England: What is Three Lions’ greatest performance since 1966?

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June 12, 2020
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    Harry Kane

    England beat Colombia in a World Cup penalty shootout for the first time and went on to reach the semi-final in 2018

    Winning the World Cup in 1966 undoubtedly remains the greatest moment in England’s football history.

    But what has been the Three Lions’ best performance since?

    Here are my top 10 greatest England matches since 1966 – remind yourself of the games and then you can rank them using the list at the bottom of the page.

    England 5-1 Scotland – Wembley (24 May 1975)

    Don Revie’s finest 90 minutes in an ill-fated England reign as an excellent Scotland team boasting the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain was destroyed – mainly by first-half goals from Gerry Francis, Kevin Beattie and Colin Bell.

    Bruce Rioch pulled one back from the spot but the outstanding Francis and David Johnson completed the rout in a game remembered for the image of Scotland keeper Stewart Kennedy saving the post as opposed to the ball for Beattie’s header, and World Cup winner Alan Ball being ruthlessly sacked as captain. He never played for England again.

    England beat Scotland

    England celebrate after David Johnson scores England’s fifth goal against Scotland

    Hungary 1-3 England – Budapest (6 June 1981)

    England travelled to Budapest’s famously hostile Nepstadion fighting for their lives in qualification for the 1982 World Cup after losing in Switzerland a week earlier. One infamous headline aimed at manager Ron Greenwood read ‘For God’s sake go’.

    They needed to win and were up against the gifted Magyars in front of 70,000 fanatical supporters but responded in style, with Trevor Brooking the hero.

    He scrambled in an early goal then, after defender Imre Garaba had levelled right on half-time, restored England’s lead on the hour with a rising left-foot shot of such force it lodged in the stanchion.

    Kevin Keegan then won and scored a penalty and England were back on course for Spain the following summer.

    Kevin Keegan

    Kevin Keegan was influential in the victory over Hungary

    England 3-1 France – Bilbao (16 June 1982)

    Ron Greenwood’s England produced a superb performance in their opening game of the 1982 World Cup to beat a France side that went on to lose on penalties to West Germany in the semi-finals.

    Bryan Robson put England in front on 27 seconds – then the fastest goal in the history of the tournament – and restored their lead in the second half after Gerard Soler levelled for France.

    Paul Mariner wrapped up the win but England fell before the knockout stages in a convoluted two group-stage system.

    Terry Butcher

    England’s Terry Butcher tackles France’s Michel Platini

    Brazil 0-2 England – Rio de Janeiro (10 June 1984)

    This friendly was the game that changed John Barnes’ life as England recorded an historic win in the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio, where Brazil had not lost for 27 years.

    Barnes, just 20 and emerging at Watford, made the world sit up and take notice when he received the ball on the left flank, taking 11 touches and beating six Brazilians including goalkeeper Roberto Costa to put England ahead in first-half stoppage time.

    He then provided the assist for Mark Hateley’s second after 64 minutes to seal the win for Bobby Robson’s team.

    England 3-0 Poland – Monterrey (11 June 1986)

    This steamy afternoon in Monterrey transformed Gary Lineker into a football superstar.

    England suffered a miserable start to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, losing to Portugal and drawing with Morocco without scoring a goal, leaving Robson’s side needing to beat old nemesis Poland in their final group game.

    They had been hit by injury and suspension as captain Robson suffered a shoulder injury and Ray Wilkins was sent off against Morocco – but fate intervened as England were revitalised by the introduction of the fiery presence of Everton’s Peter Reid and the goals of club-mate Lineker.

    Lineker, who left Everton for Barcelona after the tournament, scored a brilliant 35-minute hat-trick, turning home crosses from Gary Stevens and Steve Hodge before pouncing on a goalkeeping error for his third.

    England lost to Argentina and Diego Maradona in the infamous ‘Hand of God’ quarter-final but Lineker was now a global name.

    Peter Beardsley

    Peter Beardsley carries the ball forward against Poland

    Netherlands 1-4 England – Wembley (18 June 1996)

    One of the great England performances of the modern era as a fine Netherlands side – dogged by in-fighting, admittedly – were blown away on a balmy night at Wembley in Euro 96.

