Unforgettable World Cup Moments: Gary Lineker’s legendary ‘accident’ against Ireland

With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to get underway in November, we're taking a look back through the history of the World Cup at the good, the bad and the amazing moments that remain in our memories to this very day and will live on forever.

The 1990 World Cup in Italy will be remembered for so many things and if you are an England fan that would include David Platt's fantastic volley against Belgium, England's comeback against Cameroon, Gazza's tears, and of course Gary Lineker literally pooing himself against the Irish.

As we all know too well, when you've got to go, you've got to go, but not many of us have done it live on television in front of millions of football fans all over the world.

England hero Gary Lineker talks openly about the time he pooed himself in the middle of a World Cup game against the Republic of Ireland at Italia 90′, even going as far as joking about the incident on social media.

For years the England striker and Match of the Day presenter avoided talking about that particular topic and never admitted it until an interview on BBC Rado 5 Live,

“I've never admitted to it, but it's true… It was a World Cup game. It's filmed, I've seen it but unless you know [what was happening] you wouldn't know.”

Lineker started the tournament slowly, as did England, but thankfully 4pts proved enough to see Bobby Robson's men top Group F with the Republic of Ireland finishing as runners-up, the Netherlands coming third and Egypt finishing bottom as expected. England were actually the only team to win a game in that group, beating Egypt 1-0 thanks to a Mark Wright goal, with the Dutch and the Irish drawing all three of their matches. Lineker's only goal during the group stage came against Ireland in that now infamous match but exactly why did the ultimate poacher relieve himself on the pitch and why didn't the millions watching at home notice?

“I was not very well; I was poorly at half-time but I carried on… The ball went down the left-hand side. I did try to tackle someone, I stretched and then I relaxed myself… I was very fortunate it rained that night and I could do something about it. It was messy, it just came out, it happened. How much detail do you want?… You can see me rubbing the ground like a dog; it was the most horrendous experience of my life, but I tell you I never found so much space in a game than I did that night after that happened.”

Clearly, Lineker had no control over what happened and he did amazingly well to carry on playing, though, he was eventually taken off with 7-minutes left on the clock and replaced by Steve Bull.

Caught on camera

Some eagle-eyed fans may have seen the moment that Lineker admitted to one of his teammates what he had done as it was caught on camera, so anyone with a decent ability to lip-read might have been able to make out the forward telling Trevor Stephen, ‘I've s**t myself', as seen in this video clip…

Lineker had already fired England in front by the time he made his mark on the pitch but England failed to hold onto their lead and ended up having to settle for a share of the spoils.

Most people would take a day off work if they had been feeling ill to the degree that Lineker had but as he recalls during a special edition of Match of the Day,

“I'd been ill overnight and it was the opening day of the cup and I'd woken up a few times with diarrhea, etc… I didn't want to tell Bobby Robson because I thought he might leave me out the team, and I wanted to play, as always… Anyway, the game started and I was alright then about 20 minutes in I started cramping. Somehow I made it through to half-time and I thought I'd be alright… We go out for the second half, we're ten or 15 minutes in and I'm starting to cramp again and I think, ‘Oh, I'm in trouble here'.”

Football fans can probably understand just why Lineker carried on, playing at the World Cup is a dream for football players and fans alike so the idea of missing out just doesn't bear thinking about. If Lineker had missed the game the tournament could have ended up being very different and Lineker's own England legacy could have been affected.

Looking on the funny side

Let's not forget that as well as scoring against the Irish, Lineker scored two crucial goals against Cameroon in the quarter-final and netted against West Germany in the semi-final. If the striker had told his manager of his illness he would certainly have missed the Ireland game and if somebody like Steve Bull had come in and performed decently, Lineker might not have made it back into the starting lineup until Robson was sure he was completely fit.

Having a poo on a football pitch wouldn't be the only embarrassing thing Gary Lineker would go on to do in his career. After making a bet that he would present Match of the Day in his pants (underwear), Lineker stayed true to his word and much to the amusement of his co-hosts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright, the former Leicester City player and Foxes fan did present the program wearing an oversized pair of boxer shorts.

Anyway, back to the pooing. Thankfully, Lineker made it through the game and can now look back on the ‘incident' with humour, which is crucial if you are going to be active on social media and know that people are going to ask and joke about the time you pooed yourself on national television in the middle of a game of football.

Platt scores a blinder

In the end, the 1990 World Cup and particularly England's journey to the semi-final wasn't overshadowed by any one incident and will always but thought of as the time England just missed out on their second World Cup final.

It certainly wasn't an easy or smooth passage to the final for England, in fact, none of their six games in the tournament were easy. Robson's men started with a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland, Lineker putting England in front at the Stadio Comunale Sant'Elia before Sheedy equalised in the second half. England's next game was at the same stadium and ended in yet another draw, this time the game against the Netherlands ended goalless. In their final game, England face Egypt knowing that w in would put them through to the next round. The game turned out to be tight, tense and competitive, just like the first two outings, but a goal from defender Wright secured the 3pts England needed and expected.

England went up against Belgium in the last 16, another game that ended in a draw after 90-minutes as both sides failed to find the back of the net. Both camps were preparing for a penalty shootout as the end of extra-time neared, only for England to muster one last attack that ended in one of the greatest-ever World Cup goals from David Platt. Platt, an Aston Villa player at the time, swiveled brilliantly to volley the ball home and set England up with a date against the tournament's surprise package Cameroon in the quart-final.

Lineker shines in quarter-final

The quarter-final between Cameroon and England was perhaps one of the best matches of the 1990 World Cup. David Platt picked up where he left off in the last game by heading England in front after 26-minutes. Robson's men led 1-0 at the interval but Cameroon always looked dangerous on the attack and in the space of three second-half minutes, the underdogs turned the game on its head. Forst Kunde converted a penalty and shortly after, Ekeke fired Cameroon in front. England needed a response and they eventually got it 7-minutes from time when Lineker sent Nkono the wrong way from the penalty spot to make the final scoreline 2-2 after 90-minutes. The match went into extra time and tired legs started to show but in the 106th-minute England were awarded another penalty and Lineker stepped up and sent Nkono the wrong way for a second time to make it 3-2 to England. England held on to book their place in the semi-final against the old enemy, West Germany.

Former England, Everton, Barcelona, Spurs and Leicester City forward Gary Lineker

Semi-final heartache

The less said about this game the better as it still stings those who were old enough to have watched the game on TV or even have been in the stadium on the night. Parker put through his own net on the hour mark much to the delight of the West German players but Lineker brought England back onto level terms in the 81st-minute with his 4th-goal of the tournament. England came so close to winning the game in extra-time but the match went to penalties. Germany scored all four of their spot-kicks and while Lineker, Beardsley and Platt all converted for England, famously Pearce and Waddle missed and West Germany went through to the final.

Despite the feeling of disappointment straight after the game, the 1990 World Cup was a big success for the under-pressure Bobby Robson as nobody had given England a chance of winning the tournament before it began.

Avatar of James Kelbrick
James Kelbrick

A lifelong Evertonian, James started writing for an Everton fan site in the mid-2000s and then developed his own blog covering football transfers from across Europe's big leagues before becoming a regular match preview and betting tips writer for Biggest Free Bets. James moved to Free Super Tips next, and then Racing Post, where he worked as a full-time writer for a few years, taking on extra responsibilities such as creating the schedule and assigning out work. Following that, James wrote for a number of websites including Fore Bet before joining Football Whispers in December 2020.