Another UFWC title mismatch involving a footballing minnow as we wait for the game between Liechtenstein and Spain…
CLASSIC UFWC TITLE MATCH:
England 5-0 Cyprus, 16 April 1975
European qualifier, Wembley Stadium, London
Scorers: Macdonald (5)
England were unofficial world champions, having taken the title from official champions West Germany a month earlier in a 2-0 win. Newcastle United striker Malcolm MacDonald scored his first ever international goal in that game, and ‘Supermac’ would be the star of the show against tiny Cyprus.
The England line-up was full of star names, including Peter Shilton, Colins Todd and Bell, Alans Hudson and Ball, Mick Channon and Kevin Keegan. Cyprus’s star man was captain and reigning Cypriot player of the year Andreas Stylianou, the APOEL striker who boasted a scoring record of almost one goal every two games for his club, but had only scored once in his entire international career. Of the 31 international matches Stylianou had played, Cyprus had lost 29. This really was a game of sharks against minnows.
Tiny Cyprus, with a population around 50 times smaller than England’s, had only played one previous UFWC title match, being drubbed 7-1 by Austria in 1968. They weren’t expected to qualify for the European Championships from a group also containing Czechoslovakia and Portugal, but England most certainly were.
More than 68,000 fans turned up at Wembley stadium for this one. The pitch was typical of many found in England in the 70s – muddy and full of divots, resembling a ploughed farmer’s field in places.
Although Macdonald had scored against Germany in the previous game, relations between the striker and England manager Don Revie were strained. According to Macdonald, Revie told him before the match, ‘If you don’t score in this game I’ll never pick you again.’ Macdonald responded by scoring five.
The first was a header from a Hudson cross. A Keegan pull-back and a mis-hit Macdonald shot made it 2-0 by half-time. Keegan set up the hat-trick goal, too, on 48 minutes – a close-range header for Macdonald. Numbers four and five were solid headers from right wing crosses, with the Cyprus defence obligingly remaining at a respectful distance. Macdonald also hit the post and had a goal disallowed for offside.
Like Steve Bloomer almost 90 years before him, Supermac had scored five goals in a UFWC title match. The scoreboard read ‘Congratulations – Supermac 5 Cyprus 0’. Revie was less complimentary, hurrying off down the tunnel with his head buried in his jacket lapels and his hands in his pockets. Macdonald pointed at the scoreboard and shouted after him, ‘Read it and weep, you bastard’. Amazingly, Supermac never scored goal for England in an oddly truncated international career.
England beat Cyprus again – narrowly this time – 1-0 courtesy of a Keegan goal, in Limassol in the return fixture, but, after losing 2-1 to Czechoslovakia in Bratislava, they relinquished the UFWC title and missed out on Euro qualification. Instead it was the Czechs who took the UFWC title into the 1976 European Championships in Yugoslavia.