Top Ten Wembley Debuts

Later this evening Montenegro set foot on the hallowed Wembley turf for the first time in their brief history. Coach Zlatko Kranjcar is hopeful of an upset but as we will see just a 0-0 draw is considered a great result on your first trip to Wembley. Below are 10 of the best Wembley debuts against England (I’ve gone for teams with the one ‘cheat’ where I singled out a player) – something for the Montenegrins to try to emulate!!

10. England vs Saudi Arabia

23 May 1998

Final Score: 0-0

Less than a month from the World Cup Finals you want your team to be sharp and revving up for the tournament. A rugged Saudi Arabia team didn’t allow that, their only previous game against England in Riyadh 10 years previously had ended 1-1 – they made sure that they weren’t going to lose here and hung on for the scoreless draw. Despite featuring the Desert Maradona and legendary striker Sami Al-Jaber the Green Falcons never looked like getting anything more than a draw – but that was exactly what they had come for.

9. England vs Netherlands

14 January 1970

Final Score: 0-0

In 1970 the Dutch made their first trip to England since they received an 8-2 humbling in Huddersfield in late-1946. They had not qualified for that year’s World Cup (finishing below Poland and Bulgaria) nor would they qualify for the 1972 Euros. Their success would come later with consecutive World Cup Finals in 1974 and 1978 led by Johan Cruyff and playing Total Football.  They travelled to Wembley to face reigning World Champions England who retained the essence of the team that had won in Amsterdam two months earlier. More ominous England had not lost at Wembley in the previous 21 games a streak dating back to 1965. The Oranje held on for a 0-0 draw, no Total Football here, but it was a first glimpse for English fans of Cruyff, Krol…oh and Ian Storey-Moore!

8. England vs Colombia

24 May 1988

Final Score: 1-1

In 1988 Colombia was best known for drug barons and guerrillas and English football fans remember them for stitching up Bobby Moore when they visited for their only previous meeting (a 4-0 victory for England in a 1970 World Cup match in Bogotá). They had only qualified for the World Cup once in 1962 but Wembley witnessed the first sparks of a golden generation coming together, players like Arnolodo Iguarán, never-had-a-good-hair-day Carlos Valderrama and of course the young defender who scored Colombia’s equaliser that day, Andrés Escobar. Although the latter would meet a tragic end after the 1994 World Cup this squad qualified for the 1990 and 1994 Finals and finished 4th then 3rd in the ’91 and ’93 Copa América tournaments.

7. England vs Chile and vs Marcelo Salas

23 May 1989 and 11 February 1998

Final Score(s): 0-0 and 0-2

In May 1989 Chile visited London for the first time for the opener of the 1989 Rous Cup, they were preparing for the 1990 World Cup qualifiers that would start in July and that would end with Chile notoriously thrown out of qualification and banned from the 1994 tournament . England on the other hand had found their feet under Bobby Robson and were yet to concede in their qualifiers. They didn’t concede in this game, but neither did Chile. By no means a classic (at least the crowd was only 15,628) it was an effective and gritty result for the South Americans who refused to be subdued by their more illustrious opponents.

Fast Forward 8 years and we get one of the best individual displays from a foreign debutant at the Twin Towers – the gifted 24-yr-old striker from Temuco was at River Plate and was joint top scorer in South American qualification for that year’s World Cup. An England team that had topped their qualification group ahead of Italy lost this warm-up match thanks to the talent and clinical finishing of one Marcelo Salas who scored both goals in a famous 2-0 victory.

6. England vs Romania

15 January 1969

Final Score: 1-1

England hadn’t lost at Wembley to overseas teams for 4 years and the World Champions had won 5 of their last 6 games . The Romanians had won one lost one so far in their qualifying campaign for the 1970 World Cup aiming to be part of the Finals for the first time since 1938. Boasting the impressive Florea Dumitrache up front they would make the World Cup – here he is making Bobby Moore very dizzy in Guadalajara – it was he who cancelled out Jack Charlton’s first half goal with an equaliser in the 2nd period. It would prove to be a good sign for Romania who have only lost to England once in 8 meetings since.

