Everyone knows that England have won the World Cup just once, in 1966 when it was played on home soil, and that they have never done quite so well since.
Here we look at whether the Three Lions roared or whimpered at the 11 World Cups since that famous triumph with a view to ascertaining the chances that Roy Hodgson’s men might just go all the way in Brazil this summer.
1970, Mexico – Quarter-Finals
England battled through a group containing Pele’s Brazil (who went on to win the tournament) and put up an excellent showing against the South American masters despite losing 1-0 to them in the group (you might remember Gordon Banks’ outstanding save from Pele’s header?).
Alas in the quarter-finals England met their old foe West Germany and after a match that was closely fought and could have gone either way, the Three Lions lost 3-2 after extra time. Well, at least it wasn’t penalties (they didn’t come in till 1978).
1974, West Germany – Did Not Qualify
It wasn’t to be unfortunately as England failed to qualify.
This failure cost Alf Ramsey his job… but he’ll always be a true hero.
Result: Did Not Qualify
1978, Argentina – Did Not Qualify
The FA had overlooked Brian Clough for the top job and given it instead to Ron Greenwood…
It didn’t work.
Result: Did Not Qualify
1982, Spain – Group Round 2
At last – England qualify for a World Cup after more than a decade in the wilderness. With the likes of Kevin Keegan, Ray Wilkins and Glenn Hoddle in the squad, England were given half a chance of success in Spain.
Greenwood’s men topped their group with a 100% record against France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. But in the second round – in which teams were placed in groups of three – England were drawn with West Germany and hosts Spain, and two 0-0 stalemates weren’t enough to progress to what would have been a semi-final spot.
They did finish the tournament unbeaten, however, for only the second time.
Result: Group Round 2
1986, Mexico – Quarter-Finals
But there were signs in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico that Robson knew a thing or two about tactics, and had it not been for Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the quarter-final, England would have had a great chance of going all the way.
Of course, Maradona also scored one of the greatest World Cup goals in the history of the tournament in that match, dribbling past half the team and slotting it coolly past Peter Shilton, but that was probably because the English players were still too angry to put a tackle in, right?
1990, Italy – Semi-Finals
With Gary Lineker at his peak (he won the Golden Boot), Paul Gascoigne bursting onto the world scene like a raging bull (with silky skills and an eye for goal) and David Platt showing that you don’t have to be South American to score wonder-volleys, everything was in place for England to go all the way.
A heroic performance in the semi-final match against – you’ve guessed it, West Germany – will be remembered as much for Gazza’s tears as anything. But it came down to the dreaded penalty shootout … and England blew it, Stuart Pearce blasting it but having his spot kick saved before Chris Waddle – who had hit the post in extra-time – blazed his effort high over the crossbar to break England hearts.
1994, USA – Did Not Qualify
The man known in the press as “Turnip” managed to substitute Gary Lineker in his final match when he was just one goal shy of Bobby Charlton’s all-time England goalscoring record and then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
Nice one, Graham.
Result: Did Not Qualify
1998, France – Round 2
There was a host of very good players who had emerged in time to turn England’s fortunes around by 1998, and the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer looked to be in good shape going into the tournament under the guidance of Glenn Hoddle.
But after losing 2-1 to Romania in the group, England finished only second and had to play Argentina in the second round.
Another plucky performance – in which a young Michael Owen scored a wonder goal – was tempered by the sending off of David Beckham, who wafted a leg at current Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone who dutifully rolled around as if he’d been beaten to within an inch of his life with a massive piece of Argentine steak.
You can guess what happened… England had chances to win it in extra-time after drawing 2-2 in 90 minutes but went out on penalties, this time Paul Ince and David Batty being the guilty parties.
Result: Round 2
2002, Japan and South Korea – Quarter-Finals
The so-called Golden Generation of David Beckham and co had the chance to really do the business as the World Cup shipped out to Asia in 2002, but despite exacting revenge on Argentina by beating them in the group match, England – now managed by the slick Swede, Sven-Göran Eriksson – again only managed to finish second in their group.
A solid 3-0 victory over Denmark in the second round tempted England fans to dream, but meeting Brazil in the quarters was never going to be easy.
So it proved as England lost 2-1 after an audacious (some might say very fluky) lob from Ronaldinho proved decisive. Brazil went on to win it though and there’s no disgrace losing to the eventual champions.
2006, Germany – Quarter-Finals
But England cruised through their group, finishing top ahead of Sweden, Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago to set up a second round match against Ecuador, whom the Three Lions beat thanks to a fine free kick from Beckham, making Golden Balls the first player in English history to score in three World Cups.
The quarter-final match against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal had the whiff of inevitability about it; Beckham was subbed off early with an injury, Wayne Rooney got sent off for pushing CR7 and stamping on Ricardo Carvalho (after which the cameras caught Ronaldo winking at a teammate), then the usual penalty shootout defeat took place, with you-know-who (Ronaldo, in case you didn’t know) hitting the winning strike.
2010, South Africa – Round 2
The World Cup was held in Africa for the first time in 2010 and whilst the droning hum of the vuvuzelas might have driven many a fan to distraction, the tournament was lively, colourful and lots of fun. Except when England were playing, that is.
With Fabio Capello now having taking the reins after an ill-fated stint from former assistant Steve McClaren, it was assumed his winning mentality would rub off on the players. The problem is he really couldn’t speak English so his words of wisdom were no doubt lost in translation.
It certainly seemed like it when England drew their opening two matches, 1-1 against the USA and – most disturbingly – 0-0 against Algeria. After the tepid goalless affair England fans booed their side off the pitch causing Rooney to slate them to high heaven to the camera that was following his every, pained expression at the time.
A 1-0 victory over Slovenia secured passage to the second round (albeit as runners-up behind USA), but England were truly ripped apart by a rampant Germany side in the first knockout match, losing 4-1. “We could have beaten them,” some will hark, “had Lampard’s perfectly legitimate goal have stood”. Perhaps, but we doubt it. We just weren’t in the same league as the Germans at that stage.
Result: Round 2
2014, Brazil – ???
England are currently sitting bottom of their group after losing both of their games 2-1. It is, theoretically, still possible for Hodgson’s boys to make it through to the next round if Italy win both of their games and England have a goal heavy win against Costa Rica.
A quick look at the stats, however, shows us that in the history of the World Cup no team has ever lost two games and still made it past the group stages. Can England be the first, or will it be game over very soon?