The Day a Leaping Woodcock Beat Brazil

It is not very often that England beat Brazil at football.  To date, only four times in our history, and never once in a match other than a friendly.  Perhaps that is why England’s 2-0 victory in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 10 June 1984 still stands out in memory.  That and the Woodcock leap.

Of course, most fans memories of that famous match recall the John Barnes goal.  Many people talk about it as being the greatest goal scored in an English shirt, although I think that is waxing lyrical somewhat – if I was pressed to give my own award, I would probably present it to Gazza against Scotland.  Nevertheless, Barnes’s goal against Brazil displayed a beautiful fluidity of controlled dribbling, which was not something traditionally associated with the English game, either at that time or since.

Much is made of Barnes’s slalom from outside the box past five defenders and the goalkeeper, before slotting home from ten yards; credit is sometimes given to Mark Hateley for his cross-field pass to pick out Barnes in the first place and for his dummy run to the back-post; but very little mention is ever given to Tony Woodcock’s for his inspired leap, which I believe is key to the entire goal.

During the build-up to the goal, Woodcock had been hovering to the left-hand side of the penalty spot, largely minding his own business, alert for any long down-field punt into the box.  The suddenness of Barnes’s run appeared to catch him in two minds; he began to run forward out of the way of Barnes’s path; ending up leaping into the air, like a startled… well, woodcock; surprised by beaters at a country-house game-shoot.

However, Woodcock’s leap drew the attention of the entire Brazilian defence, such that not one of them offered so much as a tackle to halt Barnes secure his piece of immortality.

Just one small leap for
Woodcock; but one giant goal
For English football.

© Donnie Blake


Donnie Blake knows how to deal with a stray woodcock in the box.

Hey!  I almost forgot.  Check out my new book, now available for Kindle on Amazon.



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