46. England 1-2 Iceland (Euro 2016, last 16)
Harrowing. England were so complacent about this fixture that Roy Hodgson took assistant Ray Lewington on a boat ride down the Seine instead of watching potential knockout opponents Iceland in their final group game against Austria – won in the 94th-minute to set up their meeting with the Three Lions.
Hodgson's side did take a fourth-minute lead via Wayne Rooney's penalty, though – and then went to bits. When Ragnar Sigurdsson equalised within two minutes, England fell apart and shipped another in the 18th minute via Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. What followed was the most alarmingly low-confidence display in national team history – and a thoroughly deserved exit.
45. England 0-0 Algeria (World Cup 2010, Group C)
A dire draw against a team that lost its two other games 1-0 was enlivened only by Wayne Rooney ranting about England fans. Oh, and Emile Heskey turning a stepover into a stumble-over before slicing the ball out of play.
44. England 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago (World Cup 2006, Group B)
If the Guardian were harsh in calling this performance “abysmal” and England “an utter shambles”, it wasn’t by much. Steven Gerrard’s fine stoppage-time strike put several coats of gloss on it: England needed a goal-line clearance and a Peter Crouch header that should have been disallowed (the hitherto wasteful beanpole striker pulled Brent Sancho back by his dreadlocks) to beat a team with Dwight Yorke in defensive midfield and an 85-year-old Shaka Hislop in goal.
43. England 1-4 Germany (World Cup 2010, last 16)
Don’t be fooled into thinking things would have been different if Frank Lampard’s strike had been allowed. It may have made the score 2-2 immediately after Matthew Upson (!) had scored, but that one-minute period aside, England were diabolical: they should by rights have already been 5-0 down. It was a horror show.
42. England 2-3 Romania (Euro 2000, Group A)
With his team leading having been second-best, the ever-noble Kevin Keegan instructed his players at half-time to give Romania two goals. Last-minute deputy Nigel Martyn led the defensive omnishambles, and then in the 88th minute, Phil Neville decided he didn’t fancy another week away and hacked down Viorel Moldovan in the box to send England home.
41. England 0-0 Costa Rica (World Cup 2014, Group D)
The most exciting thing to happen in these two hours was Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini 1,500 miles away.
40. England 0-0 Slovakia (Euro 2016, Group B)
Six changes for the Three Lions' final group game of a horrible tournament, and a predictably disappointing draw which meant they'd be finishing second behind Wales. England had 28 shots and got five on target. "Finishing second is a disappointment but we are still in the last 16 and who is to say the team we will play will be that much stronger?" quipped a defiant Roy Hodgson. If only he knew.
39. England 0-1 Belgium (World Cup 2018, Group G)
With both England and Belgium already through, this was a dreadful game between second strings. Belgium's were better, though, and the winning goal from Adnan Januzaj was terrific. Few of Gareth Southgate's replacements did anything to suggest they were first XI material.
38. England 1-1 Russia (Euro 2016, Group B)
As far as opening games go, this was no disaster – but consider that Wales then hammered this awful Russia team 3-0 nine days later. Eric Dier's free-kick to put England ahead was corking, but conceding Vasili Berezutski's 92nd-minute equaliser after almost no pressure in the game was unforgivable.
37. England 1-0 Paraguay (World Cup 2006, Group B)
With hype over the Golden Generation at its peak and an own goal giving them a lead three minutes into the tournament, it was good of England to dampen expectations with a thoroughly dour performance from then on.
36. England 1-2 Romania (World Cup 98, Group G)
Despite substitute Michael Owen cancelling out Viorel Moldovan’s goal (yep, him again) and then hitting the post, England lost in rather careless fashion. Dan Petrescu scored a late, late goal that Graeme Le Saux watched through his fingers even while trying to tackle him.
35. England 2-1 Wales (Euro 2016, Group B)
After the disappoint of Russia on matchday one, England craved victory against their UK cousins – and though they got it, it was far harder than necessary. Gareth Bale's free-kick somehow beat a hapless Joe Hart, but Janice Vardy scores a scrappy equaliser and Daniel Sturridge was on hand to prod home a 92nd-minute winner and save face. For now.
