Where are they now? England's 2006 World Cup quarter-finalists
As usual, England fans were optimistic about their team's chances at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. After all, this is England we’re talking about. The Three Lions qualified for the tournament easily enough and were drawn into a seemingly straightforward group, while supporters believed that at least some important lessons had been learned by manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
After Euro 2004 – when Sven’s ‘Wingerless Blunders’ advanced to the knockout stage but lost to hosts Portugal on spot-kicks – the biggest decision had already been made for the indecisive Swede: Paul Scholes, angry at being forced out wide, retired from international football.
Eriksson therefore had to tweak his plodding 4-4-2, and instead opted for a 4-1-4-1 with Owen Hargreaves shielding the backline. Still, any semblance of tactical coherence ended there, as individual player power dictated that David Beckham and Joe Cole would provide creativity from the flanks.
England topped their group comfortably, and then narrowly squeezed past Ecuador 1-0 in the last 16. Despite the Three Lions' progress, there were reasons for pessimism: the attack had looked sluggish and the midfield struggled to fashion opportunities. Had Ecuador been sharper in the penalty box, England could have easily been on the plane home after the first knockout round.
A quarter-final against Portugal followed, with Eriksson's 4-1-4-1 going head-to-head with Luiz Felipe Scolari's Christmas Tree formation. It was still goalless after 120 minutes, so another shoot-out would decide which of the two nations advanced to the semi-finals. Hargreaves, who was unfairly criticised by fans throughout the tournament, was the only England player to score, and Eriksson's men duly crashed out...
Robinson was no reincarnation of Gordon Banks, but he was solid in the air, positioned himself smartly and seldom tried to do too much
At the time, some thought Robinson was the weak link in this team, although hindsight and Robert Green have subsequently made that seem a little harsh. The Tottenham goalkeeper was no reincarnation of Gordon Banks, but he was solid in the air, positioned himself smartly and seldom tried to do too much. His record of clean sheets speaks for itself.
Of course, his blunder against Croatia in the Euro 2008 qualifiers will live long with infamy. A bumpy pitch caused a backward pass to bounce; Robinson ended up hacking at thin air, leading to a back-breaking goal. Still, are defenders not trained from a young age to never angle a backpass on their own frame?
At 37 years young, Robinson's still kicking it for Burnley in the Premier League and has made three league appearances for the Clarets this season.