England's worst ever moments
On November 21, 2007, England suffered one of the darkest days in their footballing history when they failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Steve McClaren’s side only needed a draw against Croatia at Wembley to book their place at the tournament, but after they came from two goals down to level the scores at 2-2, Mladen Petric fired home a dramatic winner 13 minutes from time.
While visiting manager Slaven Bilic jumped for joy, McClaren stood in disbelief – although at least he was sheltered from the pouring rain by his infamous umbrella.
The following day, the former Middlesbrough boss was labelled the “Wally with the Brolly” by the Daily Mail and subsequently sacked after just 18 games in charge. Now, we count down the worst 18 moments in England’s history...
Words: Joe Nicholson
18. Rooney riled by England fans
England 0-0 Algeria, 2010 World Cup group stage
As England trudged off the pitch following a wretched display in Cape Town, a chorus of boos rang out around the Green Port Stadium.
Wayne Rooney couldn't keep his thoughts to himself, offering a menacing stare to one of the TV cameras before uttering the words “nice to see your home fans booing you”.
Captain Steven Gerrard later admitted that his side “weren’t good enough” and that the travelling fans had every right to voice their displeasure after a tepid display most memorable for some Emile Heskey stepovers. Exactly.
17. One hell of a beating in Norway
Norway 2-1 England, World Cup qualifier (1981)
The Three Lions still qualified for the 1982 tournament, but an unexpected defeat to bottom-of-the-table Norway - ranked 76th in the world at the time - was embarrassing to say the least.
Goals from Roger Albertsen and Hallvar Thoresen sealed a famous win for the Norwegians, but the game is best remembered for Bjorge Lillelien’s commentary after the full-time whistle.
"Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher - can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher? Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!"
16. The bobble in Croatia
Croatia 2-0 England, European Championship qualifier (2006)
Steve McClaren’s England needed a lift following their goalless draw with Macedonia at Old Trafford in their previous encounter. What they definitely didn’t need was Gary Neville's routine back pass to bobble off a loose piece of Croatian turf, causing goalkeeper Paul Robinson to mistime his clearance.
The ball rolled past the bemused shot-stopper to seal a valuable three points for the hosts. Robinson’s England career never recovered.
15. Schooled by Pirlo's Panenka
England 0-0 Italy (2-4 on penalties), Euro 2012 quarter-finals
Midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo played England off the park in Kiev, completing 131 successful passes when no England player made it to 50.
After being outplayed for 120 minutes, Roy Hodgson’s side held out for penalties with a semi-final place at Euro 2012 on the line. England took an early lead in the shoot-out, but then – keeping with tradition – things went to pot. After misses from Ashleys Young and Cole, Pirlo stepped up to embarrass Joe Hart with an audacious Panenka, completing his memorable masterclass with style.
14. Roy the oracle shamed by Suarez
Uruguay 2-1 England, 2014 World Cup group stage
Luis Suarez was an injury doubt before the crucial group game in Sao Paulo, amid suggestions from Roy Hodgson that the Uruguayan talisman wasn’t world class off the back of a 31-goal Premier League campaign.
Sure enough, the former Liverpool striker produced the best possible riposte, scoring twice to eliminate the Three Lions. His winner five minutes from time originated from Steven Gerrard’s misjudged header – and Suarez wasn’t afraid to show his emotion after proving a point to his English critics. Cheers, Roy.
13. "We didn't like that crossbar anyway..."
England 1-2 Scotland, 1977 British Home Championship
As the full-time whistle sounded, a throng of Scotland fans flooded onto the Wembley pitch following a 2-1 victory for the Tartan Army. Kenny Dalglish and his Scottish team-mates were lauded in London as they were hauled onto the shoulders of their buoyant fans - who also broke the crossbar for good measure.
The result saw Scotland win the British Home Championship for the first time in three years – and coincided with England’s failure to qualify for a second successive World Cup.
12. Wazza and the wink
England 0-0 Portugal (1-3 on penalties), 2006 World Cup quarter-final
Two of the world’s most exciting young talents came face-to-face in this 2006 World Cup quarter-final, when Manchester United team-mates Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo tangled in Gelsenkirchen.
There was a clear winner, however: Rooney was sent off after stamping on Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho in the 62nd minute; Ronaldo led the protests and was seen winking to the Portuguese bench after the referee brandished a red card.
The England man only had himself to blame, but the Three Lions held on without him until the penalty shoot-out... where Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all failed to convert from 12 yards.
11. 'Clown' makes England sad
England 1-1 Poland, World Cup qualifier (1973)
Alf Ramsey’s side had to win their final qualifier against Poland at Wembley to reach the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
Before the game, Brian Clough helpfully labelled Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski a “circus clown in gloves” – but it was the Pole who had all the chuckles. England recorded 32 shots, forced 26 corners and hit the woodwork twice, but a 1-1 draw proved disastrous.
10. Sol Campbell feels ref wrath... again
England 2-2 Portugal (5-6 on penalties), Euro 2004 quarter-final
Sol Campbell must still wonder how he only managed to score one international goal. The centre-back thought he’d headed home the winner against Argentina at World Cup 98, only for it to be ruled out for Alan Shearer’s alleged foul on goalkeeper Carlos Roa.
