England faced the Netherlands for an important World Cup qualifier at Wembley on April 28th, 1993.
Just a year prior, no one would have imagined that the two would be fighting it out for the second place behind Norway in the race to qualify to the American World Cup in 1994.
England’s form under Manager Graham Taylor had been unspectacular since the 1990 World Cup to say the least, yet not qualifying to the World Cup would have been un-imaginable.
This calendar year would get worse and worse for Taylor and this match would be the first step on the road to dismissal at the end of the year.
This was a match at home that England had to win to have an edge in qualification as they had lost a lifeline with a home draw vs. Norway in October 1992. England could not afford any more dropped points at home.
But worse was yet to come to another busy end of season/summer for the National Team.
For the English, Alan Shearer was out with a long-term injury, but Les Ferdinand had been called up to deputize for these early 1993 matches. Despite not starting for Juventus as the extra foreigner (pre-Bosman days remember), David Platt, had been exemplary for England and the best avenue for goals. Paul Gascoigne had been back after an entire year out injured and had been slowly finding his feet at Italian side Lazio.
There were the customary criticisms for the inclusion of far from fit John Barnes and the continual selection of Carlton Palmer, that many believed was not International material.
Photo From: World Soccer, June 1993
(John De Wolf and Les Ferdinand, April 28, 1993, World Cup Qualifier, England 2-Holland 2)
The Dutch were missing Ronald Koeman and Ballon d’or Winner Marco Van Basten. Ruud Gullit was also far from ideal in a season, where he had also been the victim of the extra-foreign player rule.
Holland’s new star was Ajax’s Dennis Bergkamp, on his way to the Serie A himself the following season to Internazionale Milano.
He had impressed in the 1992 Euros and was becoming a global star.
Photo From: Soccer International, Volume 4, Issue 8, August 1993
(Des Walker and Dennis Bergkamp, April 28, 1993, World Cup Qualifier, England 2-Holland 2)
For the match itself, given their predicament, England came out more determined. The much-criticized John Barnes scored from a free kick in the very first minute.
In the 23rd minute, England doubled the lead, with Platt knocking in a rebound after Ferdinand’s shot had hit the post.
England seemed headed for a win but an injury to Gascoigne would perhaps change England’s fortunes in this match.
Jan Wouters elbowed the Gascoigne and fractured his cheekbone. He would wear a face protective mask for the rest of the first half before being substituted.
Photo From: Het Nederlands Elftal, de histoire van oranje, 1989-1995, Authors Matty Verkamman and Henk Mees
(Jan Wouters elbowing Paul Gascoigne, April 28, 1993, World Cup Qualifier, England 2-Holland 2)
The Dutch would take advantage of this dis-array in England’s play by pulling a goal back in the 34th minute with a brilliant volley through Dennis Bergkamp.
This goal gave the Dutch some hope as England went into the break somewhat dejected after the goal.
England held onto to this slim lead until Walker gave away a penalty as he was unable to keep up with the pace of Dutch winger and future Gunner Marc Overmars.
Photo From: World Soccer, September 1993
(Des Walker fouling Marc Overmars in the box, April 28, 1993, World Cup Qualifier, England 2-Holland 2)
Peter van Vossen scored from the ensuing penalty kick to earn the Dutch an important away point and perhaps the psychological edge in the battle for qualification.
A distraught Taylor told the media afterwards that he had felt like crying after a win eluded them in the closing stages.
An opportunity had slipped by England, at the time it did not feel immediately catastrophic, but was clearly the start of the end of the qualification hopes, even if many matches still remained.
1-In the Italian Serie A that season (1992/93), clubs could have as many foreign players as they liked, but only three would be authorized to feature on the teamsheet for a given match.
Questions and Analysis
I have asked my friend and podcast partner Mr. Paul Whittle of https://the1888letter.com/, @1888letter for his memories of this match.
Link to Mr. Paul Whittle’s book (Before the Premier League: A History of the Football League's Last Decades):
Soccernostalgia Question: Going into this match, what was your pre-match feeling for the result?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I was certainly not too optimistic, as England had never really been convincing under Graham Taylor, and the Dutch were obviously one of the best teams in Europe at the time.
Soccernostalgia Question: Do you remember watching the match?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I can’t actually remember where I watched it, not at home as it was on Sky. I still watched most England games, and with it being an important qualifier I would have seen it somewhere. It hasn’t remained in the memory as strongly as the return game in Rotterdam…
Soccernostalgia Question: It was a match of contrasting fortunes. Did you believe England could hold on after a (2-0) start or cautious?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It was definitely one of the better, if not the best, performances by England under Taylor and got off to a great start but always cautious, especially against such dangerous opposition.
Soccernostalgia Question: I assume Ruud Gullit and Rijkaard would have been well-known in England, do you remember if Dennis Bergkamp was known in England at the time?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: He didn’t yet have the profile he would later on, but he was known from his impact on the 1992 Euros and as another outstanding young player produced by Ajax.
Soccernostalgia Question: The sight of Paul Gascoigne playing with a protective mask is another indelible image of this match. What are your thoughts on the clash with Wouters and had VAR been in use at the time?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: The game between the countries at the 1990 World Cup really established Gascoigne on the international stage, the Dutch would have known he was England’s main (if not only) creative force by this time. Wouters was the obvious player to mark him and only he knows if the elbow was deliberate. It didn’t look good – VAR and a sending-off might have changed this result, and the group.
Soccernostalgia Question: Des Walker losing his foot race with Marc Overmars is often referenced. Did you feel as well that he was no longer the same player?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Yes, he seemed to lose so much confidence during the season in Italy and it was very unusual to see him outpaced. In hindsight, he might have tried to bring down Overmars before he got into the penalty area!
