England's Euro History
So England’s 1-1 draw with Russia on Saturday night means that they still have never won their opening game of a European Championship. Of course the tournament remains wide open and there is no need to panic just yet, but where does this leave us for the rest of the tournament? I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that England’s history in the competition is hardly filled with fond memories but just how successful have our previous forays been? We’re going to take a look at all eight of the Three Lions previous appearances in the finals in all their ahem..glory.
England made their first appearance in the Euros way back in 1968 when they were the reigning World champions. Gripped by the swinging 60’s, the feel good factor extended to the England football team in the mid to late part of the decade. The World Cup winning squad was largely still in tact with key figures such as Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst all still involved. The format of the competition back then makes it difficult to really analyse how good England’s performance was. Alf Ramsey’s men topped their qualifying group containing the other home nations before defeating Spain in a two-legged ‘quarter final’. The term quarter final is loosely used given the fact that these games were played home and away and to compare these to a last eight tie in its modern form is hardly fair.
The tournament itself was to contain just four teams and to give you a taste of how things have changed, the semi-final between Italy and the Soviet Union was decided by a coin toss after a 0-0 draw. Yes you did read that right, a coin toss. Though in all fairness, it would probably be a more fruitful way of deciding matches for England than penalty shootouts (More on that later) Anyhow when England set off for Italy knowing that no matter what happened they would be playing a grand total of two games but things hardly went to plan. Ramsey’s men were paired with the Yugoslavia in their semi-final and lost out to a late goal from Dragan Djazic before having Alan Mulberry sent off. The World Champions did however go on to beat the Soviet Union 2-0 in the third place play-off and technically finish third but in reality England started their European Championship history as they subsequently meant to go on over the years, with a sense of disappointment.
Failure to qualify in 1972 and 1976 meant it would be another 12 years before England got their chance to test themselves against Europe’s elite. Once again held in Italy, the tournament had doubled in size from the last time England had taken part and would now see a huge eight teams take part in the finals. England were drawn in a group with Spain and Belgium as well as hosts Italy. Ron Greenwood’s men kicked off their campaign against Belgium in Turin though their opener was marred by crowd trouble and the game was delayed by five minutes after the police were forced to use tear gas. A spectacular goal from Ray Wilkins gave England the lead although their joy was short-lived as the Belgians equalised just minutes later and the game ended in a draw. Defeat to hosts Italy in the next game brought a premature end to England's campaign though they did have something to smile about with a victory in their final game with Spain.
The next tournament came eight years later in Germany with Bobby Robson now at the helm of the national side. After a sense of injustice following defeat in the 1986 World Cup, to Diego Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God', England were out to set the record straight. With the likes of Bryan Robson, Glen Hoddle and Gary Lineker all amongst their ranks, England could count on some real quality and after the ban following the Heysel stadium disaster, this allowed England's players to compete on the continent. However disaster struck as early as the first game.
A solitary goal from Ray Houghton saw England humiliated by the Republic of Ireland and with the Dutch and the Soviet Union yet to come, the Three Lions found themselves up against it to qualify for the knockout stages. A Marco van Basten hat-trick saw England lose 3-1 to the Netherlands and after a defeat by the same scoreline to the Soviet Union, English misery was compounded. Three games, three defeats and on the first flight home with their tails firmly between their legs.
Four years on and England headed to Sweden looking continue the feel good factor surrounding football in the country after the World Cup in 1990. England had reached the semi-final in Italy before losing on penalties to Germany in the game when England's love affair with the shootouts started...
Without their hero from 1990 Paul Gascoigne as well as John Barnes through injury, England went to Scandinavia under strength and Graham Taylor not warming to creative talents of Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley things were not particularly promising. A bright start in the first game against Denmark ultimately did not prove rewarding and a 0-0 draw marked another slow start. The game against France was another pulsating encounter which finished in a ...0-0 draw. The final game saw England face hosts Sweden needing a win to make the semi-finals and made a great start when amazingly they managed to score. David Platt's goal after just 4 minutes gave hope after half-time the Swedes came right back in to things. After the hosts equalised, Graham Taylor made the strange decision to bring Gary Lineker off and when the Swedes went 2-1 up, his decision looked even more daft. England were out and so were the knives of the tabloid press for the England manager as the campaign against 'Turnip Taylor' began in earnest.
Thirty years on, thirty years of hurt and the summer that football came home. England were hosts of Euro 1996 and three decades on from their World Cup win on home soil, optimism swept the country once again. In the 60's Mod culture swept the nation and in further parallels 1996 saw 'Cool Britannia' and 'Britpop' enthuse the nation. The feelgood factor was quickly dampened however when tne opening game saw England draw 1-1 with Switzerland at Wembley. Another tournament, another underwhelming start but this was not to be an early exit for England not on home soil. The following game saw Terry Venables' men take on arch rivals Scotland and helped on their way by Paul Gascoigne's memorable strike, they ran out 2-0 winners. Things were finely poised going into the last group game with the Dutch but a win would gurantee England's passage into the knockout stages.