34. England 1-0 Slovenia (World Cup 2010, Group C)
Jermain Defoe, replacing Heskey in the starting XI, scored with his knee but England missed a hatful to ensure a nervy finish and a date with Germany.
33. England 1-1 Sweden (World Cup 2002, Group F)
England, defensive and inexperienced (seven of the 13 players used here were aged 20-23), started their Asian adventure badly. A Danny Mills balls-up let Sweden cancel out Sol Campbell’s opener and almost snatch a win.
32. England 0-0 Nigeria (World Cup 2002, Group F)
Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men needed a draw to progress, and the Swede was content to play for it. Uninspired and uninspiring, England gave Nigeria their only point and qualified in second, meaning they’d meet eventual winners Brazil in the last eight instead of Turkey.
31. England 1-1 USA (World Cup 2010, Group C)
“This might be fun!” exclaimed Clive Tyldesley when Gerrard scored in the fourth minute. One Rob Green gaffe later, he learned it wasn’t.
30. England 1-0 Ecuador (World Cup 2006, last 16)
Move along, nothing to see here.
29. England 0-0 [2-4pen] Italy (Euro 2012, quarter-final)
Fatigue was a major factor; even so, it spoke volumes that England’s most common pass combination was from Joe Hart to Andy Carroll, who only came on after an hour.
28. England 1-2 Brazil (World Cup 2002, quarter-final)
England had a fine first 45, leading 1-0 thanks to Owen taking advantage of a Lucio howler. However, moments before half-time they let Ronaldinho run amok and set up Rivaldo, then moments after it, Ronaldinho coaxed David Seaman into retirement. Somehow England never even looked like equalising, despite facing 10 men for 35 minutes.
27. England 2-2 Sweden (World Cup 2006, Group B)
Commanding first-half performance: check. Lax, defensive second: check. Joe Cole’s wind-assisted beauty from range was every bit as good as the tactics and defence were poor.
26. England 1-0 Ukraine (Euro 2012, Group D)
Topping a tough group was no mean feat, but three controversial points came through Rooney scoring from one yard having missed from six, and Ukraine being wrongly denied an equaliser when the ball had crossed England’s goal-line.
25. England 1-1 Switzerland (Euro 96, Group A)
Scoring through Alan Shearer and being undone by a penalty: England started Euro 96 as they meant to go on. They had a bit of luck, too, Marco Grassi somehow hitting the bar from three yards out.
24. England 2-3 Portugal (Euro 2000, Group A)
In true Kevin Keegan style, England attacked… and in true Kevin Keegan style, they forgot to defend. Mighty Mouse – who said afterwards he was “ashamed” of the abuse showered upon David Beckham by supposed supporters – watched his men blow a two-goal lead through a combination of bad luck and bad marking, Portugal having another two goals ruled out by marginal offside calls. Entertaining, though.
23. England 2-0 Tunisia (World Cup 98, Group G)
Fan violence marred a routine opening win with goals straight out of Premier League Years: a Shearer header and Paul Scholes from 20 yards.
22. England 0-0 [4-2pen] Spain (Euro 96, quarter-final)
If England winning on penalties represents a miracle, so does the fact they had to take them. How this finished 0-0 is anyone’s guess. The hosts hit the post and missed two sitters through Shearer and Teddy Sheringham, while Spain fluffed an easy one-on-one and had a goal wrongly disallowed. Terry Venables’ men rode their luck in this one.
21. England 0-0 [1-3pen] Portugal (World Cup 2006, quarter-final)
England, again with Rooney sidelined (sent off this time), again lost to Portugal, again on penalties. Neither side deserved to make the semi-finals but one had to, and England fell on their sword. Ironically, it was their most convincing performance of the tournament, even if that isn’t saying much.
20. England 1-0 Germany (Euro 2000, Group A)
Which is more miraculous: a Germany side being this bad, or a Keegan side keeping a clean sheet? In truth they didn’t deserve one: Germany squandered some great close-range chances, but a familiar goal – Beckham free-kick, Shearer header – gave England a dogged win.
