Blood, sweat and tears – 3Retro’s iconic England moments from the 20th Century
On Thursday 14th November 2019, England's senior men's team reached the impressive milestone of 1000 international games. There has been plenty of ups and downs along the way, as well as the odd penalty shoot-out heartbreak, but also some amazing moments that brought a nation together and pints being flung across venues up and down the country. In this post, we’re going to have a look back at some memorable moments from our eventful history, starting with the most famous of days back in July 1966.
Our 1966 world cup campaign kicked off with a goalless draw against Uruguay at Wembley, however back to back 2-0 victories against Mexico (B. Charlton and Hunt) and France (Hunt x2) were enough to seal top spot in Group A and progress to the next round.
Argentina awaited in the quarter finals and provided a stern test. The game was goalless going into the final 15 minutes of the match, but a superb Geoff Hurst header sealed an important victory for The Three Lions, who progressed to the last four for the first time in our history. Portugal and the marvelous Eusebio were the opponents in the semi-final. Sir Bobby Charlton gave us the lead after half an hour, before adding a vital second goal with 10 minutes left. Minutes later a Eusebio goal resulted in a nervy finish to the game, but England held on to book their place in a mouth-watering final at Wembley against rivals West Germany.
The final was played on 30th July 1966 in front of 96,924 spectators at a packed-out Wembley Stadium – this remains the only time England have ever reached a World Cup final.
The game kicked off with England wearing our now famous red away shirt. West Germany managed to take the lead after 12 minutes through Helmut Haller, before another fantastic headed goal from Geoff Hurst levelled the scores 6 minutes later. The game remained 1-1 for the next hour of play, until West Ham United’s Martin Peters popped up on the 78th minute to give England a vital lead. The Jules Rimet Trophy was within our grasp. Unfortunately, England couldn’t hold on and Wolfgang Weber managed to snatch a dramatic equaliser with seconds left of normal time remaining. The game headed to extra time, and it was England again in the ascendancy. Despite the disappointing last minute equaliser, The Three Lions’ heads didn’t drop and eventually our effort was rewarded again through a controversial goal by Geoff Hurst – the Germans didn’t believe the ball crossed the line, but the officials disagreed and England were once again within touching distance of the famous trophy. West Germany kept pushing for another late equaliser, but England stood firm, and with seconds left Geoff Hurst raced away to seal an impressive hat trick. England were ahead 4-2 and seconds later the final whistle of a historic match for England was blown. They think it’s all over…it is now!
Our next memorable England moment came at the world cup in Spain 1982. England’s failure to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 world cups brought added excitement to Espana 82, and it didn’t take long for the celebrations to get going in Bilbao. Manchester Utd midfielder Bryan Robson scored a great goal after just 27 seconds to give England the lead against France – a game in which we went on to win 3-1. Despite not losing a game, England were sadly eliminated in the second group stage after consecutive 0-0 draws to West Germany and Spain.
Next on our list is an iconic moment from 1989 when ex England skipper Terry Butcher, aka Captain Blood, played on despite a nasty looking head injury suffered in a world cup qualifier against Sweden. A true England warrior who always put his body on the line for the country.
England went on to qualify for Italia 90, which brings us to our next memorable England moments. First up from Italia 90 is David Platt’s wonder goal against Belgium in the last 16. The game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes, but superb play from Gazza earned England a free kick in the final seconds of extra time. Gazza took the set piece himself and chipped the ball to the back stick, where David Platt produced a remarkable volley to send England through to the quarter finals.
Our next iconic England moment comes from the same tournament. After beating Cameron in a tough quarter final match thanks to another David Platt goal and a Gary Lineker double, England had to face old foes West Germany in the semi-final. The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes, and a goalless extra time period meant the game went to penalties. Misses from Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle sent West Germany through to the final. However, the game is probably most famous for Gazza’s emotional reaction to being booked which would have ruled him out of the final if England were victorious. The midfield maestro was also famously in tears after the disappointing defeat. On the plus side, the Italia 90 world cup saw England produce some of our favourite Three Lions shirts to date – check out our famous 1990 away and 1990 third shirt by clicking on the links.
6 years after the disappointment of Italia 90, England had the perfect chance to achieve greatness as we hosted Euro 96. Not only did the tournament produce one of the best European Championships we’ve seen, it also led to the creation of one of football’s most famous ever songs, ‘Three Lions (Football’s coming home)’ by English band The Lightning Seeds in collaboration with David Baddiel and Frank Skinner. The single reached number 1 in the UK, and then again in 1998 and more recently 2018.
One of our favourite moments at Euro 96 came in our second group game against our oldest rivals Scotland – the team we faced in our first ever international match back in 1872. A disappointing 1-1 draw in the opening group fixture against Switzerland meant we couldn’t afford to drop more points. The game was goalless at half time and tensions were building – an England victory was vital. England started the second half brightly though and the pressure was finally rewarded when a Gary Neville cross was headed home by star striker Alan Shearer. The game remained on a knife edge for the majority of the second half and was far from over as Scotland battled to get back into the game – Gordon Durie went close to an equaliser, but David Seaman produced a fantastic save to keep England ahead. The England number 1 was needed shortly after again as Scotland were awarded a penalty after a foul by Tony Adams. Scotland captain, Gary McAllister, stepped up to take the crucial penalty but David Seaman managed to guess right and produce an important save. The moment of the match came with just over 10 minutes to go though, when Paul Gascoigne produced a moment of magic. A lobbed through ball put Gazza on the edge of the Scotland box, one on one with Colin Hendy. The midfield maestro casually lifted the ball over the Scotland defenders head and volleyed home spectacularly to give England a vital win. The celebration that followed is just as iconic as the goal – Gazza, take a bow.
