• World Cup

England's greatest bounce-back matches

Rob Bartlett
June 19, 2014
Paul Gascoigne humiliated Colin Hendry as England beat Scotland at Wembley during Euro 1996 © PA Photos

England have built up Thursday night's Group D game with Uruguay as make or break for their World Cup chances and fans who have endured disappointment in the past could be forgiven for feeling nervous. But don't despair - we've been here before and actually ended up celebrating in style:

England 2-0 Mexico, 1966 World Cup, Wembley

Everybody with a St George's flag attached to their house or car knows what happened at the 1966 World Cup. In fact, the nation has been banging on about it for nearly 50 years. It wasn't all plain-sailing, though, as Alf Ramsey's side drew their opening group game with tonight's opponents Uruguay - the first time in the tournament's history that the eventual winners failed to win their first game.

Next up were Mexico, a must-win match. England delivered and a crowd of almost 93,000 packed into the old Wembley Stadium to witness Bobby Charlton fire a trademark rocket past Ignacio Calderon before Roger Hunt secured victory with a tap-in 15 minutes from the end.

What happened next?
Need you ask? England went on to win their first (and only) World Cup to date with a 4-2 destruction of West Germany in the final, with Geoff Hurst's hat-trick and Kenneth Wolstenholme uttering those famous words: "They think it's all over...it is now!"

England 1-0 Czechoslovakia, 1970 World Cup, Estadio Jalisco

Four years later and the holders faced a shock exit ahead of their final group game in Mexico. England started the defence of their crown with a narrow victory against Romania thanks to Hurst's solo goal. Defeat to eventual champions Brazil followed and question marks were raised over whether Ramsey's side would make the last eight.

Fifty minutes in, with the score still goalless in Guadalajara, England were awarded a penalty when Vladimir Hagara handled in the area. Allan Clarke drilled the ball into the net to stake his claim for best international debut of all time and send England through to the quarter-finals.

What happened next?
Gerd Mueller broke English hearts with a 108th minute winner for West Germany in their quarter-final clash. Alan Mullery and Martin Peters had put England on course for a semi final place before Mueller completed a remarkable comeback to send our boys packing.

England 3-0 Poland, 1986 World Cup, Estadio Tecnologico

The rest of the 1970s is best erased from the memory banks as England failed to qualify for the next two tournaments. But they returned at Spain 1982 and in Mexico, in 1986, had to show their resilience again.

Gary Lineker's hat-trick sent England to the knockout stages at Mexico 1986 © Getty Images

A disappointing 1-0 defeat to Portugal and uninspiring 0-0 draw with Morocco left Bobby Robson's men gathering their passports ready for the plane home.

They faced must-win game against Poland and Robson picked Peter Beardsley as strike-partner to Gary Lineker - it worked wonders. Peter Shilton stretched to deny the Polish attack before Lineker emphatically opened the scoring after nine minutes.

He completed his hat-trick shortly after the half-hour mark, sending England into the second round.

What happened next?
Possibly the greatest goal and one of the most infamous in World Cup history were scored in the space of four minutes. After England cruised past Paraguay to set up a last eight clash with Argentina, Diego Maradona waltzed his way through the defence to draw Argentina level. Then he completed victory with a self-proclaimed piece of "divine intervention".

Maradona dubbed it the "Hand of God". Robson dubbed it the "Hand of a Rascal". It didn't matter, England were out and would have to wait until Italia 90 to end their hurt.

England v Egypt, Italia 1990, Stadio Sant'Elia

The blood and tears tournament. Terry Butcher oozed claret to send his country to Italy for a World Cup clouded by defensive, negative football. Robson's men uninspiringly drew their first two games - against the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands - and needed victory against Egypt to secure a place in the last 16.

Approaching the hour mark, England were awarded a free-kick on the left wing. Paul Gascoigne curled a superb cross for Mark Wright to glance into the net and prove England could in fact play attacking football.

What happened next?
From turmoil to tears, England finally woke up. A narrow victory against Belgium was followed by a dramatic, Lineker-inspired win against Roger Milla's Cameroon when the former Tottenham striker scored an 83rd minute penalty to send the tie into extra-time. He found the net again and England were through to the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time since 1966.

West Germany awaited and the match produced another of the World Cup's most vivid images for England fans; Gascoigne, shown a yellow card which meant he would miss the final if England got there, burst into tears. Lineker told Robson to "have a word". It didn't matter, as England lost on penalties, but they came back as heroes.