19. England 1-2 Uruguay (World Cup 2014, Group D)
Oh, Gerrard. While hardly on a par with his harakiri backpass against France at Euro 2004, the midfielder’s shortcomings in a deeper role undid an otherwise decent England performance. Their ambition was encouraging, their goal magnificent; however, one missed tackle and one misjudged header from Gerrard – combined with the defenders’ poor marking – condemned England to an early exit at the hands of Luis Suarez.
18. England 1-1 France (Euro 2012, Group D)
England were defensively solid in only Roy Hodgson’s third match in charge, but offered little going forward and couldn’t end France’s 21-match unbeaten run.
17. England 3-2 Sweden (Euro 2012, Group D)
In the very next match, Carroll justified Hodgson’s tactical switch with a towering, powering header. As poor as England were in conceding two goals to shonky defending, they refused to give up, and turned the tables through Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck.
16. England 2-1 Tunisia (World Cup 2018, Group G)
Yes, England left it until stoppage time to beat the north Africans, but the first 25 minutes of this game featured some of the brightest, breeziest football in recent Three Lions history. They should have had four goals before Tunisia were awarded a dubious penalty which hauled them level, after Harry Kane had given England an early lead. They toiled after half-time but kept going – and got the winner they deserved through Kane at the death. Phew.
15. England 1-1 [5-6pen] Germany (Euro 96, semi-final)
You know the story: Shearer’s header, Stefan Kuntz’s equaliser, Gazza’s despairing lunge, Gareth Southgate’s Pizza Hut advert… yet the match itself was by no means a classic. Chances were at a premium, with England’s best efforts coming in search of that elusive Golden Goal. Bafflingly, Venables didn’t make a single substitute in 120 minutes, even ahead of penalties, despite options on the bench including spot-kick kings Robbie Fowler and Nick Barmby, not to mention Les Ferdinand, who didn’t take penalties but could nonetheless strike a ball pretty well. Never mind, eh?
14. England 3-0 Denmark (World Cup 2002, last 16)
As with their group match against Argentina, England deserved their win but had some help. They led within minutes thanks to a softly conceded corner, abysmal marking and comical goalkeeping, before fortune provided a second (their first open-play goal of the tournament). Another Thomas Sorensen blunder made it 3-0 by half-time.
13. England 2-2 [5-6pen] Portugal (Euro 2004, quarter-final)
It was a cruel end to a tournament that promised so much. However, England were ultimately punished not just by Urs Meier disallowing Campbell’s goal, but for making mistakes that champions don’t make. Sven’s defensive switch with only an hour gone invited pressure when his team were in the lead and the ascendancy (albeit with Rooney off injured); Portugal’s first goal was the fault of John Terry; their second, that of substitute and supposed midfield anchor Phil Neville. Scoring four of their six penalties in the shootout summed things up for England: good, but not good enough.
12. England 1-2 Italy (World Cup 2014, Group D)
Hodgson’s attacking tactics bore fruit through Raheem Sterling’s threat and Daniel Sturridge’s goal, but Italy exploited frailty at the back to deny England a deserved draw.
11. England *1-1 Colombia (World Cup 2018, last 16)
The kind of win that made us believe Gareth Southgate's crop of 2018 really were different to what had gone before. Astonishingly, a win on penalties, having come from behind in the shootout. England were in control of this game for so much of the 90 minutes, but lapsed late to let Yerry Mina head in from a corner. Extra-time was less comfortable; Colombia shaded the first half, England the second. Then came penalties – and a first spot-kicks victory in six attempts. Phew.
10. England 2-0 Scotland (Euro 96, Group A)
Hazy memories of Gazza’s stunning goal, the dentist’s chair celebration and Gary McAllister’s Uri Geller-assisted penalty miss help to disguise England’s performance. They warranted the win, Shearer scoring a header and Andy Goram making a superb stop before Gazza did his thing, but it was an even game: indeed, Seaman won man of the match.
