12/06/1986 Guadalajara Brazil 0-3
Pat Jennings, Jimmy Nicholl, Mal Donaghy, John O’Neill, Alan McDonald, David McCreery, Norman Whiteside (Billy Hamilton), Dave Campbell (Gerry Armstrong), Colin Clarke, Sammy McIlroy, Ian Stewart
The green and white army still had a slim chance of qualifying from the group – Northern Ireland had to beat Brazil and hope that Algeria could draw with or possibly defeat Spain. Thursday June 12, 1986 was the date of the final game for Northern Ireland, and for the goalkeeper Pat Jennings from Newry, it was a very special day. The big Arsenal ‘keeper celebrated his 41st birthday and also won a world record 119th international cap.
The game started at a hectic pace in Guadalajara’s Jalisco stadium, and the Irish were finding the going tough – especially with the blazing midday sun bearing down on them. It was no surprise when Careca gave Brazil the lead after 18 minutes.
The lead was doubled by a quite spectacular goal by the attacking full back Josimar on the stroke of half-time, rated as one of the finest ever World Cup goals by many observers; and with a shot that gave the ‘keeper Jennings no chance.
The second half saw Northern Ireland try valiantly with a few shots on target, but in the end Careca’s second goal just before the end gave the scoreline a flattering look. To lose by three goals to a quality outfit such as Brazil was no disgrace, and many positives were taken from the World Cup experience.
* Trivia –
Afterwards every Brazilian player signed the match ball and presented it to Pat Jennings as he bid an emotional farewell to the international stage he had graced for 22 years.
Chris Nicholl who unbeknownst to his team mates, had arranged before the match ended to swap shirts with the legendary’s Brazilian number 10 Zico.
Billy Bingham: “Do you not want to go and get a Brazilian jersey?”
Chris Nicholl: “Nah, I’m happy enough.”
David McCreery: “Niccy. Everyone made a beeline for Zico but he’s insisting he’ll only swap shirts with Irlanda numero dois. That’s you!”
Chris Nicholl: “Really? Auk well, if wee Zico is desperate to have my shirt, I suppose he can have it.”
Dave Campbell –
“All of a sudden Brazil came out, with Socrates in front, and one of our guys, the late, great Alan McDonald, said ‘Come on we can beat these *******’. Socrates just turned round and replied: ‘Not today’.”
Nigel Wortington –
“We’re all lined up on either side of the tunnel, the nerves are going and you’re looking across at these Brazil players, who all look like such fantastic athletes, and you’re thinking, ‘This is going to be tough’,” Worthington recalled. “And then I noticed Socrates just leaning with his elbow against a wall smoking a cigarette. This is like five minutes before kick-off. We’re there thinking, ‘We’ve got our work cut out here’ and Socrates is just stood there, casual as you like, puffing away, looking like he didn’t have a care in the world.
“Still to this day I can picture that scene in my mind. When you’re going into a big World Cup game and you’ve got the audacity to stand in the tunnel smoking a cigarette moments before kick-off you’ve got to say you’re some player. He certainly wasn’t like the blokes in the green and white shirt!”
12/06/2016 Nice Poland 0-1
Michael McGovern, Conor McLaughlin, Craig Cathcart, Gareth McAuley, Jonathan Evans, Shane Ferguson (Conor Washington), Chris Baird (Jamie Ward), Paddy McNair (Stuart Dallas), Oliver Norwood, Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty
Northern Ireland’s first match at a European Championship finals ended in defeat as Arkadiusz Milik gave Poland a 1-0 win in Nice.
Ajax star Milik slotted in after being picked out by Jakub Blaszczykowski early in the second half.
Poland had dominated the first half but were thwarted by some superb defending by Michael O’Neill’s men.
Northern Ireland did not manage to get a decent effort on target.
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis, speaking to BBC Sport: “It’s a disappointing evening. We have to braver on the ball but it’s a real learning curve for us. We always knew it would be difficult but we weren’t good enough.”
Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty, speaking to BBC Sport: “I think we were overawed. That was not the team that has got us here, we have lacked a lot of that today and have come away with no points. We knew it would be tough, but I think the whole performance was not a Northern Ireland performance and on Thursday we will go and put it right.”
* Trivia –
Northern Ireland became the first team at that summer’s European Championship to implement the new one-man kick-off tactic after new International Football Association Board rules coincided with the start of Euro 2016. Of the seven law alterations, which came in force on June 1 2016, the most eye-catching proposal says the ball doesn’t have to go forward from kick-off, meaning teams no longer need two players to start and restart games. Captain Steven Davis single-handedly kicked off his nation’s first appearance at a major tournament since 1986.