England’s Five Worst Euros Moments: Exorcise the nightmares



It can be healthier to acknowledge your fears and talk about them, instead of pretending they don’t exist. For that reason, as England prepare to begin Euro 2020 as 6.611/2 second favourites, I’ve decided to pick my top five of England’s worst moments at European Championships. Are there any you think are worse? Let me know in the comments.

England 1 v 2 Sweden – 1992: Brolin ends Lineker’s dream

England went into Euro ’92 in Sweden after reaching the World Cup semi-finals in Italy just two years before. By now, though, they were a different side to the one had won hearts and minds under Bobby Robson. Instead, this was Graham Taylor’s England of Andy Sinton, Carlton Palmer and Tony Daley. They drew with Denmark and France (although Stuart Pearce had a perfectly good goal ruled out in the latter) before heading for a showdown with the hosts.

It all went wrong for England and, as well as Thomas Brolin’s fine 82nd minute winner, the enduring image of the night was of Graham Taylor bringing off Gary Lineker for Alan Smith as England chased the game. It was to be Lineker’s last match for England and he ended his international career one short of what was then Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record.

England 1 v 1 Switzerland – 1996: Anti-climatic opener at Wembley

A quarter-of-a-century ago England opened a Euros campaign at Wembley and all I can say is that I hope they’re in better shape this weekend than they were against Switzerland, who were managed by Roy Hodgson, in 1996. Terry Venables’ side began slowly and drew 1-1. It was a disappointing result, and the press were on the players’ backs for the next week, but in hindsight the signs were there that better was to come: for one thing, Alan Shearer scored first international goal in 12 games and would get four more to land the Golden Boot. So the lesson is there: if England underwhelm against Croatia then let’s stay calm. After all, in ’96 much better was to come in England’s second fixture, against Scotland – the very team they’ll play at Wembley in their second Group D fixture on Friday 18th.

England 2 v 3 Romania – 2000: Neville concedes late penalty

Gareth Southgate played in this one, coming on for Paul Scholes as Kevin Keegan tried to shut up shop and take the 2-2 draw that would have seen his side through to the knockout stages, albeit in unconvincing style. Romania had other ideas, though, and when they broke late on, Phil Neville brought down Viorel Moldovan.

Up stepped substitute Ioan Ganea to send Nigel Martyn the wrong way and England out of the tournament. It was infuriating, in part because England fans had been ecstatic when they beat Germany in their previous match.

England 1 v 2 France – 2004: Zidane makes James pay with another late pen

There is no shame in losing to France, especially when they are the tournament holders and, in Zinedine Zidane, boast the best player in the world as well as the likes of Thierry Henry and Lilian Thuram. But the errors that lead to Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men blowing what would have been a famous victory made this difficult to stomach. Frank Lampard had given England a first-half lead when he headed home David Beckham’s free-kick. After that, Beckham could’ve double the lead from the penalty spot but Fabien Barthez denied him. Going into injury time, however, England still looked good for the win before Zidane equalised with a free-kick in the 91st minute.

Shortly afterwards, David James brought down Henry and Zizou converted the resulting penalty. The good news here, though, was that England recovered and, thanks to Wayne Rooney’s blistering displays, reached the quarter-finals.

England v Iceland – 2016: Hodgson’s men humiliated by brave minnows

Twelve years after bursting on to the scene at Euro 2004, Rooney was reaching the end of his international career in France. He put England 1-0 up against Iceland in a last-16 tie that Roy Hodgson’s team were expected to win. Two minutes later, though, Iceland were level and, in the 18th minute, Joe Hart let Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s shot through his hands.

Iceland held on, although England offered very little as they pursued an equalizer. There was something surreal about how bad they were. The BBC called it England’s “worst humiliation since they were knocked out of the 1950 World Cup by USA.” Hard to disagree but, in a strange way, it was the beginning of better days. Hodgson resigned immediately, Sam Allardyce succeeded him for one game before things went awry and then a brave new era began under Southgate.