9. England 3-0 Switzerland (Euro 2004, Group B)
This 3-0 win was inspired by an 18-year-old Rooney and helped England to be joint-top scorers at Euro 2004, although it was less comfortable than the scoreline suggests, as a star-studded midfield of Beckham-Gerrard-Lampard-Scholes laboured in the heat.
8. England 2-0 Colombia (World Cup 98, Group G)
Darren Anderton opened the scoring and Beckham converted a free-kick as he and fellow new boy Owen forced their way into Glenn Hoddle’s team. They’d have very contrasting personal experiences against Argentina in the second round.
7. England 6-1 Panama (World Cup 2018, Group G)
Allowances must be made for the low standard of opposition who were hell-bent on simply disrupting England rather than playing football, but the scoresheet read that Gareth Southgate's side were 5-0 up at half-time and looked likely to score every time they went forward. Harry Kane got a hat-trick – two belting penalties and the most fortuitous third he'll ever get – and even John Stones grabbed a pair. Jesse Lingard's was the pick of the bunch, though: a sumptuous effort from outside the box.
6. England 2-2 [3-4pen] Argentina (World Cup 98, last 16)
An action-packed first half saw Shearer and Gabriel Batitusta exchange penalties following a Seaman clattering and an Owen dive (something Argentina would re-experience four years later). Then, the latter scurried and finished off his esteemed ‘wondergoal’, and Javier Zanetti equalised in first-half stoppage time, with Scholes missing a sitter to boot. England were thrilling – but very open. Then came Beckham’s brainfart, Campbell’s Disallowed Goal: Part One, and penalties. This England side deserved better; ultimately, though, they didn’t get it.
5. England 1-0 Argentina (World Cup 2002, Group F)
Allowing for the previous World Cup’s events, this win was cathartic, if not convincing. England’s defence did, though, hold admirably firm after Beckham converted a penalty that shouldn’t have been, Owen’s theatrical tumble allowing his captain to banish the demons of France 98.
4. England 1-2 France (Euro 2004, Group B)
They were so close. But, having denied France a 12th consecutive clean sheet, missed a penalty and entered stoppage time in the lead, England – well, Heskey and Gerrard – gave Zinedine Zidane the opportunity to convert a free-kick and a penalty. And so, in one of England’s better tournament performances of recent years, they still lost.
3. England 2-0 Sweden (World Cup 2018, quarter-final)
The most jarring thing about this victory was how straightforward it was. England, who make an art of doing it the hard way (or just not doing it at all), just efficiently beating a well-drilled but limited Sweden side. Jordan Pickford pulled off some fine saves around headed goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli, but England had further chances of their own that they didn’t make the most of. Overall, a two-goal victory was an accurate reflection of England's most important win in over two decades.
2. England 4-2 Croatia (Euro 2004, Group B)
Really, one shouldn’t celebrate a performance that allows the opposition to score twice from free-kicks. And yet, England did so much right, and so much of it out of character: reacting well to going behind, putting together neat moves for all four goals, and seeking to put the game to bed. Rooney was superb again, netting his eighth and ninth goals in 16 internationals.
1. England 4-1 Netherlands (Euro 96, Group A)
Naysayers will say nay. Yes, the Dutch had more shots than England. Yes, they had more possession. And yes, they won eight corners in the first half alone, prompting Barry Davies to say, “England really need half-time here”. But even if football didn’t really come home at Euro 96, getting stuck in traffic just outside Wembley, England’s 4-1 win over the Oranje under the Twin Towers gave fans a team of which they could be proud.
Corners be damned – Venables’ free-flowing side led at the break, due to a penalty won brilliantly by Paul Ince and converted brilliantly by Shearer, who’d already had a thunderous shot cleared off the line. Dennis Bergkamp missed chances (though he’d provide a sumptuous assist for Patrick Kluivert’s consolation goal) and Dutch profligacy was punished twice by Sheringham and once again by Shearer, who ended a famous move. The hosts led 4-0 with an hour-and-a-bit played. This was no freak result.
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