England v Scotland, Euro 1996, Wembley

Six years passed until Gascoigne found redemption in a white shirt. After a stuttering draw with Switzerland, Terry Venables' England took on Scotland on a blazingly hot afternoon at Wembley where, to quote Baddiel and Skinner's England tournament anthem "Three Lions", football finally came home.

Gazza's spectacular solo-effort - he embarrassed Colin Hendry with a superb piece of skill - inspired England to a 2-0 victory and led to his almost as memorable "dentist's chair" celebration.

What happened next?
Possibly England's best performance and result at a major finals since the 4-2 demolition of West Germany to win the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966. Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer both scored twice as Guus Hiddink's Netherlands were ripped apart at Wembley. Stuart Pearce's "Psycho" celebration followed in a penalty-win against Spain as England reached the semi-finals before once again losing to Germany on spot kicks.

England v Columbia, 1998 World Cup, Stade Felix-Bollaert

David Beckham's sublime free-kick helped England to victory against Columbia at the 1998 World Cup © Getty Images

David Beckham and Michael Owen made contrasting introductions to the world stage under new manager Glenn Hoddle. England started with a 2-0 win against Tunisia but lost their second group game to Romania. Victory against Columbia was then paramount if Hoddle and co were to keep their hopes in France alive.

After good work from Owen on the right, Darren Anderton, during a spell when he didn't need his sickbed, blasted England in front before Beckham confirmed their place in the knockout phase with one of those sublime free-kicks he would become famous for.

Although, the set-piece was slightly less impressive than the "Spice Boy" celebration.

What happened next?
Beckham found out the hard way how a player's fortunes can change in an instant. One silly little, bad tempered kick out at Diego Simeone during the fiery last-16 encounter with Argentina saw him turn from England hero into a petulant, sarong-wearing zero. He was vilified up and down the country with hanging effigies and later admitted that he received death threats.

Owen, though, was a very different case. An incredible, jinking solo run saw the youngster leave Argentina's defence in tatters as he finished one of the best solo goals from an Englishman seen at a major finals. It was a goal worthy of winning the match but, after Sol Campbell's seemingly legitimate header was ruled out for no apparent reason, England lost again on penalties. Not that we're bitter.

England v Argentina, 2002 World Cup, Sapporo Dome, Japan

Four years later and a generation of children were being allowed to watch the first half of England games before their school lessons started. When the group draws were made, though, there was only one match the fans were looking at. England would play Argentina under the roof of the Sapporo Dome.

Four years after getting sent off against Argentina, David Beckham banished his demons at the Sapporo Dome © Getty Images

After a draw against Sweden, Beckham finally got a chance to banish the demons which had haunted him over the last four years. Owen was tripped in the box by now Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino (it was definitely a penalty), captain Beckham stepped up with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Two deep breaths and he fired straight down the middle to ensure victory, before a draw against Nigeria was enough to see them through.

What happened next?
The equivalent of a dozen eggs fell on David Seaman's face. England tore past Denmark in the last 16 to set up a battle with Brazil for a place in the semi-finals.

Owen put Sven's men in front with a fine finish, but Brazil struck back deep into first half added time through Rivaldo. That hurt, but nowhere near as much as Ronaldinho's second-half free-kick, which floated precariously over goalkeeper Seaman's head and into the net. What time's the plane home?

England v Switzerland, Euro 2004, Estadio Cidade de Coimbra

With England minutes from an opening group win against France (which also saw a Beckham penalty saved by Fabian Barthez), Zinedine Zidane equalised in added time with a brilliant free-kick before Steven Gerrard kindly decided to play Thierry Henry through on goal. Henry was clattered in the box and, after a quick vomit, Zidane ensured England would go into their clash with Switzerland on nil points.

Enter Wayne Rooney. The young striker brought an entire nation to the edge of their seats with arguably his finest tournament in an England shirt to date. Wearing the No.9, Rooney headed England in front before doubling their lead in the 75th minute with a powerful, if slightly fortunate, strike which came back off the post and goalkeeper Jorg Stiel's head before it rolled in. Gerrard wrapped up victory while Bernt Haas also saw red.

What happened next?
More penalty heartbreak, this time against Portugal. An exciting 2-2 draw was settled with spot-kicks and saw Beckham blast England's first effort wildly over the bar. Rui Costa followed suit with Portugal's third and the scores were back level, but after Ricardo saved from Darius Vassell, the goalkeeper stepped up to send Portugal through to the last four and England's hopes were crushed once again.

Wayne Rooney had arguably his finest major tournament to date when impressing for England at Euro 2004 © PA Photos
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