5. England vs Croatia

24 April 1996

Final Score: 0-0

Not many 2 year olds can expect to turn up at Wembley and get a draw but that is exactly what newly independent Croatia managed in 1996. England were warming up for Euro ’96 as were Croatia who had incredibly qualified despite the country still recovering from the brutal civil war that had split up Yugoslavia. The Croatia team was made up of English based defenders Igor Stimac and Slaven Bilic, AC Milan’s Zvonimir Boban and Barcelona’s Robert Prosinecki with Alen Boksic and Davor Suker up front. They fought for a 0-0 draw, which was enough for the Vatreni for the time being – after all their next visit to Wembley in the pouring rain would be much more productive.

4. England vs Italy

6 May 1959

Final Score: 2-2

The Italians had visited London twice before losing 3-2 at Highbury in 1934 then 2-0 at White Hart Lane 15 years later. This came a year after the World Cup that the Italians hadn’t qualified for and England had crashed out in the group stages, however it featured some heavyweight players. A 22-year-old Bobby Charlton opened the scoring firing past Buffon (Lorenzo a distant relative of Gianluigi) before England doubled their lead before the break. The last time England had failed to win against a non-home nation on English soil was that game against Hungary (we’ll get there in a bit). But Sergio Brighenti scored his first goal for the Azzuri before Amos Mariani added his last to save the game. A rare result, England and Italy have only draw twice since in 15 matches.

3. England vs Poland

17 October 1973

Final Score: 1-1

It was all to play for in the 1973 World Cup qualifier at Wembley. England needed to beat Poland to leapfrog them at the top of the group. They had only played once before in England, a 1-1 draw in Liverpool in 1966 but nobody could believe that the result in 1973 was the same. Poland took the lead and despite Allan Clarke’s leveller from the penalty spot the Three Lions just couldn’t find a way past ‘keeper Jan Tomaszewski. Brian Clough is rarely wrong, but calling him a clown before the game couldn’t have been further from the truth – if you can bear watching, it here are some of the reasons why.

2. England vs Sweden

28 October 1959

Final Score: 2-3

The next game at Wembley after their draw with Italy (see Number 4) was against 1958 World Cup hosts and finalists Sweden. There was much talk about Middlesbrough’s prolific frontman Brian Clough (who gets his 2nd mention in the blog!) and Burnley boy John Connelly who had made their debuts in England’s previous game against Wales. Indeed it was Connelly who opened the scoring after 8 minutes; but the fans went home with Agne Simonsson’s name on their lips, the man from Örgryte IS (the club that Sammy McIlroy turned out for in 1986!) scored two goals in 5 minutes in the 2nd half to put Sweden in front. By the time Bobby Charlton pulled one back Sweden had bagged a third and went back to Stockholm with a victory at Wembley to tell their grandchildren about.

1. England vs Hungary

25 November 1953 

Final Score: 3-6

Hungary had actually visited London once before in 1936 and went home on the end of a Highbury hiding (6-2) in the days when England were too good to even consider entering the World Cup. In 1953 things were different, they were the Mighty Magyars and had Ferenc Puskas. Incredibly they won the game 6-3 with Puskas netting twice and Nandor Hidegkuti scoring a hat-trick. It wasn’t just that this was England’s first defeat at Wembley to a team other than Scotland and their first at home for 52 years, it was the manner in which they were torn apart by this team from Eastern Europe. Drag backs and attacking formations that had never been seen before. This same team that would consign England to their heaviest ever defeat (7-1 in Budapest a record which still stands today) the following year and progress to that year’s World Cup Final only to somehow lose to Germany 3-2 after taking an early 2-goal lead. The only good news for England that day was that the full-back who scored for England and was tormented by the Hungarians in his last game for the national side absorbed everything for his managerial career, he was of course Alfred Ramsey.

So it looks like the best Montenegro can hope for is a tough 0-0 draw…unless they have a Puskas or Simonsson up their sleeve! On Friday we take a look at coaches, specifically the Top Ten South American Managers currently managing.

**For a list of all of England’s fixtures and results (or any team for that matter) visit

**For a more detailed look at England’s results including the starting XI’s, goalscorers and attendance visit the excellent

About Ralph Hannah

Mid-Twenties football fanatic from London, UK originally but currently based in Asuncion, Paraguay.
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