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England’s 5 worst moments at European Championships

Gary Neville laughing in England training

England’s worst moments at European Championships

As a nation, England are used to disappointment at major international tournaments.

The Three Lions’ only major honour was won 55 years ago when they won the World Cup on home soil, beating West Germany 4-2 in the final.

Since, they haven’t even managed to reach another final.

In this time, English clubs have been European club champions 14 times but this success has never been replicated on the international scene.

So, ahead of this summer’s European Championships, where the semi-finals and final will be played at Wembley, here’s England’s five worst moments at European Championships.

5: Failure to qualify for Euro 2008

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Croatian Flag during Statehood Day in Vukovar, Croatia on 25 Jun 2016. Vukovar city became a symbol of Croatian resistance and suffering in War of Independence. (Photo by Alen Gurovic/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This first spectacular failing is technically cheating as it didn’t take place at a European Championships, taking place during the qualification phase.

After World Cup 2006, Sven-Göran Eriksson left his position as England Manager having taken the ‘Golden Generation’ to three successive quarter-finals.

He was replaced by Steve McClaren who’s only Head Coach job, to date, was with Middlesbrough, where he’d won the League Cup and reached the UEFA Cup Final.

Euro 2008 qualifying was very tough for England.

First, they lost 2-0 in Zagreb, featuring Gary Neville’s famous own goal that slipped under Paul Robinson’s foot, and were then beaten 2-1 in Russia; Roman Pavlyuchenko with a brace.

So, going into the final game against Croatia at the newly-opened Wembley in November 2007, England had to win to qualify for the tournament.

After just seven minutes, Niko Kranjčar’s long-range effort was spilt into his own net by rookie goalkeeper Scott Carson before, shortly after, Ivica Olić rounded the keeper and made it 2-0.

England got it back to 2-2, Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch scoring, but, as the hosts chased a victory, Mladen Petrić’s sucker-punch condemned them to defeat.

McClaren was sacked that night as they failed to qualify for a Euros for the first time since 1984.

Whenever England fail to qualify for a tournament, it is big news but this one was particularly bad.

They had such a talented side and it was wasted by poor management, poor tactics and an embarrassing night in the Wembley rain.

4: Dismal showing at Euro 1992

The remaining four worst England moments all took place at European Championships they actually turned up for.

Although, in the case of Euro ’92, that’s debatable.

At the start of the 1990s, English football was on the crest of a wave, positivity that would ultimately lead to the creation of the Premier League.

At the 1990 World Cup, the general public fell in love with the national team again.

Wins over Egypt, Belgium and Cameroon saw England reach the World Cup semi-finals where they, traditionally, lost to West Germany on penalties.

So, going into Euro ’92, there was optimism that England could end their wait for major silverware.

Graham Taylor’s side qualified in style, unbeaten, topping Group 7 above Ireland, Poland and Turkey.

They were then drawn in Group 1 alongside, hosts Sweden, France and a Denmark side who’d only qualified after Yugoslavia were thrown out at the 11th hour.

A walk in the park right?

Well, England started with back to back goalless draws, against Denmark and France in Malmö, so had to beat Sweden in the final group game.

Despite taking a fourth minute lead through David Platt, Sweden came back to win 2-1 at Råsunda, progressing to the semi-finals as England crashed out.

Sweden 1992 was such a disappointment due to the fact it was such a waste of a squad full of England legends.

It would get worse still shortly after when England failed to qualify for USA ’94.

That defeat to Sweden was a last England appearance for captain Gary Lineker and what a terrible way to bow out.

3: Penalty shootout agony at Euro 2004 vs Portugal

Fast forward to 2004 and the Golden Generation was in full swing.

To be specific, this included Gary Neville, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and many others.

Two years earlier, England had got to the World Cup quarter-finals before losing to eventual winners Brazil 2-1 in Shizuoka.

So, without an obvious front-runner, England travelled to Portugal hopeful of winning Euro 2004.

Despite losing the first group game to France, Sven-Göran Eriksson’s side got through following a 3-0 victory over Switzerland and then a 4-2 win over Croatia.

Wayne Rooney scored a brace in both; only Johan Vonlanthen, doing so at the same tournament, has ever scored at a Euro at a younger age.

