Close this search box.

The complete history of England and penalties: looking back at the highs and lows

Few sets of supporters fear penalty shootouts as much as England fans and, given their team’s record, rightly so.

At World Cups and Euros, the Three Lions have won just two of nine shootouts.

But, as was reinforced on Saturday night against France, England’s trials and tribulations from 12 yards aren’t always confined to shootouts.

So, here’s a complete history of the highs and lows, predominantly lows of England’s penalty record.

England’s first-ever shootout

Back in 1990, England featured in a penalty shootout for the very first time, meaning they didn’t go into it with the fear caused by countless agonising memories.

Well, this defeat to West Germany at Stadio delle Alpi has rather set the tone hasn’t it?

All the talk after the game was about Paul Gascoigne, who’d been booked during extra time, meaning he would have missed the final suspended, so wasn’t in a fit mental state to take a spot-kick.

This may have been England supporters’ maiden expirence when it comes to penalties, but it was merely a sense of what was to come.

Stuart Pearce’s redemption

Six summers later, football came home, with England hosting Euro ‘96, and a nation truly believed their team would go all the way.

However, the nervy quarter-final against Spain ended scoreless, meaning a penalty competition was required.

Stuart Pearce, who’d crucially been denied at Italia ‘90, emphatically fired past Andoni Zubizarreta, banishing countless demons, with all of that relief pouring out of him.

At these Euros, David Seaman had already pulled off some spot-kick heroics, denying Gary McAllister mere seconds before Paul Gascoigne’s majestic solo-clincher against Scotland.

In this shootout, Fernando Hierro’s effort thwacked the cross-bar, before Seaman denied Miguel Ángel Nadal, a save that sent England threw.

However, this jubilation wouldn’t last….

The ‘90s start and end with shootout pain

In the Euro ‘96 semi-final, England and West Germany’s epic clash at Wembley ended all-square.

There was still nothing to separate the sides after five penalties apiece, with both teams scoring all five.

Then, to the surprise of most, centre-back Gareth Southgate was next to step-up, with his tame effort kept out by Andreas Köpke.

Before a crestfallen Southgate could even return to the half-way line, Andreas Möller had already dispatched his spot-kick into the top corner, and England’s dreams were shattered.

Two years later, England met Argentina in the round of 16 at France ‘98, a game most famous for this stunning solo-goal by Michael Owen.

Even before that, both Gabriel Batistuta and Alan Shearer had converted spot-kicks, both coming in the first nine minutes.

Ultimately, this classic ended 2-2, David Beckham was sent off for kicking-out at Diego Simeone, while Sol Campbell thought he’d won it, but his stoppage time header was ruled out for a non-existent foul.

In the subsequent shootout, Paul Ince and David Batty were both denied by Carlos Roa and England were out.

These back-to-back exits continued the narrative that England always lose on penalties, but more was to come.

Euro 2000 ends in disaster

England managed to get knocked out of Euro 2000 thanks to penalty drama, even though they exited in the group phase.

Kevin Keegan’s team lost 3-2 to Portugal, despite leading 2-0, but bounced back by beating Germany, meaning they required just a point against Romania to advance.

With the score locked at 2-2, in the final minute of normal time, Phil Neville scythed down Viorel Moldovan, before Ionel Ganea converted the subsequent spot-kick.

This saw Romania reach the Euro’s knockout phase for the first, and so far only, time, as the Three Lions dramatically crashed out.

David Beckham gets his own moment of redemption

Four years after their shootout in Saint-Étienne, Argentina and England met again at the World Cup, this time in Sapporo.

David Beckham’s red card at France ‘98 had led to him being vilified by the British tabloid, but he got his moment of redemption in Japan.

The only goal of a game England simply had to win came from 12 yards, a spot-kick awarded after Michael Owen was tripped by Mauricio Pochettino; what ever happened to him?

David Beckham lashed the penalty past Pablo Cavallero, and his jubilation was clear for all to see.

Portugal twice end the golden generation’s hopes

Sven-Göran Eriksson led England to three successive quarter-finals, the latter two of which were ended by Portugal…. you guessed it, on penalties!

At Euro 2004, David Beckham missed the first of the shootout, but this was cancelled out after Rui Costa smashed over.

Astonishingly, Darius Vassell’s effort was saved by Ricardo, despite the fact he’d discarded his gloves, before the goalkeeper himself fired the winner past David James.

Two years and seven days later, it was Portuguese penalty pain again for Sven’s side again.

This time, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all missed, with Cristiano Ronaldo, who’d helped get Wayne Rooney sent off during the game, smashing home the clincher.

Andrea Pirlo’s Panenka

England and Italy’s quarter-final at Euro 2012 was a drab goalless draw, but is remembered for a solitary classy stroke of the football.

Ashley Young whacked the crossbar and Ashley Cole’s effort was saved by Gianluigi Buffon, with Alessandro Diamanti converted the winner.

But it was Gli Azzurri’s third spot-kick, an impudent Panenka from Andrea Pirlo, past a rather cocky Joe Hart, that remains iconic, or indeed painful, depending on where your allegiances lie.

Eric Dier does it!

In 2018, at the fourth time of asking, England finally won a World Cup penalty shootout.

It looked like being same old same old, when Yerry Mina headed home a 93rd minute equaliser.

Then, in the shootout, Jordan Henderson’s effort was saved by David Ospina.

Immediately after though, Mateus Uribe thwacked the crossbar, before Carlos Bacca was denied by Jordan Pickford.

Step forward, Eric Dier, the unlikely hero, who cooly slotted into the corner, shattering 28 years of hurt, in shootout terms at least.

This win in Moscow was the real start of the Southgate era, with his team, of course, getting all the way to the semi-finals in Russia.

So close to glory

Fast forward to June/July 2021, and England are in a major final for the first time in 55 years.

A penalty had been crucial to the Three Lions’ semi-final win over Denmark, with Harry Kane’s initial effort saved by Kasper Schmeichel, before Kane bundled in the rebound.

Then, in the final itself, Luke Shaw broke the deadlock after less than 70 seconds but, as seemed inevitable, it went to penalties.

The two Harrys, Kane and Maguire, converted, before Marcus Rashford clipped the post, with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

England’s only final appearance for over half a century: it just had to come down to penalties didn’t it?

Harry Kane skies it over

In Qatar, England’s major tournament hopes came to an end from the penalty spot, but earlier in the night than usual.

Against France in the last eight, with the score at 2-1, the Three Lions are awarded a second spot kick of the half; Theo Hernandez body-checking Mason Mount to the floor.

Less than half an hour earlier, Harry Kane had smashed home a spot-kick, becoming England’s joint-record goalscorer of all-time.

However, the fact he was facing club teammate Hugo Lloris for a second time clearly got to him, with Kane smashing his effort high into the Al Khor night sky.

Even now, after all of that, England are finding ways to crash out on penalties, each more agonising than the last.


Picture of Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *