England is the nation whose sporting prowess centres around the ‘beautiful game’, and invented football as we know it today; and so it seems improbable that their 1966 World Cup win on home soil remains their only international success.
Gareth Southgate’s current crop of England players made a bold statement at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, narrowly losing out in the semi-finals to Croatia.
Expectations have always been rife for England teams of the past, and it has led at times to levels of pressure that they simply haven’t coped with.
Their World Cup run, coupled with their excellent form in last year’s UEFA Nations League, means that England find themselves favourites in the international football betting to win Euro 2021 next summer.
Will it be different for Southgate, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and co. next summer? Time will tell. Here we reflect on some of England’s near misses in the quest for tournament glory.
Bobby Robson’s side created some wonderful memories for a generation with their run to the semi-finals in Italy. Draws against the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands left them in a strong position after two group games, and Mark Wright’s goal was enough to get England past Egypt to win the section.
An iconic swivelling volley from David Platt took care of Belgium, just before a penalty shoot-out was needed in the last-16. England then faced a Cameroon side that had become the surprise package of the tournament.
Despite surrendering a first-half lead to two quick goals beyond the hour, Gary Lineker’s spot-kick late on forced extra-time, and the England marksman again tucked away from the penalty spot to win the game 3-2.
Lineker would again be on target against West Germany in Turin in the semi-final, cancelling out Andreas Brehme’s strike. However, England agonisingly lost on penalties after misses from Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle.
The first and only tournament England has hosted since 1966, and they so nearly ended those ’30 years of hurt’ during an unforgettable summer under Terry Venables’ guidance.
A stuttering start saw the hosts held by Switzerland, but from there it was an odyssey of excitement for a nation that grew in confidence.
Paul Gascoigne’s wonderful strike helped England secure victory against ‘auld enemy’ Scotland, before a demolition job from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham saw a fancied Dutch side swept aside 4-1 at Wembley.
Pearce memorably cast aside the torture of his penalty miss in Italy six years earlier when he scored against Spain in the last-eight shootout. England overcoming Spain after a tense affair was what the team needed.
Shearer’s early goal gave real hope of revenge too on the Germans in the last-four. However, after a 1-1 draw and no goal in extra-time, Gascoigne came within a toe-nail of winning it for England – there was more shootout heartache against the foot-perfect Germany. This time it was Gareth Southgate that missed the vital kick.
Sven-Goran Eriksson led England’s ‘golden generation’ to Germany in 2006, with hopes high that a team including the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and Michael Owen could go all the way.
Winning a World Cup in Germany would surely be revenge for the pain inflicted on England by the hosts during the 1990s.
Despite being held scoreless for 83 minutes by Trinidad and Tobago, England entered the knockouts without much fuss and overcame Ecuador to set up a quarter-final again Portugal; who had eliminated them from the European Championships in 2004 on penalties.
Rooney was sent off for an altercation with then-Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo after 62 minutes. And, while England held out for penalties, yet more pain was waiting as Lampard, Gerrard, and Jamie Carragher all saw their spot-kicks saved and they crashed out.