England’s best tournament performances since Euro 96
Since England hosted Euro 96 some 24 years ago, happy moments have been few and far between, with the national team generally crashing out of both World Cups and European Championships in increasingly disappointing ways.
With ITV screening Euro 96 in its entirety on its hub, we take a shot at ranking every tournament performance since Euro 96, up to and including the World Cup of 2018.
20. England 0-0 [1-3pen] Portugal (World Cup 2006, quarter-final)
Portugal have become one of England’s most irksome opponents since 1996, with penalty defeats at successive tournaments, first in the 2004 European Championships in Portugal and then two years later in Germany at the 2006 World Cup. All a far cry from the very first meeting between the two nations back in 1947 when England ran out 10-0 winners with four goals each from Tommy Lawton and Stan Mortensen and one each for Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews. The match at the World Cup in Germany had plenty of similarities with the match at Euro 2004. 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.
19. England 1-0 Germany (Euro 2000, Group A)
England were pretty bad at Euro 2000, coming third in the group behind Portugal and Romania. The fact that Germany were even worse and came bottom was scant consolation – and not for long. The German football authorities had already formulated a plan to take them back to the top of international football, with their horrendous performance in Belgium and the Netherlands merely confirming that those changes were long overdue.Despite Germany being so bad, they still managed to squander some great close-range chances, but a familiar goal – Beckham free-kick, Shearer header – gave England a dogged win and, most bizarrely of all, a clean sheet for a side managed by Kevin Keegan.
18. England 1-2 Uruguay (World Cup 2014, Group D)
The World Cup in Brazil was four years ago, but still so fresh in the mind with England’s results seeing the Three Lions knocked out of the tournament before they contested their third group stage match, against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte. Defeats against Italy and Uruguay proved terminal for England, but the performances were actually quite good. Steven Gerrard’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.
17. England 1-1 France (Euro 2012, Group D)
Roy Hodgson had replaced Fabio Capello as the permanent England manager just six weeks before the start of Euro 2012. The Italian had resigned over the Football Association’s removal of John Terry as Three Lions captain. With the national team in a mess, not a great deal was expected of Hodgson or England but the team quickly took to the new manager’s organised methods and ground out a draw in the opening match against France. Subsequent group stage wins over Ukraine and Sweden saw England top the group and make the knockout stages.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.
16. England 3-2 Sweden (Euro 2012, Group D)
AKA The Andy Carroll Game. In the second group game at Euro 2012, the Geordie battering ram justified Hodgson’s tactical switch with a towering, powering header. England went into half-time with the advantage but conceded two poor goals early in the second half – with Olof Mellberg involved in both. It was the Sweden defender’s effort that Joe Hart palmed onto Glen Johnson the brought the equaliser and 10 minutes later, Mellberg scored another to turn the game on its head.
However, England refused to give up, and turned the tables through Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck. Coupled with the opening draw with France, the win put England top of the group ahead of the match against Ukraine – an excellent return under the new manager who had only been in the job for less than six weeks.
15. England 2-1 Tunisia (World Cup 2018, Group G)
England needed an injury-time winner to see off Tunisia in their 2018 opener, but that wasn't the full story. The first 25 minutes of the match had featured some of the Three Lions' brightest, breeziest football in recent history, with Gareth Southgate’s side showing the potential many back home hoped to see.
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.
14. England 1-1 [5-6pen] Germany (Euro 96, semi-final)
Football came home in the summer of 1996, with England hosting a major international tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup. As happened 30 years before, England came up against Germany but the result wasn’t what the home support hoped for, with the Three Lions agonisingly going out of the competition on penalties. 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. For some reason England boss Terry 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.
13. England 3-0 Denmark (World Cup 2002, last 16)
England were far from convincing in the 2002 groups, squeaking through thanks to a 0-0 draw in the third match against Nigeria while Sweden held Argentina – giving the Three Lions a single-point advantage over Argentina.
Sven-Goran Eriksson's side hit their stride against the Danes, with the tie all but over by half-time. 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.
12. England 2-2 [5-6pen] Portugal (Euro 2004, quarter-final)
Euro 2004 had promised so much for England but, as so frequently happens with the Three Lions, it ended cruelly. Sol Campbell thought he’d won the tie for England against the hosts with a last minute goal only for it to be disallowed. While clearly a pivotal moment in the match, England ultimately paid the price for making too many mistakes. 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.
11. England 1-2 Italy (World Cup 2014, Group D)
England turned up in the Amazonian city of Manaus to get their campaign in the 2014 World Cup’s group of death under way against Italy. Hopes were high despite the tough draw, with the Three Lions having topped their qualifying group undefeated, and scoring 31 times in 10 matches.
Claudio Marchisio gave the Italians the lead but England struck back almost instantly, with Roy Hodgson’s attacking line-up causing problems for the Azzurri defence. Raheem Sterling was a threat throughout and Daniel Sturridge levelled almost immediately, but Italy exploited frailty at the back to re-take the lead through Mario Balotelli and deny England a deserved draw.
10. England 1-1 [4-3p] Colombia (World Cup 2018, last 16)
It seemed as though all England’s hard work had been undone in an instant when Yerry Mina powered in an equaliser for Colombia at the death of the round of 16 match. Gareth Southgate’s young England side had been excellent in the first hour of the match, showing maturity beyond their years to remain calm and collected in the face of increasing antagonism from Colombia.
Harry Kane’s sixth goal of the tournament gave England a deserved lead shortly before the hour mark. Despite struggling in the first half of extra time in the face of intense Colombian pressure, England held on and made history by winning a penalty shootout for the first time at the fourth time of asking.