Soccernostalgia Question: Did you feel at the time, this was the reference point that England’s WC qualification hopes crashed?
(Bearing in mind, the loss vs. Norway would be in June)
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Qualification got off to a bad start with the draw at Wembley against Norway, who were really England’s main rivals for the second qualifying place as I think the Dutch would have been clear favourites. However, dropping points after being 2-0 up was another blow, and winning this game would have been a big boost.
Soccernostalgia Question: Historically, the return fixture in October is much referenced for obvious reasons, but do you think by then the die was already cast with this match in April?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: To some extent, as I think the confidence from a win over Holland can’t be underestimated. Gascoigne’s injury was a disruptive factor too, but qualification was still in England’s hands at this point. They never played as well again under Taylor, the remaining performances (especially in Norway) were more and more disjointed, I don’t think Taylor knew his best team or tactics.
Soccernostalgia Question: From a historical standpoint what was the takeaway for England, vis-à-vis Graham Taylor’s reign? As a follow-up, was that your opinion at the time as well?
Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It was a missed opportunity to beat a major rival and get some confidence ahead of the rest of the qualifiers. Graham Taylor unfortunately never seemed to fit as England manager, even when winning you always felt a bad result or performance was just around the corner. My feeling was (and is) that even had results gone their way in the key games and they somehow qualified for the World Cup, it could have been embarrassing.
Date: April 28, 1993
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifier-Group 2
Result: England 2-Holland 2
Venue: London - Wembley
Referee: Peter Mikkelsen (Denmark)
Kick-off time: -
(England): John Barnes 1, David Platt 23
(Holland): Dennis Bergkamp 34, Peter van Vossen 85 pen
Summary of goals:
1:0 (1st minute, England): John Barnes scored from a free kick
2:0 (23rd minute, England): From the middle, Gascoigne advanced and attempted a combination play with Platt, he received the ball back, but mis-kicked and the ball reached Ferdinand on the right shot, his ground-level shot hit the post and Platt knocked in the rebound.
2:1 (34th minute, Holland): From the middle, Wouters lobbed a ball at the edge of the box and Bergkamp volleyed it first time.
2:2 (85th minute, Holland): On the right side, Overmars advanced into the box before being pulled down by Walker. Peter van Vossen scored from the ensuing penalty kick.
1- Christopher Charles Eric Woods (Sheffield Wednesday Football Club)
2- Lee Michael Dixon (Arsenal Football Club-London)
6- Anthony Alexander Adams (Arsenal Football Club-London)
3- Martin Raymond Keown (Arsenal Football Club-London)
5- Desmond Sinclair Walker (Unione Calcio Sampdoria-Genova / Italy)
4- Carlton Lloyd Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday Football Club)
11- Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince (Manchester United Football Club)
10- John Charles Bryan Barnes (Liverpool Football Club)
7- David Andrew Platt (Juventus Football Club-Torino / Italy)
8- Paul John Gascoigne (Società Sportiva Lazio-Roma / Italy) (14-Paul Charles Merson (Arsenal Football Club-London) 46)
9- Leslie Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers Football Club-London)
Coach: Graham Taylor
Booked: Martin Keown 74
12-Nigel Howard Clough (Nottingham Forest Football Club)
13-David Andrew Seaman (Arsenal Football Club-London)
15-Lee Stuart Sharpe (Manchester United Football Club)
16-Edward Paul ‘Teddy’ Sheringham (Tottenham Hotspur Football Club-London)
Team Captain: David Platt
Official Kit Supplier/Designer: Umbro
Uniform Colors: White Shirts, Navy Blue Shorts, White Socks
1- Eduard Franciscus ‘Ed’ de Goey (Feyenoord Rotterdam)
2- Dirk Franciscus ‘Danny’ Blind (Amsterdamse Football Club Ajax-Amsterdam)
3- Franciscus ‘Frank’ de Boer (Amsterdamse Football Club Ajax-Amsterdam)
4- Jan Jacobus Wouters (Fußball-Club Bayern München e.V. / Germany)
5- Robert ‘Rob’ Witschge (Feyenoord Rotterdam)
6- Aron Mohamed Winter (Società Sportiva Lazio-Roma / Italy)
8- Franklin Edmundo ‘Frank’ Rijkaard (Associazione Calcio Milan / Italy)
10- Rudi Dil ‘Ruud’ Gullit (Associazione Calcio Milan / Italy) (12-Peter Jacobus van Vossen (Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht / Belgium) 70)
7- Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp (Amsterdamse Football Club Ajax-Amsterdam)
11- Marc Overmars (Amsterdamse Football Club Ajax-Amsterdam)
9- Johannes Jacobus ’John’ Bosman (Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht / Belgium) (14-Johannes Hildebrand ‘John’ de Wolf (Feyenoord Rotterdam) 46)
Coach: Dirk Nicolaas ‘Dick’ Advocaat
Booked: John de Wolf 66
16-Theodorus Antonius Gerardus ‘Theo’ Snelders (Aberdeen Football Club / Scotland)
13-Jan Jacobus ‘Sonny’ Silooy (Amsterdamse Football Club Ajax)
15-Marciano Carlos Alberto Vink (Amsterdamse Football Club Ajax)
Team Captain: Jan Wouters
Official Kit Supplier/Designer: Lotto
Uniform Colors: Orange Shirts, White Shorts, Orange Socks
Photo From: MagzinesHet Nederlands Elftal, de histoire van oranje, 1989-1995, Authors Matty Verkamman and Henk Mees
(Holland squad, April 28, 1993, World Cup Qualifier, England 2-Holland 2)
Photo From: France Football, Issue 2456, May 4, 1993
(April 28, 1993, World Cup Qualifier, England 2-Holland 2)