daniel Sturrudge popped up in the last minute, cool as a cucumber, to fire home the winner. It was Sturridge’s finest moment in international football and a timely reminder that when fit, he’s the best English finisher there is.
Wales recovered from that set back to reach the semis, while the rest of the world finally cottoned onto Hodgson’s utter shitness as England were humiliated by Iceland in the last 16.
Adam Lallana – Slovakia v England, 2016
The Barcelona job would have to wait for now – the man who would be called Allardici if he was foreign finally had him “dream” role and began the inevitable charge to World Cup glory away to Slovakia. With ex Red Martin Skrtel having been sent off, Allardyce’s world-class, revolutionary tactics (such as deciding it’s not his job to tell a past it striker where he should be playing) inexplicably failed to break down the ten man Slovakians. With a 0-0 draw looking inevitable,Adam Lallana popped up deep into injury time to score his first international goal.
This was a massive moment for our number 20, one which kicked started his season, and he has been fantastic in a red shirt since. He also has the distinction of scoring the only goal of Allardyce’s “reign.”
I’m sure Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Spain are all breathing a huge sigh of relief!
Written by @Pilnick_Jimmy