A win was exactly what happened and in some style. The Dutch were swept aside 4-1 with two goals each from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham and it now really did look like football was coming home. So into the quarter-finals and after a dour 0-0 draw with Spain, England faced the dreaded penalty shootout. However things went England's way with Fernando Hierro hitting the bar with Spain's first attempt. Stuart Pearce conquered his demons from missing in the 1990 World Cup and scored from the spot and after Paul Gascoigne converted, England were 4-2 up and on the brink of victory. David Seaman then saved from Miguel Nadal (Rafa's uncle) unbelievably England had won a penalty shootout. So then to the Semi's and Germany again and with Czech Republic already confirmed as one of the other finalists, both sides new a win would see them reach the final as favourites. A fast-paced encounter saw Alan Shearer give England the lead after just three minutes but that goal was cancelled out in the 16th minute by the fantastically named Stefan Kuntz. Paul Gascoigne went within inches of a golden goal but it was to be penalties again. Gareth Southgate was the England fall guy as the only man to miss in the shootout as penalty heartbreak against the Germans just as at the 1990 World Cup, struck again.
England's Euro 2000 campaign started well as they raced in to a 2-0 lead against Portugal in the group stage. However enjoyment was short-lived and as this was an opening game of the Euro's England were never going to win were they? The Portuguese fought back as Boavista striker Nuno Gomes eventually sealed the comeback with his first goal for his country to cap a 3-2 victory. Next up for England was the old enemy Germany and against an uncharacteristically poor German side, Alan Shearer's goal was enough for a 1-0 win. However England's first competitive win over their rivals in 34 years was marred by large scale rioting in the Belgian city of Charleroi. The final game with Romania was locked a 2-2 with England needing just a point to make the knockout stages but when Phil Neville conceded a last gasp penalty, disaster struck and England were out at the Group stage again.
The tournament in Portugal saw England enter with high expectations with Sven Goran Eriksson at the helm. It was always going to be a difficult start with a game against current holders France and England in fact were 1-0 up in that game with only a matter of minutes remaining. However Zinedine Zidane scored from a free kick and then a penalty to break England hearts. Next up however was Switzerland in a game that Wayne Rooney really announced himself to the international stage. A brace from the then fresh-faced Everton youngster helped England on their way to a 3-0 victory and he was in similar form in the next encounter. Against Croatia he scored another double in a 4-2 win as England followed France out of the group.
Next up for England was a quarter-final meeting with the hosts Portugal in Lisbon. An early goal from Michael Owen saw the Three Lions stun the hosts to take hold of the game in the opening stages. However the course of England's tournament changed shortly before the half an hour mark when Wayne Rooney, in red-hot form, broke a bone in his foot and was forced off to be replaced by none other than Darius Vassell. Despite the loss of their in-form young star and having to bring Vassell on, England held on up until the 83rd minute when their resistance was finally broken by a header from Helder Postiga. After 90th minute header from Sol Campbell was controversially ruled for a foul, this one went to extra-time. Rui Costa's stunning strike gave the hosts the lead for the first time in the contest, but it was not enough when Frank Lampard equalised with just five minutes to go. That meant that England's fate would once again be decided by the dreaded penalty shootout and a similar outcome looked inevitable when David Beckham blazed England's first penalty high over the crossbar. However when Rui Costa suffered the same fate, it looked as though it was all to play for. Five successful penalties a piece followed after before Darius Vassell became the latest man to miss a crucial penalty for his country. The Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo followed up his save by scoring the decisive spot-kick to knock England out.
Following 2008's disastrous qualifying campaign with Steve McLaren and the whole 'wally with the brolly', England were forced to wait eight years before they were once again amongst the cream of Europe's elite. In the build-up to this tournament, the Three Lions were rocked by the resignation of Fabio Capello after the FA had stripped John Terry of the captaincy due to his impending court case. Roy Hodgson, fresh on the back of leading West Brom to the dizzying heights of 10th in the Premier League was named as the former Real Madrid and Juventus manager's successor. England headed off to Ukraine with an unusually lowered sense of expectation given the circumstances.
A 1-1 draw with France in the group's opener was followed up by a long awaited tournament win over Sweden and the co-hosts Ukraine. This saw England top their group but such was the way the competition panned out, they faced Italy in the quarter finals. A dour match was played out over 120 minutes that saw Italy dominate but fail to break down a resolute and determined England side. You know where this one is going don't you? Yes that's right, a penalty shootout. Andrea Pirlo further enhanced his reputation as the coolest footballer on the planet when he chipped his penalty down the middle of Joe Hart's goal and after misses from the two Ashley's Messrs Cole and Young, England suffered at the fate of the penalty shootout for the third successive international tournament.