England’s pursuit of final number two

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July 8, 2021
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    England's long, painful wait for a second major tournament final is over.

    Fifty-five years ago, the country achieved its finest football moment by winning the World Cup on home soil.

    Since then, managers have been hired and fired, players picked and dropped, games won and lost, but the quest for another big showdown has always ended in failure until the arrival of Gareth Southgate and his squad at Euro 2020.

    Now that the wait is over, BBC Sport looks back at the players, managers, miles and more that England have put in to reach their second notable international final.

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    A history of heartbreak

    England's record in Fifa and Uefa tournaments since 1966

    England's last final appearance in 1966 was greeted with jubilation, as the nation hung out bunting, waved flags and, for the match itself, left the streets deserted to huddle around television sets.

    While expectation of a repeat has never abated within these shores, the following 55 years – which is the longest any nation has had to wait between appearances in major finals – have delivered mainly heartbreak and humiliation.

    Since winning the World Cup, England have reached the knockout stages of official Uefa and Fifa tournaments 14 times out of a possible 28 – a 50% success rate. Compare that with the side they beat in 1966 – Germany – who have made it that far 20 times (71.43%).

    England's tournament progress since 1966

    Percentage of times each staged reached (Uefa/Fifa tournaments)

    Every England fan has their own mental slideshow of suffering.

    Depending on age, it will include some of Gerd Muller's volley in Mexico in 1970, Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' in the same country in 1986, penalty pain against the Germans in 1990 and 1996, Wayne Rooney limping off in 2004 and sent off with an accompanying Cristiano Ronaldo wink in 2006, and Frank Lampard's disallowed shot over the line in 2010.

    (Left to right) Gerd Muller scores against England in 1970, Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' in 1986, Gareth Southgate in 1996 and Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2006

    Portugal and Germany bring the pain

    In total, England have played 302 competitive matches in official Uefa and Fifa tournaments since the 1966 World Cup (qualifiers and finals). That is 27,570 minutes (including some extra time but not injury time) in pursuit of another final.

    Of those games, they have won 180 of them (that's a win percentage of 59.60%), scoring 604 goals in the process and conceding 196.

    All but the 14 games, 12 wins and 47 goals racked up by the Euros class of 2020 so far have ultimately been in vain.

    England's most common opponent during their quest to reach another final has been Poland, with 18 encounters between the two, 11 of which England have won.

    The most famous, though, is probably the 1-1 draw at Wembley, when Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski's heroics dashed England's hopes of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.

    England have a 100% record against a number of countries, mainly those faced in qualifiers, but their best record is against lowly San Marino, who they have beaten seven times, scoring 42 goals and conceding one.

    That one against is much more famous than any of those scored, though, coming eight seconds into the infamous World Cup qualifier in 1993 that ultimately ended in Graham Taylor's side failing to qualify for the 1994 finals in the USA.

    England's worst record against any side in competitive fixtures since 1966 is the one with Portugal, who were responsible for knocking them out of Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup on penalties.

    Portugal are also jointly responsible for inflicting the most pain on England at tournament finals, beating them four times (either in 90 minutes or via penalties). The same number as Germany.

    Ominously, England's Euro 2020 final opponents Italy also make the list…

    England's worst competitive records since 1966 (five games or more)
    Country Games Wins Draws Losses Win %
    Portugal 6 4* 2
    Italy 7 1 2^ 4 14.29
    Romania 7 1 3 3 14.29
    Netherlands 6 1 2 3 16.67
    Republic of Ireland 6 1 4 1 16.67
    *Lost two matches via penalty shootout ^Lost one match via penalty shootout
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    Southgate you're the one…

    Illustration showing Sven-Goran Eriksson, Gareth Southgate and Fabio Capello

    Sir Alf Ramsay delivered the World Cup in 1966 and is one of 14 managers to have taken charge of matches after England's greatest footballing moment.

    England manager win percentage

    In competitive games in Uefa and Fifa tournaments since 1966 World Cup final (number of games in brackets)

    Source: Englandstats.com

    Sven-Goran Eriksson, who led England to three quarter-finals between 2002 and 2006, has the best win percentage in competitive games since the final in 1966 (if we ignore Sam Allardyce's single game in charge).

    Fabio Capello is a fraction behind, but the Italian's record is propped up by a near faultless qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, which ended in last-16 misery at the hands of Germany.

    Current boss Gareth Southgate has a very healthy win rate and is the only man on the list to lead the country to three semi-finals (World Cup, Nations League and European Championship). Ramsey is the only other man with more than one.

    He has also now matched Ramsey as the only man to lead England to a major final.

    Impressively, if we include penalty shootout wins, Southgate has now overseen 24.32% of England's victories in Uefa and Fifa finals since the 1966 tournament, and the orchestrator of a third of all of the country's clean sheets ever at the Euros.

    He's also the only man to beat Germany in a knockout round at a major tournament since Ramsey.

    Games, goals and miles on the clock

    More than 300 players have appeared for England since the 1966 World Cup, striving to help their country reach another major final.

    Wayne Rooney is the man who has played the most competitive games in pursuit of this goal, with 74 to his name. The closest he got was the quarter-finals.

    Other members of the so-called 'Golden Generation' – Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and David Beckham – are not far behind, along with the country's leading all-time appearance maker (and goalkeeper for the World Cup semi-final in 1990) Peter Shilton.

    Most competitive England caps since 1966

    Players with most games in Fifa and Uefa competition

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    Source: Englandstats.com

    As his country's all-time leading goalscorer, it is no surprise to see Rooney top of the list for competitive goals scored since 1966 in pursuit of another final.

    England's leading goalscorers since 1966

    Players with most goals in Uefa and Fifa tournaments

    Source: Englandstats.com

    Harry Kane's winner in Wednesday's semi-final against Denmark took him joint top of England's leading scorers at major tournaments (Euros and World Cups) with 10, level with Gary Lineker.

    Finally, England's pursuit of another major final has taken them across the globe.

    England have travelled more than 140,000 miles, and played in 52 countries on four continents, since Bobby Moore held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966.

    This includes trips to Mexico, Japan, South Africa and Brazil for the World Cup finals.

    Yet for all that, when they do finally end their long wait to play in a final, it will be back where the zenith of their footballing history occurred, full circle and on home soil at Wembley.

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