1966 was a the greatest year for English football, after being selected to host the World Cup Finals and England proceeded to win the competition for the first and only time by beating West Germany 4-2 in the Final in front of 100,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
The World Cup Final was a glorious occasion marked by a hat-trick scored by Geoff Hurst, who scored two of his goals in extra time to seal England’s victory.
English fans are passionate about football and their national team and long for the day when the team will lift the World Cup again, there have been eleven World Cups since England’s famous victory in 1966, and by the time of the next World Cup Finals in Brazil in 2014, it will have been 48 years since England won the trophy.
The 1970 World Cup saw England attempt to defend their trophy in Mexico, but lost in the Quarter Final stage in a re-match of the 1966 Final with West Germany, who this time overcame a 2-0 England lead to win 3-2 after extra time and bring an end to England’s reign as World Champions.
England failed to qualify for the 1974 finals, after being drawn with Poland and Wales in a qualifying group of three teams. England’s only victory was a 1-0 away win over Wales, but home draws and a 2-0 defeat by Poland sealed their fate, as Poland qualified for the World Cup Finals in West Germany, as the group winners.
Qualification for the 1978 finals again ended in disappointment, as England were grouped with Italy, Finland and Luxembourg, and despite only losing one qualifying game and finishing the group on level points, Italy qualified as group winners with a superior goal difference.
In 1982 the World Cup Finals were held in Spain and England now under the management of Ron Greenwood qualified for the finals for the first time since 1970. The competition was organised into two group stages, with England beating France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait to top the group and qualify for the next group stage which saw them play Germany and Spain, in which England drew 0-0 with both teams, but as Germany beat Spain 2-1 and top the group which qualified them for the semi finals and England were eliminated, ironically having not lost a single game in the Finals.
The 1986 finals will always be remembered by England fans for one of the worlds’ greatest players and one of the most talked about goals in World Cup history. England had started the group stage poorly as they lost 1-0 to Portugal and were then held to a 0-0 draw by Morocco, however they secured their passage to the next stage with a 3-0 victory over Poland, thanks to a first-half hat-trick from Gary Lineker.
As the competition entered the knock-out stages, England were drawn against Paraguay, and an impressive 3-0 victory set up a quarter final tie with Argentina, an entertaining game turned to controversy after 51 minutes when in an aerial challenge for the ball with England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, Diego Maradona actually punched the ball into the goal to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. Amazingly the goal was given, Maradona later claiming goal was thanks to ‘the hand of God’
Three minutes later Maradona scored a brilliant goal as he ran with the ball from his own half, beating several England players and scoring to give Argentina a 2-0 lead. Gary Lineker scored a consolation goal to make the score 2-1 but Argentina held on for victory and then went onto win the competition.
Italy hosted the 1990 World Cup Finals, which was yet again to end in disappointment for England, who were grouped with the Republic of Ireland, Holland and Egypt, amazingly all the games were drawn apart from England’s 1-0 victory over Egypt which saw them top the group and progress to the next round England beat Belgium 1-0 after extra time and progressed to the quarter-finals were England faced Cameroon winning 3-2 after extra-time after Gary Lineker scored two penalties in the match.
The 1990 World Cup Semi-Final was between England and now arch rivals West Germany, after a 1-1 draw, the game was famously decided on penalties which Germany won 4-3. In the 3rd place play-off game England lost 2-1 to Italy to finish 4th, their highest placing since 1966.
In 1994 England failed to qualify for the finals in the USA, and it was 1998 that saw them reach the finals held in France, hope were high after reaching the semi-finals of Euro ’96 and winning their qualifying group. A 2-1 defeat to Romania meant second place in the group stage and a tough match against Argentina in the first knock-out stage. Penalties proved to be England’s nemesis again after the match finished 2-2, England lost 4-3 on penalties and were on their way home once more.
The 2002 competition took place in Korea and Japan and the so called ‘group of death’ with rivals Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria, England finished second in the group, but did beat Argentina 1-0 to avenge the penalty defeat in 1998. After beating Denmark 3-0 in the next round a quarter-final against Brazil resulted in a disappointing 2-1 defeat and more World Cup woes.
2006 saw England lose out on penalties yet again, this time to Portugal after a 0-0 draw in the quarter finals, by three penalties to one scored by England.
Hopes were again high for the 2010 Cup in South Africa after a good qualifying campaign, but a poor showing and a narrow 1-0 victory over Slovenia, saw them progress from the group stage, only to be beaten 4-1 by Germany in the next round, no penalties were required this time.
The long wait for England’s World Cup success continues, but each competition brings new hope for all the long suffering English fans.