Going into the match, England were in second place of UEFA Group 2 on 10 points, three points behind group leaders Norway and one point ahead of the third-place Netherlands. A win would have secured them in second place and automatically qualified them for the World Cup, while a draw would have kept them ahead of the Dutch side.
After a scoreless second half, England captain David Platt was clear through to the goal in the 57th minute and appeared ready to score when his shirt was grabbed by the last man, Dutch captain Ronald Koeman. Although the foul happened a yard inside the box, the referee ignored England's clamor for a penalty and awarded a free kick on the 18-yard line. The Dutch wall safely charged down the kick, taken by defender Tony Dorigo.
Koeman then added to England's misery by scoring from a free kick in the 61st minute. His first attempt was blocked, but the referee ordered it to be retaken, claiming that midfielder Paul Ince had left the wall too early. Koeman took advantage of the second chance, chipping the ball into the top of the net past keeper David Seaman.
It only got worse for England, as Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp appeared to handle the ball before shooting it past Seaman to extend the lead in the 68th minute.
After the loss, England were two points behind the Netherlands for second place and needed a win against San Marino in the last match, combined with a Dutch loss or draw against Poland. England battered San Marino to a 1-7 win, but the Dutch killed off England's World Cup hopes by defeating Poland 1-3.