Six of the Best England Performances Since Euro 96

Six of the Best England Performances Since Euro 96

Thursday, 18 October, 2018 - 05:45
England supporters celebrate after the 5-1 victory over Germany in Munich. Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters
London - Philip Cornwall
Italy 0-0 England, World Cup qualifier (11 October 1997)

Goalless draws are rarely treasured but, given the rarity with which England get the better of elite teams, the 0-0 at the Stadio Olimpico, pushing the hosts into the France 98 play-offs, stands out. Against a side that had won 1-0 at Wembley, Glenn Hoddle’s team more than held their own. It being England, the glory is tinged with regrets: Ian Wright, who struck a post in added time, did not make the cut for the finals on his return from injury; Paul Gascoigne likewise, albeit more explosively; and Paul Ince, the bloodied hero here, missed a penalty in the shootout against Argentina. Still, rich memories, albeit from the sofa.

Germany 1-5 England, World Cup qualifier (1 September 2001)

To this day, (West) Germany have lost only two World Cup qualifiers, home or away. They took an early lead in Munich but Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England were set up to try to win – lose or draw and a play-off place was still odds-on – and Michael Owen soon equalised into the goal behind which England’s support was massed. Steven Gerrard’s unbridled joy in front of us at making it 2-1 stands out, but so does one oddity: a lingering quiet, born in part of disbelief, when Owen made it 3-1 early in the second half at the other end, until he wheeled away in celebration. And neither he nor Emile Heskey was finished.

England 3-0 Denmark, World Cup last 16 (15 June 2002)

Ultimately, it was Germany – aided by the draw – that reached the final. But after England found a way out of the group with a desperately tight 1-0 win against Argentina and a 0-0 with Nigeria, the last-16 game in Niigata was a blow-out. Denmark had just beaten France 2-0 to end the holders’ hopes but Rio Ferdinand scored early on, Owen built on the advantage and then Heskey, a minute before half-time, had a nation dreaming. Only against Paraguay in the 1986 last 16 have England won a knockout game so convincingly. Genuine hope was carried into the quarter-final against Brazil, when we were seconds from holding a half-time lead.

Croatia 1-4 England, World Cup qualifier (10 September 2008)

It is hard to overlook the 4-2 win against the same opponents in the group stage of 2004 but that was an England side with serious aspirations. This was a team barely off the floor, after Croatia’s rain-swept 3-2 win at Wembley barred Steve McClaren’s side from Euro 2008. Fabio Capello’s team had laboured through friendlies and a qualifier against the might of Andorra, giving no indication of what was to come. In Zagreb, the 19-year-old Theo Walcott nervelessly scored England’s first competitive hat-trick since Munich, to spark a dominant qualifying campaign. Alas, Mario Mandzukic – who netted Croatia’s consolation – was not finished with England.

Sweden 2-3 England, Euro 2012 group game (15 June 2012)

The night that Seven Nation Army came into its own? It felt that way in Kiev as Roy Hodgson’s England led, trailed and prevailed. Andy Carroll’s towering header from Gerrard’s cross secured a half-time advantage but poor defending handed the Swedes a 2-1 lead and the right to White Stripes-inspired chant. Indeed, the circumstances of Glen Johnson’s own goal and Olof Mellberg’s header might have provoked a collapse. Instead, Walcott was thrown on and first equalised then set up Danny Welbeck’s delightful flicked winner for a first competitive victory against these opponents. Unfortunately, the team rarely demonstrated such resilience under Hodgson again. But: derrr, der-der-der-der-der, derrr, derrrrrrr …

Spain 2-3 England, Nations League (15 October 2018)

The demolition of Panama, the penalty redemption against Colombia, the painless dispatch of Sweden – Gareth Southgate had some great results at the World Cup. But the opposition in Seville were a cut above and on a roll, too. The Spanish will understandably bemoan the quality of the officiating after Jordan Pickford’s escape at 3-1. However, Raheem Sterling not only scored two – adding tangible reward to considerable labour at last – he looked as if he should have had a penalty at 3-0, which would have strangled Spain’s second-half comeback. And the first half, like the final whistle, is something to treasure – even if Croatia win at Wembley next month and relegate us.

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