Friday, 22 October 2010


The 1966 World Cup winners have a very poor record in the European Championships. The tournament is considered by many to be a better indicator of a nation's standing in World football than the World Cup, given that the quality of teams that compete in the final tournament are much more evenly matched. On that basis, England are clearly lagging woefully behind the other giants of Europe who have also won the World Cup. On five of the eleven occasions that they entered the qualifying phase of the competition they failed to make it through to the Finals. That leaves six occasions where they did qualify, plus their appearance as hosts in 1996 when qualification wasn't required. In short, England have only appeared in just over half of the European Championship Finals (seven out of thirteen).

Euro Pedigree:

After not entering the inaugural tournament in 1960 and then failing to qualify in 1964 following a defeat by France over two legs, England proceeded to get through to the Finals in 1968 where they faced Yugoslavia in Florence in the semi-finals. World Champions at the time, England fell to a late goal by the wonderful Dragan Dzajic to miss out on a place in the Final. That was England's last match at the Finals for twelve years, when the tournament was again held in Italy. England were beaten 1-0 by the hosts in the group stage, and despite victory against Spain and a draw with Belgium, they only finished third in the group and were out.

England again missed out on the Finals in France in 1984, but started as one of the favourites to win the tournament four years later in Germany. A disastrous campaign saw England lose all three of their group matches to the Republic of Ireland and the two eventual finalists, Holland and the USSR. In 1992 England again fell at the group stage and were lambasted by the English Press for their unacceptable performances. Two goalless 'bore draws' with Denmark and France were followed by a defeat against hosts Sweden which put paid to hopes of progressing.

In 1996 on home soil England enjoyed their finest hour in the Euros, only being denied a place in the Final following a heartbreaking semi-final shootout defeat to old rivals Germany. Prior to that they had destroyed the Dutch 4-1 on a memorable night at Wembley, with Paul Gascoigne and the two strikers (Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham) oozing class and confidence. Victory over Spain in the quarter-finals on penalties set up the clash with Germany, and despite taking the lead with an Alan Shearer header after only two minutes the game finished 1-1. Extra-time saw the Germans have a goal disallowed and both Darren Anderton and Gascoigne come within an inch of the golden goal that would have taken England through, but it was not to be. Defender Gareth Southgate missed the crucial sixth kick in the shootout. In spite of the defeat, Euro 96 was a tournament that England could look back on with pride in the level of their performances.

Four years on and England were drawn with Germany again, this time in the group stages. Despite a 1-0 win, England went home early again as they lost their other two games against Portugal and Romania, both by a 3-2 scoreline. England led in both games, and an inability to defend a lead at vital stages is a recurring feature of England's international football history. On no occasion was this more evident than in their opening group match four years later against France at Euro 2004. England were leading 1-0 with the game virtually over, yet contrived to hand the French a free kick and a penalty in the time that remained, both of which were clinically dispatched by the brilliant Zinedine Zidane. To their credit England recovered to win their other two group games and qualify, but in the quarter-final against hosts Portugal they again surrendered a long-held lead and were beaten in a dramatic penalty shootout. Key defeats in qualifying for Euro 2008 - against Croatia (twice) and Russia - meant that England missed out again on a place at the Finals in Austria and Switzerland. Qualification for the 2012 tournament started well with wins against Bulgaria and Switzerland, but England seemed to be slipping into old habits earlier this month as they stuttered to a 0-0 draw at home to Montenegro.

Greatest Moment:

Surely the 4-1 destruction of Holland at Wembley in 1996 - one of England's finest performances ever - that confirmed their quarter-final berth.

Biggest Heartbreak:

Seven days on from the heroics against Holland, England were denied a place in the Final following more penalty pain against Germany.

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