Sensational opening seconds in classic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 1996, 12:00am

SINCE Wembley 1966, England's finest moment has increasingly become a burden around the necks of succeeding generations of players and fans.

While Germany (West Germany included) have reached four World Cup finals and four European Championship finals, winning two of each, England have toiled and failed repeatedly on the major stages, producing a grand tally of one semi-final appearance in each of those competitions.

Sometimes qualification was an impassable hurdle with World Cups in 1974, '78 and '94 missed completely. And then when they got to the finals it was often a hard-luck story - undefeated but undone by goal difference in '82; hand of God in '86; penalties in '90 and again in Euro '96.

There are high points - beating Belgium in '90, Poland in '86, Holland in Euro '96 - but the ever-suffering England faithful have great expectations and are not easily satisfied by such results. One high point that is forever fondly remembered, though, came in the frustrating 1982 World Cup finals when England faced France in their opening match.

This encounter gets the World Cup Classic slot on STAR Sports this week. It is one of England's most impressive outings on a major stage. With Bryan Robson, Kevin Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Tony Woodcock and Steve Coppell in the squad it was one of the finest collections of England players since '66. Not all of those players took the field against France but the side still turned it on.

And be warned. Don't miss the first 30 seconds - a World Cup record is set.

Is Wharf Cable insatiable in its appetite for top soccer? It's getting to the point that soon, if you haven't got Cable, you may as well forget seeing anything except the European Football Show, Futbol Mundial and events like the Tiger Cup.

With ESPN and Wharf Sport already offering the best live soccer available in the territory, Wharf have now cranked things up even further by adding Italian Serie A to their menu.

On Sunday they have Juventus v Cagliari live on Channel 18 so it overlaps with the Chelsea v Aston Villa Premiership game live on Channel 6.

Fans of 70s British bubblegum music may remember the band Mud and their big hit Tiger Feet.

'That's neat, that's neat, that's neat. I really dig your Tiger feet,' was the cryptic lyric sung by what looked like ageing Teddy Boys.

Now 20-plus years later that bizarre blip in pop culture comes back to haunt. Every time I see STAR Sport's extensive coverage of the Tiger Cup the proximity of Tigers and feet triggers that song in my head.

Unfortunately there's only so much of Asian football you can take before you wish you were back in the 70s - flared trousers, tank-tops and stack heels be damned.

Dale Tempest is a solid commentator who, unlike many on air, seems to have done some research.

But not even he can rescue these games which are not neat, not neat, not neat, not neat.