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Blog: Five greatest England wins – including 1966

Tuesday night’s fantastic win over Germany showed us that 55 years of hurt for England is noisy. And chaotic. Especially when it spills out across the country after 18 months of lockdown restrictions. There were sore heads aplenty this morning.

But it’s an irony that some of the most memorable England games of the last half-century feature a bogey man. We’re talking Maradona. Simeone. THAT wink from Ronaldo.

It’s as if England fans celebrate a bit more when they’ve fought back from being wronged. A red card, a penalty shootout or even Paul Gascoigne’s studs.

But while we’re in the mood, let’s instead celebrate the five best England victories of the last 55 years. Trophy-winning games are thin on the ground, but there’s still been plenty of reasons to celebrate.

1 – 1966, England V West Germany

We had to start here. It was England’s finest hour as they overcame West Germany with a 4-2 win at Wembley, thanks in part to a controversial goal from Geoff Hurst in extra time. Did it cross the line? VAR would have had a field day, but it’s safe to say the visitors had their own back in South Africa in 2010.

The win came after an indifferent group stage, where England won two games and drew one (sound familiar?) before knockout wins over Argentina and Portugal. Lifting the Jules Rimet trophy
remains England’s only major tournament win – until perhaps, July 11th this year. At Wembley.

2 – 1996, England V Holland

At Euro 96, the group stages were set alight by one of the most complete England performances in living memory. The combination of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham helped to outclass a Dutch side featuring Patrick Kluivert, Edwin Van Der Sar and Dennis Bergkamp.

England had already beaten Scotland 2-0, but this win put the icing on the cake. Until they met Germany in the semi-finals a week or so later and lost the previously inevitable penalty shootout. But we can forget about all that now, of course.

3 – 1982, England V France

Many say this was England’s best start to a World Cup and it would be hard to disagree. A young Bryan Robson netted after just 27 seconds and went on to strike again in the second half (Paul Mariner was the other England scorer) as they sealed a 3-1 first round win over France.

The 1982 World Cup saw FIFA experiment with a second group stage instead of a knockout round and that’s where England came unstuck. Draws with West Germany and hosts Spain saw them finish second and board the plane home – despite not losing a single game.

4 – 2004, England V Croatia

This is the tournament that for many fans, saw Wayne Rooney came of age in the international arena. A relatively slow start to the group stages (one win, one defeat) meant England needed to beat Croatia to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2004.

Up stepped young Mr Rooney. He had already scored twice against Switzerland, but his double strike against Croatia sealed a crucial 4-2 win. Then came a knockout encounter with Portugal of course, and yet another loss on penalties.


5 – 2001, England V Germany

Yet another game we couldn’t leave out. England had to beat Germany in Berlin to have a realistic chance of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. And following a 1-0 loss at home to Germany earlier in the competition, the signs weren’t looking good.

Nobody expected the performance they saw on that night – especially after England went 1-0 down in the first half. But goals from Michael Owen (3) Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey sealed a 5-1 win and saw England fans spill out of pubs and into nearby supermarkets to buy fizzy wine. Which they sprayed over each other from shopping trolleys. True story.

So yes, we do have plenty to celebrate as England fans. But after last night’s win, will we be dancing in the streets on July 11th?

Even if we aren’t, we’ll still be tipping our hats to Tuesday night’s events at Wembley for years to come. And rightly so.


James Shaw