    England, under Terry Venables, needed a draw to top Group A and took the lead through Alan Shearer’s penalty in the 23rd minute after Danny Blind fouled Paul Ince.

    The Dutch were destroyed in 11 minutes after half-time when Teddy Sheringham headed home Paul Gascoigne’s corner then set up Shearer’s right-foot finish. Sheringham made it 4-0 after 62 minutes after Edwin van der Sar failed to hold Darren Anderton’s shot.

    England lost on penalties to eventual winners Germany in the semi-final but this was an unforgettable night and performance.

    Paul Ince

    Paul Ince attempts to block a shot by Jordi Cruyff

    Germany 1-5 England – Munich (1 September 2001)

    England arrived as underdogs for this World Cup qualifier only to rip the odds and logic to shreds.

    Carsten Jancker gave Germany an early lead but England, led by the devastating Michael Owen hit back. The Liverpool striker quickly equalised before club-mate Steven Gerrard put them ahead from long range before half-time.

    Owen, who won the Ballon d’Or weeks later, fired in from close range to extend England’s lead after the break then raced on to Gerrard’s pass to complete his hat-trick after 66 minutes. Emile Heskey made it a glory night for Liverpool and England with the fifth for the highlight of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s time in charge.

    England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich

    The iconic scoreline that few expected

    Croatia 2-4 England – Lisbon (21 June 2004)

    Euro 2004 was in the grip of ‘Roo-mania’ after Everton’s 18-year-old star Wayne Rooney had illuminated the tournament with his brilliance in England’s loss to France and with two goals in the win against Switzerland.

    Niko Kovac gave Croatia an early lead before Paul Scholes equalised and Rooney put England ahead with a powerful 20-yard drive before half-time.

    The game’s new young phenomenon ran clear on to Owen’s pass to make it 3-1 after half-time and, though Igor Tudor pulled one back, Frank Lampard’s goal gave England the margin of victory they deserved.

    Rooney was injured early in the quarter-final as England lost to hosts Portugal on penalties – but his contribution to that summer confirmed the impact he would have over the next decade and more.

    Wayne Rooney

    Wayne Rooney scored twice as England beat Croatia at Euro 2004

    Colombia 1-1 England – Moscow (3 July 2018)

    England’s feelgood surprise run to the World Cup semi-finals under Gareth Southgate came under severe strain in the last 16 from a Colombia side that was a potent mix of talent and cynicism.

    Harry Kane gave England a second-half lead from the spot but in a fevered atmosphere created by Colombia’s fans gathered all over Moscow’s Spartak Stadium, Yerry Mina’s stoppage-time header forced the extra 30 minutes.

    Jordan Henderson’s penalty miss put England on the back foot but when Mateus Uribe missed and Jordan Pickford saved from Carlos Bacca, Eric Dier was able to secure the country’s first World Cup win in a penalty shootout.

    England lost to Croatia in the semi-final but it had been a fantastic ride in Russia.

    Harry Kane

    Harry Kane led England to their first World Cup semi-final appearance in 30 years with victory over Colombia

    Spain 2-3 England – Sevilla (15 October 2018)

    England’s run to the World Cup semi-final won hearts and minds but the statement win against a country of stature still eluded Gareth Southgate’s team as they lost twice to Belgium and in the semi-final to Croatia in Russia.

    They put that right with an outstanding performance in this Uefa Nations League encounter that gave them their first win in Spain for 31 years, as they went 3-0 up at half-time courtesy of two goals from Raheem Sterling, ending an England drought stretching back three years and 27 games, and Marcus Rashford.

    Spain responded with goals from Paco Alcacer and a 97th-minute goal from Sergio Ramos but England closed out a landmark victory.

    Raheem Sterling scores the opening goal for England against Spain

    Raheem Sterling scored his first goals for England since October 2015 against Estonia – 1,102 days ago

    So you now know what Phil thinks, but what about you? Rank your top 10 games below:

    England's greatest games

    Pick your top 10 England games and rank them in order

    First1Second2Third3Fourth4Fifth5Sixth6Seventh7Eighth8Ninth9Tenth10Confirm selection

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