9. England 2-0 Scotland (Euro 96, Group A)
All fans love to beat the local rivals, and this was delicious for England: hosting a tournament, winning their first game at it, and lit up by one of their most iconic goals. Having lifted the ball over Colin Hendry, Italia 90 hero Paul Gascoigne placed it past Rangers team-mate Andy Goram to seal a 2-0 win and send England toward the knockouts.
In truth it wasn't quite that simple. Gary McAllister's penalty might have equalised Alan Shearer's opener, but just before the Scot hit his spot-kick the ball moved slightly and David Seaman saved. Moments later, Gazza did his thing – and history was written by the victors.
8. England 3-0 Switzerland (Euro 2004, Group B)
England went into the second group match at Euro 2004 needing a result after two injury time goals from Zinedine Zidane helped France to a 2-1 win in the opening fixture. Rather than allowing that late disappointment to carry over into the Switzerland match, England rallied, inspired by an 18-year-old Wayne Rooney. His first half goal settled the nerves and his second put the game to bed. Steven Gerrard added a third late on as the star-studded midfield four of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes toiled in the heat of Coimbra to help England to get their tournament back on track.
7. England 2-0 Colombia (World Cup 98, Group G)
England's short hop across the Channel for France 98 was welcomed after failing to qualify for USA 94. Things started well with a 2-0 victory over Tunisia in Marseille before a 2-1 defeat in Toulouse to Romania made qualification for the knockout stages far from certain. The final group match against Colombia in Lens was a winner-takes-all affair, with the victor guaranteed a spot in the last 16.
Glenn Hoddle’s side took the lead through Darren Anderton 20 minutes into the match and passage was secured when David Beckham converted a free-kick just nine minutes later. A young Michael Owen forced his way into Hoddle’s team – he and Beckham were to have very contrasting experiences against Argentina in the round of 16.
6. England 6-1 Panama (World Cup 2018, Group G)
Panama were making their World Cup debut and showed little desire to play football, instead preferring to try to disrupt England at every opportunity. It didn’t work – Southgate’s men were 5-0 up at half time with Harry Kane scoring twice from the penalty spot, John Stones grabbing a couple and Jesse Lingard the other with a brilliant shot from outside the box.
Following the grind against Tunisia, it was exactly the kind of result – and performance – that England needed to rekindle belief. Tottenham striker Kane went on to complete his hat-trick in the second half, becoming the third Englishman to score three in a World Cup match and the first since Gary Lineker against Poland in 1986, as England recorded their biggest ever World Cup win.
5. England 2-2 [3-4pen] Argentina (World Cup 98, last 16)
Argentina were England’s opponents in the round of 16 at the World Cup in France in 1998, and it produced a pulsating game between two of international football’s great rivals. The two went toe-to-toe in the first half, with Alan Shearer and Gabriel Batistuta exchanging penalties inside the first 10 minutes – with both being won rather than conceded. First up was Diego Simeone, pantomime villain extraordinaire, who tumbled under the legitimate challenge of David Seaman. Just four minutes later Michael Owen convinced the referee that he had been felled inside the area and Kim Milton Nielsen pointed to the spot for a second time in the opening 10 minutes. Owen then scurried and finished off his esteemed ‘wondergoal’, with Javier Zanetti equalising in first-half stoppage time. England were thrilling – but very open. Then came Beckham’s moment of madness, Campbell’s disallowed goal, and penalties. This England side deserved better; ultimately, though, they didn’t get it.
4. England 1-0 Argentina (World Cup 2002, Group F)
Four years later and the two rivals met again, this time in the group stage of the World Cup in Japan and Korea. What unfolded was a cathartic win for England and redemption for David Beckham, who had become a national pariah following his petulant kick at Diego Simeone and subsequent red card four years before. Beckham’s penalty shortly before the break was enough to see England advance at Argentina’s expense, with Sweden topping the table, after Michael Owen had once again been brought down inside the area. It was an excellent performance from England who thoroughly deserved to go through.
3. England 1-2 France (Euro 2004, Group B)
England performed consistently well at Euro 2004, but still managed to win only two matches and get knocked out at the quarter-final stage on penalties. France came into the tournament having kept 11 consecutive clean sheets but their miserly run came to an end when Frank Lampard headed beyond Fabien Barthez to give the Three Lions the lead and that’s how it stayed as the clock ticked beyond the 90-minute mark. England captain David Beckham saw his second half penalty saved before Real Madrid team-mate Zinedine Zidane showed him how it was done, converting from the spot and scoring a magnificent free kick in stoppage time to give France the win.
2. England 4-2 Croatia (Euro 2004, Group B)
England made this match more difficult for themselves than they needed to, conceding twice from free kicks to allow Croatia to stay in the game. The Croats had drawn their previous group stage games against France and Switzerland and would have progressed into the knockout stages of the competition with a win.
They took an early lead through Niko Kovac but England reacted well to going a goal behind and went into the half time break 2-1 up courtesy of goals from Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney. Rooney put England 3-1 up in the second half, netting his eighth and ninth goals in just 16 international appearances, and Frank Lampard sealed the victory with 10 minutes to go. The Three Lions progressed to the knockout stages, where hosts Portugal – and a penalty shootout – awaited.
1. England 4-1 Netherlands (Euro 96, Group A)
The Dutch had more shots than England, enjoyed more possession of the ball and forced eight corners before the break, with the pressure prompting Barry Davies to utter, “England really need half-time here.” They got there, leading at the interval courtesy of Alan Shearer’s penalty midway through a half in which Dennis Bergkamp had missed chances and Shearer had an effort cleared off the line.
Only one team came out in the second half. Within 20 minutes England went from a slightly fortuitous 1-0 lead to a startlingly impressive 4-0 advantage, with Teddy Sheringham scoring twice and Shearer hammering home another. Patrick Kluivert's late consolation saw the Dutch progress at Scotland's expense, but England were good value for their big win at Wembley.
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