To the nation’s despair, history repeated itself in 2004 when Campbell’s late header against Portugal was once again harshly disallowed. Predictably, England lost on penalties.
9. The case for goal-line tech
England 1-4 Germany, 2010 World Cup last 16
Before his international retirement in 2014, Frank Lampard held an unwanted record for registering the most shots in World Cup history without scoring (40).
Things could have been very different, however, had the officials noticed that his effort against Germany in 2010 was well over the line as England searched for an equalising goal having gone 2-1 down to Joachim Low's side.
Instead, referee Jorge Larrionda waved for play to continue and England went on to suffer a chastening defeat...
8. Taylor becomes turnip
Netherlands 2-0 England, World Cup qualifier (1993)
"The referee’s got me the sack, thank him ever so much for that won’t you?” England manager Graham Taylor quipped to a powerless official as England failed to qualify for 1994 World Cup - captured on film in The Impossible Job.
A loss to the Netherlands in England's penultimate group game sealed their fate, with Taylor (quite rightfully) enraged by the fact that Ronald Koeman only received a yellow card after bringing down David Platt when the latter was through on goal.
Koeman opened the scoring moments later, before Dennis Bergkamp sealed the win and ensured England would be watching the World Cup on TV.
7. Nev-er forgiven, Phil
England 2-3 Romania, Euro 2000 group stage
England’s dismal Euro 2000 campaign ended painfully as a late penalty from Romanian substitute Ioan Ganea sent Kevin Keegan’s side packing.
A 2-2 draw would have been enough for the Three Lions to advance to the knockout stage, but Phil Neville’s unfathomable tackle on Viorel Moldovan in the 89th minute prompted referee Urs Meier to point to the spot. Ganea duly converted, beating stand-in goalkeeper Nigel Martyn from 12 yards to end England’s hopes.
6. Burning effigies at the ready
England 2-2 Argentina (3-4 on penalties), 1998 World Cup last 16
David Beckham’s petulant kick at Diego Simeone was hardly a leg-breaker, but it was enough to get the 23-year-old sent off at a crucial stage of this World Cup knockout clash.
The former Manchester United wideman saw red two minutes after half-time when he flicked a boot at the current Atletico Madrid boss, right under the nose of Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen.
Glenn Hoddle’s side had to play the remaining 43 minutes - plus extra time - with 10 men before suffering further penalty heartache. Post-tournament, Beckham felt the full force of an angry nation – then won the Treble with Manchester United.
5. God doesn't get penalised
Argentina 2-1 England, 1986 World Cup quarter-final
The infamous goal that still leaves a sour taste over 30 years later.
With this quarter-final locked at 0-0, Argentina’s talisman latched onto Steve Hodge’s mistimed clearance before (somehow) out-jumping goalkeeper Peter Shilton and batting the ball home with his hand. When asked how the goal was scored, the controversial forward replied: "A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
In fairness to El Diego, he did later score the greatest goal in World Cup history by carrying the ball from his own half, beating four defenders and rounding Shilton to give Argentina a 2-0 lead.
4. Say it ain't so, Joe
USA 1-0 England, 1950 World Cup group stage
Walter Winterbottom's star-studded side, featuring the likes of Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Billy Wright, were humiliated at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.
In one of the greatest sporting shocks of all time, a U.S. team made up of postmen and funeral directors conquered the Three Lions, who lost 1-0 to Haiti-born Joe Gaetjens' goal despite dominating possession and hitting the post twice in Belo Horizonte. So unimaginable was the result that the New York Times dismissed the wire report as a hoax.
3. When football came home
England 1-1 Germany (5-6 on penalties), Euro 1996 semi-final
After their World Cup-winning side of 1966, England’s Euro ‘96 team is fondly remembered as one of the country's best ever. Terry Venables’ men came within an inch of reaching the final on home soil, Paul Gascoigne just failing to get a touch on Alan Shearer’s cross as England sought a golden goal in extra time.
In the end, the Three Lions crashed out on penalties after Gareth Southgate’s spot-kick was saved.
2. Gazza cries a nation's tears
England 1-1 West Germany (3-4 on penalties), 1990 World Cup semi-final
Gary Lineker, David Platt, John Barnes & Co. were on the brink of becoming the first English side to reach a tournament final since 1966.
Paul Gascoigne had been one of the starts of the tournament but, with the scores level at 1-1, the midfielder’s mistimed lunge on Thomas Berthold resulted in a yellow card which would have ruled him out of the showpiece in Rome.
So distraught Gascoigne was that he couldn't even bring himself to take a penalty in the shootout, as Chris Waddle missed the decisive spot-kick and sent the Germans through to the final instead.
1. England freeze as Icemen conquer
England 1-2 Iceland, Euro 2016 last 16
Joe Hart wasn’t the sole reason for England’s unthinkable defeat by Iceland, but the struggling shot-stopper certainly didn’t cover himself in glory when he flapped at a long throw which led to the minnows' equaliser in Nice.
Worse was still to come, when Ragnar Sigurdsson’s shot trickled past Hart to give the Scandinavians a shock lead. The hapless Three Lions froze as Iceland held on to their advantage with relative ease, and manager Roy Hodgson resigned immediately after the game.
The loss will be remembered as the worst in England’s history.
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