With Euro 2020 set to begin on Friday, England enter the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. The Three Lions will have home advantage for the group stages, the last 16 game (should they win their group) and then the semifinal and final, if they get that far. This could be England’s best chance since 1996 of lifting the trophy for the first time.
With the Three Lions set to embark on their tenth Euros, we take a look back at some of England’s best and worst performances at the European Championships. Sadly, for England, there have been more bad days than good at these tournaments.
England’s Best and Worst European Championships
England’s Best – 1996
The summer where the whole country came together as one. Few could forget the emotions, both great and bad, the performances of their team and maybe that song. England hosted the European Championships for the first time and it produced not only one of the best tournaments in the history of the competition, but also the best performance from England.
Following an average display in their opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, the Three Lions sprung to life against Scotland in front of a packed and boisterous Wembley Stadium. England scored their first through an Alan Shearer header and sealed the win with a piece of individual brilliance from Paul Gascoigne as he chipped the ball over the head of the defender ran onto the ball to calmly volley past the Scotland keeper.
A superb first-half performance in their third game saw England score four past Holland. Shearer and Teddy Sheringham both scored twice as England demolished a Dutch team that had no answers to their opposition’s skill and determination. This was the night that the country began to believe.
A quarter-final against Spain produced a 0-0 scoreline after extra time. With penalties looming, the country collectively held its breath. However, England were convincing as much as fans were nervous as they overcame the Spanish 4-2. This set up a semi-final clash with the old enemy Germany.
England against Germany tends to be a classic and this was no different. Both teams battled hard, creating numerous chances. The home side took a three-minute lead only for the Germans to equalise on 16 minutes. Despite some glorious chances being created, especially by England, neither team could get that crucial second goal. The game went to penalties with every player scoring but England defender, and now manager, Gareth Southgate. England were out but could hold their heads high. Euro 96 was without doubt England’s best showing at the European Championships.
Following the game, England manager Terry Venables said: “The players can be very proud of themselves, as can everyone who has been involved in the past five weeks. It’s a shame not to get to the final, we’ve done our very best. I thought our performance in the second half was excellent and really we had the chances to finish it off in extra time. But it wasn’t to be.”
England’s Worst – 1988, 1992 and 2000
Going into this tournament, England were considered one of the favourites to lift the trophy following their sometimes impressive outing at the previous World Cup and qualifying for this tournament with ease. Bobby Robson’s men were in form and full of confidence. Sadly, it wasn’t enough.
Robson’s team would face Holland, the Soviet Union and also the Republic of Ireland who were competing in their first major tournament. Fans were expecting a good showing from their team and a semi-final place was seen as a must. However, England’s performances in the tournament were as bad, if not worse than their Euro 88 song.
England faced the Republic of Ireland first led by 1966 World Cup winner Jack Charlton. Few had given Ireland much hope against an England team who appeared far superior, on paper at least. An early Ray Houghton header gave the Republic the lead and that is the way it stayed. A shock result but two games were still to be played.
Next up was a Holland side which included Marco van Basten and Rudd Gullit, who would shine during the tournament. Van Basten scored three goals as the Dutch dismantled England 3-1. It was a game that could have been different if England had taken their chances early in the game. The Three Lions would be going home early.
In a game where England already knew that they had been knocked out, they were defeated 3-1 by the Soviet Union. Played three, lost three, scored two, conceded seven. Robson held onto his job, just, and he and the team redeemed themselves at the following World Cup.
Following their adventures to the semi-finals at Italia 90, many expected a similar outcome two years later at Euro 92. However, much had changed. Bobby Robson had left and been replaced by Graham Taylor, and many of those who played at the World Cup were no longer involved. If England were a band, this would represent their difficult second album. Very difficult.
Talyor’s team had been unconvincing in qualifying. Despite not losing, they only qualified by one point following three wins and three draws. In the eight-team tournament, England had been given the slightly easier group and would play France, Sweden and Denmark, avoiding Germany Scotland and Holland.
England faced Denmark first with the game ending 0-0. Not ideal but not too bad. Another goalless draw with France followed and Taylor and his team, who were struggling to create chances and hit the net, were needing to win against the home nation Sweden. An early goal gave England hope and at halftime, they were on course to qualify to the next round.
The second half saw Sweden dominate and deservedly scored twice to win the game 2-1. England looked unlikely to reply, especially when Gary Lineker was taken off. England were poor throughout the tournament, a tournament that was there for the taking with unfancied Denmark lifting the trophy. Thankfully they made amends four years later but only after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 1994.
Kevin Keegan saw his team stutter to second place in their qualification group. Sweden finished third, nine points clear with England earning a play-off place ahead of Poland on goal difference. The Three Lions would defeat Scotland 2-1 on aggregate to qualify for the tournament co-hosted by Holland and Belgium.
Euro 2000 is considered one of the more entertaining Euros; however, little of this included England. Due to their recent record, England were one of the lowest-ranked teams in the competition and were handed a tough-looking group. They would face Germany, Portugal and Romania.
Portugal were first and England started impressively. They raced into a two-goal lead; however, by halftime, Portugal had levelled the game at 2-2. They would then go on to score a third leaving England with a defeat from the jaws of victory.
Germany, who were struggling themselves, were next. Despite the game being of poor quality, England edged it, just, winning 1-0 with the Germans missing several chances to equalise. A draw in their final game would seem them through.
Romania were the better side during the first half but England led 2-1 at the break. If they could avoid conceding two goals they would be in the next round. Within three minutes of the restart, Romania were level; however, England were still on course if they could avoid giving another goal away. With 90 minutes approaching, England pressed the self district button and gave away a penalty. Romania scored, won the game and progressed. England headed home yet again without progressing past the group stage.