‘Clown’ keeper stops England reaching finals
The first competitive meeting between the countries in Chorzow in June 1973 ended 2-0 to the hosts - England’s only defeat to Poland - which ultimately left Alf Ramsey’s struggling side needing to win the return fixture in October to reach the World Cup finals in Germany.
However, with the Poles arriving at Wembley with a goalkeeper described by Brian Clough as “a circus clown in gloves”, few expected anything other than a convincing England victory. The unorthodox Jan Tomaszewski repelled England almost from kick-off with a series of acrobatic saves then, on 55 minutes, Jan Domarski finished underneath Peter Shilton to leave England staring down the barrel.
Martin Peters won a penalty which Allan Clarke converted – although the captain would later admit “he [Jerzy Gorgon] barely touched me but I went flying. I dived. It wasn't a penalty, but the referee didn't see it that way” – and the Three Lions again laid siege to Tomaszewski’s goal.
With time running out Ramsey brought on Kevin Hector, whose last-ditch header was cleared off the line. The Sun described the failure to qualify for the World Cup as 'the end of the world' and six months later Ramsey was succeeded by Don Revie. Poland would finish third in Germany.
And hilariously Clough, in his role as pundit for ITV, continued to refer to Tomaszewski after the match as "that clown at the other end of the pitch" - much to the chagrin of fellow pundit Derek Dougan.
Lineker hits hat-trick
The next time the sides would meet would be 13 years later in the final group game at Mexico 86, the only time they have played each other at a finals. Once again England were in disarray, with a system under Bobby Robson that left them exposed at the back and struggling to get support to the strikers while needing a draw to progress.
After a clear-the-air meeting with his players, Robson reverted to a traditional flat back four and sacrificed target man Mark Hateley for Peter Beardsley in order to provide Gary Lineker with better ball. And the Everton striker did the business, netting a first-half hat-trick to provide one of the best-known images of England at a World Cup, wheeling away to celebrate with a lightweight cast on his arm.
The suddenly upbeat national mood would come crashing down in the quarter-finals thanks to a well-known brace from a certain Diego Armando Maradona – while Lineker would nevertheless claim the golden boot with six goals in all and sign for Barcelona following the tournament.
Defensive heroics in Katowice
England travelled to Katowice seeking a point to qualify for Italia 90.
An outstanding defensive performance led by centre-halves Des Walker and Terry Butcher secured a goalless draw against the tricky and mobile home forwards.
Peter Shilton was also called upon to deny Dariusz Dziekanowski, while the woodwork played a vital role: the Three Lions’ famous run to the semi-finals in Italy would not have been possible had Ryszard Tarasiewicz’s 30-yard piledriver in the final minute gone in instead of thundering against the crossbar and to safety.
Lineker’s sublime volley
England opened their Euro 92 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win at home to Poland but a series of draws between Poland and Ireland, and England and Ireland, meant that any two of the three could still go through in the final round of fixtures.
Ireland would beat Turkey, meaning England would need a point in Poznan. Roman Szewczyk put Poland ahead from a first-half free-kick – via a deflection off Gary Mabbut - and Graham Taylor watched as his side missed a slew of chances in the second half, while Poland had a stonewall penalty turned down.
But it was Lineker who again saved England with a superb volleyed equaliser in the 77th minute to eliminate Ireland, who had gone through the group stage unbeaten but finished third.
Scholes treble gets Keegan off to flyer
Kevin Keegan was persuaded to leave Fulham to take over as national boss after Glenn Hoddle’s ill-fated comments regarding disabled people. And after Hoddle’s England had begun their qualification campaign for Euro 2000 in poor fashion, Keegan’s successful first game in charge at Wembley was more than welcome.
Poland arrived with two wins from two but a Paul Scholes in his prime put them to the sword with three goals to help England to a 3-1 win. There was more than a suspicion of handball about the second goal, which made it 2-0, but hey – when it’s England, who cares?
Things would not be quite so rosy for the remainder of the campaign, but Scholes again did the business in the play-off with Scotland and England at least had a victory over Germany to treasure in the finals before departing at the end of the group stage with a poor defeat to Romania.
Full list of meetings
05 Jan 1966, friendly - England 1-1 Poland
05 Jul 1966, friendly - Poland 0-1 England
06 Jun 1973, World Cup qualifier - Poland 2-0 England
17 Oct 1973, World Cup qualifier - England 1-1 Poland
11 Jun 1986, World Cup - England 3-0 Poland
03 Jun 1989, World Cup qualifier - England 3-0 Poland
11 Oct 1989, World Cup qualifier - Poland 0-0 England
17 Oct 1990, European Championship qualifier - England 2-0 Poland
13 Nov 1991, European Championship qualifier - Poland 1-1 England
29 May 1993, World Cup qualifier - Poland 1-1 England
08 Sep 1993, World Cup qualifier - England 3-0 Poland
09 Oct 1996, World Cup qualifier - England 2-1 Poland
31 May 1997, World Cup qualifier - Poland 0-2 England
27 Mar 1999, European Championship qualifier - England 3-1 Poland
08 Sep 1999, European Championship qualifier - Poland 0-0 England
08 Sep 2004, World Cup qualifier - Poland 1-2 England
12 Oct 2005, World Cup qualifier - England 2-1 Poland