England 2018 v England 1990 - which World Cup semi-finalists had the best players?

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With the Three Lions into the last four for the first time in 28 years, Goal compares Gareth Southgate's cubs to Bobby Robson's star-studded side

  1. #1 GK: Shilton vs Pickford

    Peter Shilton is an England legend, one of the finest goalkeepers the country has ever produced. However, by Italia '90, he was 40 and no longer at his brilliant best, as underlined by his poor performances in the semi-final loss to West Germany and the third-place play-off with Italy.

    By contrast, Jordan Pickford is a young goalkeeper on the rise.

    The 24-year-old was considered a potential weak link in the current squad but has instead become one of England's World Cup heroes, after his crucial penalty save from Colombia's Carlos Bacca and man of the match-winning performance against Sweden. 

    If we were evaluating their overall ability or respective careers, Shilton would be the obvious choice. But, given this is about their respective form at the World Cups in question...

    Winner: Pickford

  2. #2 RWB: Parker vs Trippier

    One of the hardest choices on the team.

    Paul Parker was a fantastically reliable defender and excelled after being moved to right wing-back following England's World Cup opener against Republic of Ireland. 

    However, Kieran Trippier has been a revelation in Russia, proving not only defensively sound but also a real asset going forward.

    Indeed, no other defender has created more chances (13) than the Tottenham ace, whose dead-ball deliveries have played a pivotal role in the Three Lions' success.

    Winner: Trippier

  3. #3 RCB: Des Walker vs Kyle Walker

    The battle of the Walkers!

    Des was an excellent defender, whose brain was as quick as his feet. An excellent man-marker (Nottingham Forest fans used to sing, "You'll never beat Des Walker!"), he was immaculate in almost each and every game at the 1990 World Cup.

    After proving an excellent addition to Manchester City's title-winning squad last season, namesake Kyle has had a fine tournament in Russia, underlining his versatility and excellent footballing skills by switching seamlessly from right-back to centre-half to facilitate Southgate's use of a three-man defence.

    However, Des gets the nod because this was his natural position.

    Winner: Des Walker

  4. #4 CB: Wright vs Stones

    Mark Wright didn't play a minute of England's qualifying campaign for the 1990 World Cup yet he proved a key man in Italy, after Bobby Robson's crucial decision to switch to a three-man backline after an uninspired performance against Ireland in their tournament opener.

    A tall, elegant defender with a wide range of passing, Wright revelled in the sweeper role and it was also his goal, against Egypt, that saw the Three Lions progress as group winners. 

    John Stones is another classy ball-playing defender whose propensity for lapses in concentration has not been seen at all during an almost flawless campaign in Russia that has also featured two goals, against Panama.

    However, when it comes to overall influence, there's only one possible victor...

    Winner: Wright

  5. #5 LCB: Butcher vs Maguire

    Terry Butcher was as inspirational a captain as England have ever had. The image of him celebrating with a blood-soaked shirt and bandage on his head at the end of a crucial 0-0 draw with Sweden in qualifying remains one of the most iconic in football history.

    However, the then 31-year-old wasn't quite at his brilliant best at Italia '90 and it was telling that he was withdrawn while his side were trailing in both the quarter-final against Cameroon and the semi-final against Germany.

    Maguire, though, has been a colossus at the back for England, a man going from strength to strength after an outstanding season for Leicester City. 

    The 25-year-old has won more aerials (33) than any other player at the tournament, the most important of which was the towering header that opened the scoring in the quarter-final win over Sweden.

    Winner: Maguire

  6. #6 LWB: Pearce vs Young

    Stuart Pearce is one of the most fearsome characters ever to have set foot on a football field. However, as well as being a thunderous tackler, 'Psycho' was also blessed with a hammer of a left foot. 

    Of course, he put far too much power into that infamous penalty miss in the semi-final shootout loss to West Germany but that didn't detract from his overall contribution to the England cause. 

    Ashley Young has rarely put a foot wrong in Russia, defending diligently as well as proving an unsurprisingly productive attacking outlet for a former winger. 

    The versatile Manchester United ace also provided the corner from which Maguire netted against Sweden but Pearce was simply a better, more well-rounded and far more intimidating wing-back.

    Winner: Pearce

  7. #7 RCM: Waddle vs Alli

    Chris Waddle is one of the most technically gifted players ever to have played for England, a skilful, two-footed winger who Gary Lineker says he "used to love" playing alongside.

    It was evident after England's opener, against Ireland, as to why, with Marseille star Waddle setting up the striker for his first goal of the tournament with the most inviting of crosses.

    Dele Alli, meanwhile, is another attacker of rare technical class and he has played his part in England's run to the last four with the killer second goal against Sweden.

    However, even the Tottenham man has admitted that he has been "disappointed" with his performances to date, so the right midfield berth goes to the more consistent and more talented Waddle.

    Winner: Waddle

  8. #8 CM: Platt vs Henderson

    The World Cup in Italy made David Platt a star. The then Aston Villa midfielder was excellent throughout but the undoubted highlight of his campaign - and arguably England's - was the outrageous volley he scored in the final minute of extra time to see off Belgium in the last 16.

    Platt also bagged the opener in the quarters against Cameroon and his sensational performances ultimately led to him moving to Serie A the following year to join Bari, before moving on to Juventus and then Sampdoria.

    Despite the fact that he has always had to deal with numerous doubters, most notably Sir Alex Ferguson, the functional Jordan Henderson has established himself as a top midfielder in Russia.

    The Liverpool captain has been quietly brilliant for England but Platt's equally effective but more eye-catching contributions give him the edge here.

    Winner: Platt

  9. #9 LCM: Gascoigne vs Lingard

    Paul Gascoigne's tears during the semi-final with West Germany were the defining moment of England's World Cup campaign. By that stage, an entire nation had already taken the goofy but gifted midfielder into their hearts, because of his buffoonery off the field and his brilliance on it.

    Jesse Lingard is one of the most popular members of the current Three Lions squad and has already left his mark on the World Cup in Russia with a stunning goal against Panama.

    However, 'Gazza' gets the nod here without a shadow of a doubt, having proven himself one of the most talented players on the planet at Italia '90 thanks to his pinpoint dead-ball deliveries - which yielded two assists - and sensational dribbling skills.

    Winner: Gascoigne

  10. #10 FW: Beardsley & Lineker vs Sterling & Kane

    Peter Beardsley and Gary Lineker formed a productive partnership for England, both at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and at the tournament in Italy four years later. 

    Lineker adored playing alongside the "unselfish" Beardsley, though whereas the former hit four goals in 1990, the latter failed to net once and never quite found his best form. 

    It's been a similar story with Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Although unfairly and often maliciously maligned by the tabloid press, Sterling has frustrated in Russia while Kane has flourished.

    As a result, we're going to be bold - and a tad old school - by picking two big No.9s to spearhead our attack. Just imagine Kane and Lineker in tandem - double trouble for any opposition defence.

    Winners: Lineker & Kane

  11. #11 England Combined XI

    So, that's how they line up. What do you make of our selections? Any outrageous decisions, let us know in the comments box!