From Gazza’s celebrations to the Wally with the Brolly, beneath the iconic towers or arch, Wembley's greatest games have featured some all-time international classics - and some England fans would rather forget...
10. England U21s 3-3 Italy U21s
The first international at the new Wembley might have been a youth fixture, but it was an absolute cracker. Despite future senior stalwarts Gary Cahill and Giorgio Chiellini lining up, both countries threw caution to the wind in a stunning six-goal thriller. David Bentley christened a net under the arch as Italy’s Giampaolo Pazzini bagged a hat-trick.
9. England 3-1 Argentina
Remember a time before England hated Diego Maradona? Nope, probably not – but in 1980, Wembley welcomed the reigning world champions for a friendly. Argentina were duly defeated by the hosts but earned a standing ovation – Ballon d’Or holder Kevin Keegan linked arms and chatted with the young Diego, who’d just glided through the Three Lions’ defence. Turns out he was just practising for six years down the line...
8. England 2-3 Croatia
2007, Euro 2008 qualifier
The final chapter of the ‘golden generation’ ended in Shakespearean tragedy. Needing just a draw to make Euro 2008, Steve McClaren’s England were comprehensively outplayed by Croatia in the pouring rain. “We ran into some teams who were better organised and more together,” Emile Heskey told FFT last year. And less fond of umbrellas.
7. Sweden 3-1 Yugoslavia
1948 Olympics Final, Men’s
A battered and sadly bruised post-war United Kingdom welcomed the world to its capital for a celebration of sport. Team GB were dumped out in the semis by Yugoslavia, who themselves fell victim to Sweden’s devastating forward line of the two-goal Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm – the trio would join Milan a year later. The Swedes waltzed to a 3-1 victory in front of 60,000, securing their finest ever footballing moment. Sorry, Zlatan…
6. Great Britain 1-0 Brazil
2012 Olympics group stage, women's
The hosts won the very first women’s international to take place at the ‘new’ Wembley Stadium. Facing the Samba stars of Brazil at London 2012 – captained by the iconic Marta – the Brits dug in to produce a mature performance after Steph Houghton’s early goal and top their group with a perfect record. ‘Inspire a generation’ was the tournament’s motto, and this victory was a fitting – and emphatic – result for women’s football in the UK.
5. England 2-0 Scotland
Euro 96 group stage
You may know it: a glorious effort against the Scots was unfiltered Paul Gascoigne: audacity and brilliance in equal measure – as was the accompanying ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration. In truth, the game was a tight affair which turned on its head when David Seaman saved Gary McAllister’s spot-kick. The stage was all ready for England’s Geordie genius.
“It didn’t surprise any of us,” a grinning Teddy Sheringham told FFT last year.
4. England 2-3 Scotland
1967 British Home Championship
Like a boxer taking the belt from a heavyweight title holder, the Tartan Army stormed Wembley in April 1967. Chuffed Scotland had beaten an England side containing 10 of the 11 players who had won the World Cup one year before 3-2 in a pulsating encounter.
The Tartan Army were the first country to turn the world champions over, inspired by the tenacious Denis Law. The result gave Scotland the British Home Championship for the first time in four years.
As the fighting talk goes, if you come for the kings, you’d better not miss. The Wembley Wizards certainly didn’t.
3. England 4-1 Netherlands
Euro 96 group stage
If ever one match captured a moment in time, England’s last group stage game in their hazy summer of love was it.
Terry Venables rustled up an expressive gameplan to nullify the Netherlands’ pass masters and rival the Oranje for style. England raced into a 4-0 lead thanks to braces from Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer, then cruised to this unexpected thrashing. Shearer’s super second – the meat inside a three-goal, 11-minute sandwich at the beginning of the second half – was the purest Total Football.
“Once we started playing, they just couldn’t get the ball off us,” a proud Paul Ince later told FFT.
2. England 3-6 Hungary
It was dubbed ‘The Match of the Century’. England were insular, pompous even, believing their gift of football to other countries held them superior. Hungary, by contrast, were innovative, balletic, unbeaten in three years and intent on changing the face of football. “Look at that little fat chap,” one unidentified England player said in the tunnel, pointing at Hungarian captain Ferenc Puskas. “We’ll murder this lot.”
The ensuing 6-3 mauling – the Three Lions’ first on home soil against foreign opposition – was an earthquake for the English game. Nandor Hidegkuti’s hat-trick was momentous in its sublime movement, influencing false nines for generations. The portly Puskas, meanwhile, helped himself to two, featuring a dragback so good that Geoffrey Green in The Times described Billy Wright’s attempted sliding tackle as “like a fireman racing to the wrong fire”.
England were baffled, but Alf Ramsey, their ageing right-back that day, came away convinced that a major rethink was needed if the game’s inventors were ever to win the World Cup...
1. England 4-2 West Germany
1966 World Cup Final
On one glorious afternoon in late July 1966, as London swung under a spangled sun, England stood on top of the world. Fifty-five years later, it remains England’s yardstick. Alf Ramsey’s wingless wonders looked beaten after the brilliant Helmut Haller’s 89th-minute equaliser forced extra time, but the England boss had other ideas.
“Look at them, they’re finished,” said Ramsey, forbidding his players to lie on the pitch like their West German opponents. “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again.”
Sure, it needed a helping hand from a home crossbar and an Azerbaijani (not Russian) linesman to decide Geoff Hurst’s shot definitely crossed the line, but in true English fighting spirit, the underdog Hurst stood up again. Racing through with seconds remaining, the striker struck his third and England’s fourth, as commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s seminal “they think it’s all over” line underscored the first – and as yet, only – World Cup final hat-trick.
Images of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy may have grown ever more sepia, but it’s still the finest World Cup final of all time.
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