Paul Gascoigne, gifted but enigmatic

In the 1990 World Cup, Gascoigne's energetic presence lifted an English team which appeared incapable of doing anything spectacular beyond the league stage.

Paul Gascoigne in action during the 1990 World Cup second round match against Belgium.   -  AFP

Outrageously gifted but enigmatic, Paul Gascoigne was a footballer who promised greatness but faded away without realising half his potential.

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Gazza, as he was popularly known, on his day could make the game look ridiculously simple. But his career was beset with problems with alcohol and his god given gift were wasted. However, Gascoigne was a revelation in the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Gascoigne's energetic presence lifted an English team which appeared incapable of doing anything spectacular beyond the league stage. England finished fourth in 1990, its best show since the title triumph in 1966.

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After two consecutive draws against Ireland and Holland, England needed a win against Egypt, to ensure qualification.

Gascoigne provided the pass that led to the winning goal against Egypt which propelled England to top of the table. In the knock-out against an in-form Belgium, England survived with a bit of luck as Enzo Scifo hit the post with a long range shot that beat Peter Shilton. With penalties looming large and what appeared to be the last kick of the match, Gascoigne floated in a free kick into the penalty area and David Platt volleyed home the winner.

 

In the quarterfinals against Cameroon, Gascoigne's gaffe led to a penalty but he made amends with a through pass to Gary Linekar in the extra-time. Linekar was tripped inside the box and he converted the resultant penalty which turned out to be the match-winner. England lost to Germany in the penalties in the semifinals and the second yellow card meant it was end of Gascoigne's World Cup.

One of the enduring images of the World Cup was of a weeping Gascoigne when he received his second yellow card (of the tournament) in the semifinals against Germany. However, the weeping images of Gascoigne endeared himself to the sympathetic English public. 

Gascoigne never played again in a World Cup for England but he left a lasting impression in the mind of football lovers with his performance in 1990.