The win against Scotland meant that we only needed a draw in our final group game against Netherlands to top Group A. it wasn’t going to be easy though as the Dutch team had quality players all over the pitch; Van Der Sar, R De Boer, Seedorf, Bergkamp and Kluivert just to name a few. However, England were on fire that night and produced one of our finest performances in recent history. Alan Shearer put The Three Lions ahead with a neatly dispatched penalty, after Blind fouled Paul Ince inside the 18-yard box. Strike partner Teddy Sheringham doubled England’s lead just after half time with an impressive header from a Gazza corner. England were flying and moments later, England’s famous number 9, Alan Shearer, finished off a fantastic move by England. Great play by Gazza and Sheringham in the build up before a thumping finish by the Geordie. It didn’t stop there though, and 10 minutes later English fans were celebrating at Wembley again. A strike by Darren Anderton outside the box was fumbled by Edwin Van Der Sar, and Teddy Sheringham was on hand to finish from close range. England were 4-0 up after just over an hour – football was coming home. A late consolation from Patrick Kluivert put a small taint on an almost perfect England performance – an emphatic victory and definitely one to remember.
England progressed as group winners and had to face Spain in the quarter finals at Wembley. The game was tightly contested and eventually finished 0-0 after extra time. The penalty shoot-out which followed produced one of our favourite England moments of recently history. Shearer converted England’s first penalty before Hierro smashed his spot kick against the bar. Platt and Amor both converted the next two penalties. Next up for England was Stuart Pearce, who bravely stepped up to take England’s third penalty in the shoot-out - the painful memory of missing his spot kick in Turin at Italia 90 lingering over him. The hard tackling left back had a chance at redemption. Pearce took a deep breath and smashed the ball into the keepers bottom left hand corner – the relief, passion and courage shown by ‘Psycho’ was an iconic moment. David Seaman managed to produce a fine stop to deny Nadal, which sent England through to the semi-finals.
Another chapter of the long running history between England and Germany was played out at Wembley on June 26th, 1996. Germany were the designated ‘home’ side and wore their famous white and black strip, which meant England had to wear the grey away kit. The Wembley crowd were buzzing with optimism and expectation, and that only grew bigger when Alan Shearer gave England the perfect start after 3 minutes. A corner taken by Gazza was flicked on at the near post before being headed home by the prolific striker. The lead only lasted just over 10 minutes though – a German cross from the left-hand side was converted by Stefan Kuntz at the back post. The game remained 1-1 after 90 minutes and went into a dramatic extra time. England created the best chances and went extremely close through Darren Anderton, who struck the woodwork. Moments later a superb floated ball by Sheringham picked out Shearer on the right-hand side, who expertly volleyed a perfect looking ball across the face of the goal to Gazza who was ready to tap home. Somehow the ball managed to agonizingly trickle past Gazza without him getting a vital touch, Germany were let off the hook and the game eventually went to penalties. A perfect first 10 penalties meant the shoot-out went to sudden death – it was Gareth Southgate who stepped up for England and sadly failed to convert. Andreas Moller didn’t make the same mistake and leathered the ball home from the resulting spot kick to send Germany through to the final.
Our next memorable moment came just two years later at the 1998 World Cup in France, and the emergence of a new young superstar. Michael Owen had an impressive season for Liverpool, scoring 23 goals in 44 games in all competitions at just 18 years old, which convinced Glenn Hoddle to take him as part of the world cup squad to France. He became England’s youngest ever player at a World Cup when he came on as a substitute in the opening group game against Tunisia. In the following match, a 2–1 defeat to Romania, Owen again appeared as a substitute. His equalising goal made him England's youngest ever goal scorer in the tournament at the age of 18 years and 190 days. In stoppage time, he hit the post with a long-range shot, almost salvaging a point from the game. Owen’s impressive cameos in the group stage earned him a starting place in the round of 16 fixture against Argentina. An early Batistuta penalty gave Argentina an early lead, but just minutes later Michael Owen showed blistering pace and won a penalty himself, which Alan Shearer converted. Five minutes later and his confidence sky high after winning the penalty, Michael Owen produced a moment of absolute magic. The young 18-year-old showed fantastic pace and control to beat a couple of defenders and then the composure to rifle home a fantastic strike into the top corner. England had a new young superstar. Another future superstar, David Beckham, had a moment of madness early in the second half and picked up a famous red card for kicking out at Diego Simeone, but England managed to hold on and take the game to extra time and then penalties. Unfortunately, the game ended in all too familiar fashion, with England being knocked out on penalties, but the emergence of a bright young talent on the world stage gave fans optimism for the future.
And there you have it, 3Retro’s iconic England moments from the 20th century – let us know what yours are!