Strongly opinionated sports fan
Strongly opinionated sports fan
With hopes high for the Three Lions this summer, we look back at how the team has fared in their last five appearances, ranking them from worst to best, rather than chronological order.
When it comes to performances at a major tournament, it is harder to do much worse than failing to book your place at the finals in the first place.
And yet, despite being just a couple of years removed from the much-vaunted ‘Golden Generation’ of English football, Steve McLaren and his team took the public’s already meagre hopes and still somehow managed to underperform.
McClaren attempted to affirm his authority on the star-studded squad by dropping captain David Beckham, and asserting that the squad would be selected based on club form.
Defeats away to Russia and Croatia meant that the team’s qualification hopes would come down to a final day showdown with Croatia at Wembley. However, the home advantage would prove to be worthless as the Three Lions produced a shambolic display with goalkeeper Scott Carson having a night to forget after a seemingly harmless backpass rolled past the keeper to put the home side behind.
The result marked the first time in 14 years that England had failed to qualify for a major tournament, and marked the end of Steve McLaren’s disastrous spell in charge of the team.
If the successes of England in the 1996 Euros on home soil helped revitalise the love of the national team among the general public, the failures of the following tournament could just have easily have instilled a sense of apathy surrounding then-manager Kevin Keegan’s team.
To further compound this feeling, the team had only managed to book a place in the tournament by scraping past Poland on goal difference to qualify for a playoff game against the where the team narrowly scraped past rivals Scotland 2-1 on aggregate.
To be fair to Keegan, the team were not exactly given an easy route to the knockout stage through sharing a group with Portugal and Germany, but even then, it is hard to describe the team’s performance at the tournament as anything other than disappointing.
A 1-0 win over a feckless German side meant that the tournament wasn’t a total bust for England fans, but defeats to both Portugal, and surprise package Romania, meant that the team were unable to qualify for the knockout stage.
Despite being just five years ago, it’s hard to overstate just how unrecognisable the England team that embarrassingly crashed out of Euro 2016 in France is compared to the Three Lions of today.
Under veteran manager Roy Hodgson, England enjoyed a perfect qualifying campaign, winning all ten of their games whilst only conceding three times.
With that in mind, a hesitant optimism swept the nation as the squad hoped to build on their performance in the previous tournament.
However, it just wasn’t to be.
After just managing to escape the group stage with a win over Wales, the team was presented with an ostensibly easy draw against minnows Iceland. In typical England fashion, the team consisting of some of the most recognisable names in the sport failed to break down their well-drilled opponents and were summarily defeated with an embarrassed Hodgson resigning days later.
Sandwiched between two of the Three Lions’ worst performances at major tournaments in recent memory, perhaps we should be more lenient when looking back at the team’s performance in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
After all, the team had topped their qualifying group and enjoyed further success after reaching the tournament, going undefeated in the group stages and qualified from a group containing Sweden and France.
Unfortunately, Roy Hodgeson’s first major tournament in charge of the national team would end prematurely after facing off against an Italian side buoyed by the footballing genius of Andrea Pirlo.
Still, the team did well to force the game to penalties after neither side managed to break the deadlock. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the game of chance from twelve yards proved not to be fruitful for the Three Lions, as successive misses from the spot from both Ashley Young and Ashley Cole brought an end to the campaign.
Guided by the prodigious brilliance of a teenage Wayne Rooney, Euro 2004 offered England the opportunity to right the wrongs of the World Cup two years earlier, and perhaps finally live up to the weight of expectations placed upon them.
The team qualified for the knockout stage after finishing second in their group, combining a narrow defeat to a Zinedine Zidane inspired France with confident victories over Croatia and Switzerland.
Qualification for the knockout stage set up a clash against hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals. A hard-fought battle ensued, with England coming from behind late to force the game to penalties.
Captain Beckham missed the first spot-kick and the team would be forced to look on in disbelief as Portugal keeper Ricardo went on to nonchalantly throw his gloves on the ground before scoring the decisive penalty to take the eventual runners-up into the semi-finals.