Wednesday, June 29, 2016

England's exits

Whilst not all Scots have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to their neighbours - just most of them - the over-the-top jingoism, particularly if there's optimism that the Three Lions will do well - does the head in.  It seems to be only football that's affected; coverage of rugby and cricket, for example, is objective; for European Championships and World Cups, any partiality seems to be overcome by an urge to think and behave like Ian Wright.

All that "Justice for the England eleven!" and "Young lions" crap - copyright Clive Tyldesley - makes watching the matches almost unbearable even if one is neutral.  So watching them get their comeuppance for treating Iceland - who beat Holland home-and-away in qualifying - like a pub team was proper schadenfreude.

So I imagine my fellow countrymen wouldn't mind a wee nostalgia trip through England's last 10 major tournament exits since they came so close to glory at Euro 96?  I would have liked to expand it to include the Do I Not Like That era, but this site has done a fabulous hatchet job on that already.  It's worth reading just for the "GO LES! HIT LES! HIT LES OVER THE TOP!" clip.  And the reminder that Carlton Palmer played for England...

And yes, I'm well aware that Scotland haven't been at a World Cup or European Championships for over half my lifetime.  But at least that means the world isn't watching when we screw up.

Anyway, here are England's last 10 major tournament exits, ranked from least embarrassing to most humiliating...

10. Euro 2004
Frank Lampard's extra-time equalizer against hosts Portugal might be the only time I've ever cheered an England goal.  I just couldn't help it; this was an epic game, not least because of an incredible individual battle between a young Cristiano Ronaldo and Ashley Cole on one wing which just about finished even stevens.  Frankly, England would have won comfortably but for losing Wayne Rooney (possibly, at just 19, in the form of his life) to a first half injury.  Replacement Darius Vassell wasn't quite as threatening.  Helder Postiga - then on Spurs' books but a million miles away from their team - came off the bench to equalize late on, then Rui Costa lamped one in off the bar in the second half of extra-time before Lampard struck and forced penalties...which went exactly as you'd expect; the hapless Vassell was the villain this time.

2004 (June 24) Portugal 2-England 2 (European... by sp1873

9. 2006 World Cup
The draw couldn't have been much more favourable, yet England huffed and puffed through games against Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden and Ecuador before meeting the Portuguese in the last eight again.  Missing several suspended players after the Battle of Nuremberg, Portugal should have been there for the taking, but it was a terrible game with Wayne Rooney's red card after an hour for a stamp on Ronaldo the only significant incident.  And so penalties again...and this time Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher (why the hell was he taking a penalty?!) all missed.

8. Euro 2012
I wonder if expectations have ever been lower for England in a major finals?  With Roy Hodgson taking over shortly before the tournament, and so short of talent that Martin Kelly was called up as a late injury replacement, getting to the quarter-finals was a pretty solid effort.  So too was taking Italy to penalties, though I'm not sure Andrea Pirlo actually let his opponents touch the ball that evening.  But we all know the shootout drill - Ashley Young and Ashley Cole were the ones to bottle it this time.

7. 2002 World Cup
I remember watching England-Brazil in my dressing gown at about 7am, and being rather worried when Michael Owen took advantage of Lucio's error to open the scoring...and rather relieved when Rivaldo finished off a brilliant team move to equalize.  And then came that Ronaldinho free kick.  Did he mean it?  No chance.  Did David Seaman have a complete disaster.  Oh, yes.  If England had won this, they'd have had to beat Turkey and a mediocre Germany (thrashed 5-1 less than a year earlier) to win the whole thing.  Opportunity missed, no?

6. 1998 World Cup
Oh, how I enjoyed Dan Petrescu's winner for Romania in the group stages...a little over ten minutes after Kevin Keegan celebrated Michael Owen's equalizer by pronouncing that "there's only going to be one winner now, and that's England".  Victories over Tunisia and Colombia ensured a place in the last sixteen, where Glenn Hoddle's side, inspired by Owen, led 2-1 before Argentina's clever set-piece routine produced a goal for Javier Zanetti.  And then, of course, came David Beckham's infamous red card.  Despite that, they were unlucky not to win in normal time.  David Batty's shootout miss (Brian Moore: "You know him better than anybody. Do you back him to score?  Quickly, yes or no?"  Kevin Keegan: "Yes.") sent them home.

5. 2014 World Cup
It was actually England's misfortune to be drawn in a group with two very decent sides in Italy and Uruguay, and to play the latter before Luis Suarez felt the need to bite someone.  They didn't play badly against either, but lost both 2-1 and suffered the ignominy of being eliminated before the last group game against Costa Rica.  At least they outdid Scotland by getting a draw in that one.

4. Euro 2000
Only a draw was required against Romania to get out of the group, and when Kevin Keegan's side came from behind to lead 2-1 at half-time it all looked rosy.  However, Nigel Martyn (deputising for an injured David Seaman) made a hash of a punch which allowed Dorinel Munteanu to equalize just after the break.  And then, with Romania toiling and the game petering out, Phil Neville earned himself free drinks for life north of the border after his stupid tackle gave away a late penalty.  Ioan Ganea converted, and that was that.

3. 2010 World Cup
Whilst there was nothing quite on the scale of The Sun's Euro 96 'ACHTUNG!' headline, there was plenty of the usual jingoism ahead of a clash with Germany in the first knockout stage.  Given England had been hopeless in the group stage - Rob Green's howler against the USA a particular highlight (immortalized below in Lego!) - and the Germans impressive, this was taking setting oneself up for a fall to the extreme.  I had a couple of mates round, with a plan to have a few beers if Germany won; we had cracked them open after twenty minutes with the score already 2-0.  Of course, had there been goalline technology they'd have pulled it back to 2-2 and it would have been game on.  But they didn't.  And, ripped apart on the counter-attack, they got gubbed 4-1.

2. Euro 2008 qualifying
Ah yes, the Wally with the Brolly.  In a tight group - they actually only finished ahead of Israel on goal difference - England lost in Croatia following a disastrous back three experiment and a glorious Paul Robinson error, and then toiled on astroturf in Russia.  So they needed a draw at home to Croatia (who were already through to the finals) to qualify, only to fall 2-0 behind within 14 minutes.  Inevitably, there was a goalkeeping blunder, this time by Scott Carson, who fumbled in the opening goal.  However, second half strikes from Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch seemed to have saved the day, only for Mladen Petric to nick a late winner for Slaven Bilic's side.  A day before this game, I wrote a blog (in the early days of this site) suggesting England could win Euro 2008.  Back then, I clearly knew nothing about football; very little has changed.

1. Euro 2016
What can I say?

(PS - I can't help being tempted to do a Scotland equivalent of this article.  It's only fair!)

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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