BOLOGNA, ITALY, JUNE 26 -- The country that gave soccer to the world was pushed to the edge of it tonight.
But in the 120th minute, long after a scoreless deadlock in regulation time, England managed to subdue Belgium, 1-0, to reach the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup when substitute midfielder David Platt converted a free kick by Paul Gascoigne -- the charismatic player who has emerged as the unqestionable star of England's team and is expected to sign a $9 million contract with a continental club after the games.
Gascoigne lofted a ball to the front of Belgium's net where Platt, 24, who plays for Aston Villa of the English First Division, redirected his opportunity with a nifty bit of footwork to beat Belgian goalie Michel Preud'homme.
"A wonderful goal to win a wonderful match," said England's coach, Bobby Robson.
While Platt made a great shot, it was Gascoigne who made the play happen. With his performance in the World Cup, he has aroused keen interest in scouts and agents, who believe that he will become an outstanding player with a continental club when his contract with the Tottenham club of England expires next season.
"We showed lots of fighting spirit and great qualities," Robson said. "We only had nine men healthy on the pitch at the end, with both Des Walker and Terry Butcher hurting. And we'll have to go on that way, with only nine healthy men."
The victory, which lifted England into the Cup's final eight, overcame a sensational effort by Belgian star Vincenzo Scifo, who was one of two opponents to hit the post, his miss coming early in the second half.
"He was desperately unlucky," Robson admitted. "But then our Gary Lineker almost scored at the other end, so it was a great game of ebb and flow. At the finish, we handled their crossing passes with our big defenders and Peter Shilton in goal."
The match was the final piece to the quarterfinal puzzle that will be solved this weekend. On Saturday, heavily favored Italy will host Ireland in Rome while Argentina and Yugoslavia will play in Florence. On Sunday, surprising Cameroon will take on England in Naples and West Germany and Czechoslovakia will meet in Milan.
Tonight's game was played against a backdrop of intense police security as the arrival of English fans disrupted life in this normally placid city, home of a university founded in 1050, the world's oldest. Streets normally filled with students were packed today with youthful soccer fans from both England and Belgium.
The rowdies among the English fans were the cause of mammoth security precautions. Some 5,000 armed Italian police came from around the country to try to prevent outbreaks of violence. The police, many with rifles at the ready, outnumbered the 3,000 to 4,000 English fans.
Late this afternoon, the downtown train station was tense as hundreds of policemen separated arriving English and Belgian fans, ushering them in separate directions. Many of the English were searched. Hundreds of English were packed tightly into orange buses taken over by police from the local transit company.
Each bus or two was escorted by a squad car and trailed by a police-filled van. Each van had a roof opening manned by a helmeted policeman carrying a rifle
In contrast, the hundreds of Belgians spent a leisurely, fun-filled day in the city's main square, many sitting on the steps of the Duomo, which has yet to be fully completed even though construction began in the 14th century.
The Belgians cavorted in front of the great church. Many wrapped themselves in their country's black, yellow and red flags. Some had their faces painted black, yellow and red. A particularly robust man, wearing a black derby, yellow shirt, yellow wool scarf and black trousers, led cheers and sang songs; at one point serenading an elderly Italian woman who laughed in approval.
Belgian fans seated at an outdoor restaurant frequently echoed the chants of their countrymen on the church steps. Police, standing by in droves, clearly enjoyed the good time.
But when it came to policing the English, it was serious business. The sheer numbers of officers appeared to surprise the English as they stepped off trains. Police manned the platforms and interior of the station.
Outside the main entrance, where taxis normally line up, there were ranks of policemen and rows of squad cars and police trucks.
The English fans were taken to a park in the northern section of Bologna where a tent camp had been erected by city officials. From there, if they had tickets, they were able to take other buses to the stadium, where they were segregated from Belgian fans.
Shops along narrow streets to the stadium were shuttered, as were numerous houses. "Normally on match days, people buy things in these stores," a local resident said. "It's festive. It's never like this."
But with England's young toughs, no precaution is regarded as too great. The extreme security put in place here, as it was at England's first-round site on Sardinia, results from a long history of violence among the notorious hooligans. One of the worst tragedies occurred in May 1985, when 39 Italian fans were killed at Brussels's Heysel Stadium in a riot touched off by English thugs.
England's minister of sport, Colin Moynihan, worked here in conjunction with Italian authorities and British police in an effort to get the English in and out of the city with a minimum of incidents. Scotland Yard detectives, regarded as experts in preventing soccer violence, also were here. Those Italian police who had gained experience holding down trouble on Sardinia were placed in the forefront.
A rule of thumb established by law enforcement officials appeared to be followed precisely by the uniformed patrolmen: "Treat the English supporters like gentlemen, but deal ruthlessly with the hooligans."
One Englishman, who said he was from Nottingham, told people: "I am an English supporter, but I am not a hooligan," as he passed through the train station.
On Monday, an English fan died in a hospital after being struck by a car here on Sunday, A spokesman for the British embassy said that the victim, David Monaghan, 26, of Coventry was hit while crossing a street with a friend.
English fans were delighted with the game's outcome and seemed a bit calmer than at the end of the 90 minutes of regulation time. Then, a scuffle broke out among them and other fans and about a dozen helmeted police moved into the stands to clear the area and prevent the English from moving out of their section.
Now, the English following will head south for Sunday's game against Cameroon in Naples. For certain, Robson is looking forward to the trip.
"Once we get to this postion," he said, "chances maybe are not going to be that easy to make. But we have great spirit. We're in the last eight with Cameroon to play. We're looking forward to it."
Belgium 0 0 0 0 England 0 0 1 1 FIRST HALF Scoring: None. SECOND HALF Scoring: None. OVERTIME Scoring: 1, England, Platt 1 (Gascoigne), 119th minute. Yellow Cards: Gascoigne, Eng, 87th minute. Red Cards: None. Referee: Mikkelsen (Denmark). Linesmen: Takada (Japan), Kohl (Austria). A: 34,520.