This set up a glamour quarter-final tie with hosts Portugal at the tournament’s biggest venue: Estádio da Luz.

It finished 2-2 after extra time, Hélder Postiga forcing the additional period with a late equaliser, so it went to the dreaded penalty shootout.

David Beckham missed England’s first but Rui Costa was also unsuccessful with Portugal’s third so it went to sudden death.

Unconventionally, goalkeeper Ricardo scored his before, with no gloves on, returned to his line and denied Darius Vassell as Portugal progressed.

As has been the case in this list, the England defeats that are the hardest to take are when talented squads fail to deliver.

The same could be said of Portugal at Euro 2004; they did reach the final before losing to shock winners Greece on home soil.

2: Crashing out of Euro 2016 against Iceland

If this was a list of England’s most embarrassing European Championship moments, this game would win by a landslide, not seen since the General Elections of 1997 and 2001.

Nevertheless, this game’s embarrassingness sees it comfortably into second.

England travelled to France for Euro 2016 with expectations relatively low.

They’d crashed out of World Cup 2014 with just one point and were looking to win a knockout stage match a major tournament for the first time in a decade.

In the group opener, at Stade Vélodrome, Eric Dier’s thumping free-kick put England ahead but Vasili Berezutski’s 92nd minute header saw the Russians snatch a point.

In the second game, the Three Lions were on the brink of elimination as they were 1-0 down to rivals Wales after Gareth Bale’s long-range free-kick squirmed past Joe Hart.

Jamie Vardy equalised just after half time before, again in the second minute of additional time, Daniel Sturridge managed to smuggle the ball past Wayne Hennessy.

Cue wild celebrations from England fans, players and coaching staff.

Despite this, they had to settle for second spot in Group B, behind Wales, as Roy Hodgson rung the changes against Slovakia in a bore 0-0 draw in Saint-Étienne.

No bother. That meant England would take on the runners-up of Group F who were tournament debutants Iceland.

When Wayne Rooney fired the favourites ahead with a fourth minute penalty, everything was going swimmingly.

However, just two minutes later, a long-throw was flicked on by Kári Árnason and scrambled in by the onrushing Ragnar Sigurðsson.

Shortly after, Iceland were in front; Hart letting Kolbeinn Sigþórsson’s shot go straight through him.

Despite the fact there were over 70 minutes remaining, England could not find an equaliser and crashed out.

This was an embarrassing night for England, not least because Iceland’s population is exceeded by that of Bristol.

The one positive to come from that night was the video below of aforementioned former England manager Steve McClaren covering the match in the UK.

England supporters far and wide will be hoping nights and scenes like this are a thing of the past with glory, potentially, only just around the corner.

1: Euro 96 semi-final vs Germany

1996 was the summer that football came home.

England hosted the European Championship with a major tournament being played at the home of football for the first time since the 1966 World Cup.

There was serious optimism that England would win silverware for the first time since that World Cup 30 years earlier.

England topped their group, drawing 1-1 with Switzerland before wins over Scotland and Netherlands.

The former featuring that amazing solo effort by Paul Gascoigne and the latter a 4-1 Dutch demolition.

Then, Terry Venables’ side were held to a goalless draw by Spain in the quarter-finals so it went to a penalty shootout.

England had never won a penalty shootout and this one was memorable for Stuart Pearce converting his spot-kick, overcoming the demons of Italia ’90.

Both Fernando Hierro and Miguel Ángel Nadal had their efforts saved, the latter is Rafa Nadal’s uncle, as England reached the semi-finals.

There, Alan Shearer fired them in front after just three minutes but their joy was short-lived with Stefan Kuntz equalising not long after.

Once again, it went to a penalty shootout between the English and the Germans and the first ten penalties were scored.

This saw it go to sudden death and centre-back Gareth Southgate saw his tame effort tipped aside by Andreas Köpke.

S0, Andreas Möller stepped up and fired the Germans into the final which they would win against Czech Republic thanks to a golden goal.

The usual semi-final heartbreak for England, via the usual method of penalties against the biggest of foes.

This game will take some topping as England’s worst moment at a European Championship Finals.

Gareth Southgate will be dreaming of avenging his miss 25 years later as he leads his country at Euro 2020.

England's five worst moments at European Championships FAQs

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