England’s hopes of qualification for the 1976 European Championships were dealt another blow as they struggled to put away the group minnows, Cyprus, on a frustrating afternoon in Limassol.
The match had been postponed in February because of anti-British protests on the island as part of the ongoing tension between the Greek and Turkish elements on the island after Turkey had invaded the island the previous summer.
It was the first match that Don Revie’s England side played away from Wembley and it would highlight the teams inadequacies in front of goal as despite huge amounts of pressure, England could only find the net once.
The match received no TV coverage back home, so it would have been difficult for the fans at home to appreciate the difficulties faced by the England side in the brand new Tsirion Stadium. It appeared that rubble left over from the construction of the stadium was left on the pitch, leaving it hard and bumpy. Despite the hostilities of the locals, England were backed by troops stationed on the island, at least giving England some support.
With Czechoslovakia boosting their hopes by beating Portugal 5-0 the previous week, England were hoping to match their Malcolm Macdonald inspired thrashing of the Cypriots in the first match between the two nations. Those hopes will have been boosted on six minutes when Kevin Keegan glanced home a Dave Thomas corner to get England up and running.
However that would prove to be the only goal of the game as Cyprus resisted all further England attacks. Macdonald was thwarted twice by goalline clearances and Mick Channon hit a post as the frustrations which would haunt the England team throughout Revie’s reign.
The England manager, who handed a debut to Dennis Tueart, was left angry by the conditions his team were forced to play in stating that it was “probably the worst pitch any England team has ever had to play on.” He received no sympathy from his counterpart Pambos Avraamides who responded by saying “My main feeling is one of disappointment about the quality of the English team.”
The result made the up coming match in Bratislava against the Czechoslovakian’s in October even more crucial. England had 7 points from their four games, the Czechs 4 from 3 but still had Cyprus to play a second time. The winner of the next game would be in prime position to qualify.