The legendary World Cup final of 1966. Gascoine crying his eyes out on the pitch. A karate kick into the crowd. Maradona's "Hand of God" goal in 1986. And a famous penalty shoot-out disaster. These were just some of the most memorable events in the long history of the UK's favourite past-time. You know the one: watching the footy, of course!
Wonders at Wembley
Was there ever a more satisfying time to have been a football fan than on July 30, 1966? The answer is simple: No! Not only was the UK hosting the World Cup that year, but, we won it, too! In a suitably tension-packed game, one that saw the England squad take on West Germany, nearly one hundred thousand fans packed Wembley Stadium. And, while at certain points in the game you could hear a pin drop, when the final whistle blew and the cup was England's, an entire nation cheered its heart out. Altogether now: Ingerland, Ingerland, Ingerland!
Kicking it into touch
It's not every day you see a famous footballer soaring his way into the crowd. But, that's exactly what French export, Eric Cantona, did in January 1995. Enraged at a salvo of derogatory words directed at him by a fan as he left the pitch after getting the red-card, Cantona directed a kung-fu style kick at the man. In a press conference held shortly afterwards Cantona - arrested and suspended - offered the following words: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much." Say what?
Missing the point
Affectionately known by the touching nickname of "Psycho," Stuart Pearce has played for England on almost 80 occasions, captained the squad, and managed the Under-21 team. For the most part, it has been a fine career. But, there was that matter of the penalty shoot-out in the 1990 World Cup. With England up against West Germany, just about everyone in the country was glued to the telly as Pearce prepared to take his shot at goal. He missed. England were out of the competition. Pearce was devastated. Football is, as anyone who watched the match will know, serious business.
The best of the best
Although George Best's life was tragically cut short at the age of only 59 - the result of the ravages of too much booze - it's not an exaggeration to say that pretty much every appearance the man made at the height of his career with Manchester United was a memorable moment. From 1963 to 1966, Best was a whirlwind, taking United to the top of the league and winning the European Cup. The fans loved him, the women even more. But, it was destined not to last. The moments were soon gone. The memories of them still stand tall.
A helping hand of controversy
People called it the "Hand of God." It should have been termed the "Hand of a deliberate foul." It was a controversial goal scored in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup. The teams were England and Argentina, and the hand that put the ball away and England out the cup was not that of Jesus' dad, but of Diego Maradona. Brits everywhere were outraged. Tempers flared on the pitch and in the stands - this was, of course, only four years after the Falklands War. The ref, however, was having none of it and the goal stood.
Setting things straight
With the spectre of the final few minutes of England's 1990 World Cup game against West Germany almost certainly at the forefront of his mind, during Euro 96 Stuart Pearce found himself poised to take a shot at goal in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out between England and Spain. Would nerves get the better of him? Would a terrible case of deja-vu descend upon the lads? No! Pearce put the past firmly to rest by placing the ball right where the entire country wanted to see it: in the back of the net. Take that, Spain! Psycho was back!
Glassy eyed Gazza
Stuart Pearce wasn't the only one left with a bad taste in his mouth after the 1990 World Cup semi-final. Paul Gascoine also fell victim to the cursed match. In the second-round game against Belgium, Gazza was given a yellow-card. Then, in the final stages of the semi-final, disaster struck. Gascoine got another yellow-card. And World Cup rules meant that, if England reached the final, Gazza, with two strikes against him, would now be unable to play. Immediately realising the nightmare position he was in, Gascoine could not hold back the tears. Quite a few fans probably couldn't, either.
It's not every day you find a football team that can claim to have gone an entire season without a loss. But, that's exactly what Arsenal could boast of at the end of the 2003/2004 Premier League season. Of the 38 games the lads played, they were victorious in 26 and called it a draw in 12. Given that this was the first time such an achievement had been made since 1888, when Preston did likewise, the fans were delighted, the team - who became justifiably known as "The Invincibles" - was over the moon, and history was made.
A bunch of fives
Any confrontation between the England team and the Germans is bound to stir up old memories, not all of them good for the UK. But, England did not let this get in their way in Munich, in the 2001 World Cup qualifiers. After initially trailing 1-0, they bounced back and demolished the Germans on their home turf in a match that ended 5-1 to England. Not only that: Michael Owen scored a pulverising hat-trick and the crowd went ballistic. As Owen memorably said: "Its getting better and better and better!" None could doubt that. Apart from the Germans.
England vs. England
Regardless of who you might have been rooting for, one thing was for sure: England couldn't lose. It was the 2008 final of the UEFA Champions League at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, and Manchester United was taking on Chelsea. Despite being a European event, the last men standing, so to speak, were all from this green and pleasant land. The game wasn't the most spectacular of all (it ended 1-1 and was decided on penalties, which saw United emerge as the victors), but to see two English teams dominating the competition was memorable indeed!