As Euro 2016 picks up speed, Roy Hodgson's England team have once again got the weight of expectation on their shoulders! Their unbeaten streak through qualifying built back up that belief only a die-hard England fan can understand. That this year is our year. Our time. Our turn to lift a trophy, to roar like the Lions we are! Even football heavyweights have backed us. Sven Goran Eriksson, Geoff Hurst, Jurgen Klopp. But it's not the first time. Or the second, or third, fourth or fifth time we've got our hopes up. In fact, in the last 20-years, we've managed to convince ourselves we can win. Every. Single. Time...
1. Euro 96
Terry Venables was blessed with a magnificent crop of players when he took England to, well, England, for Euro 96. We had Gazza, goal scoring machines Shearer and Sheringham. We had Seaman, Ince, Pearce, Gareth Southgate (more of him later!)
As proud hosts, we stormed through the group stages, with the rousing sounds of Three Lions On Our Shirt, behind us. We were convinced. This was our year. Our thirty years of hurt is OVER! (Yeh, it’s now fifty! FIFTY years of hurt!)
Then came the semi-final – against our fiercest rivals. Germany.
We put on a good show, battled through to extra time. But then Gazza hesitated, missing a chance at golden goal. And so it went to penalties. Oh. Dear. We’ve never been very good at those…
Still, we netted the first five. Only, so did Germany.
Then, up steps Gareth Southgate. And taps the ball tamely into the arms of Germany’s keeper. Seaman couldn’t save Germany’s sixth and the rest is history. Much like our best chance of lifting a trophy.
It wasn’t all bad for Gareth Southgate though. He got a Pizza Hut advert out of it!
2. France 98
Glenn Hoddle is at the helm. And with a promising, very youthful, squad, we have the best start to a World Cup since 1982. We begin to believe. The flags of St George were proudly waved from the stands as we stormed to the quarter-finals.
Then there was that Michael Owen goal against Argentina – now a part of World Cup history. We are AMAZING! But then Beckham saw red, literally. After being fouled by Diego Simeone, our young Golden Balls kicked out his leg, tripping Simeone up. Down to ten men, the match went to penalties, and, well, you know the rest…
The nation blamed Beckham, and it took a long time for him to be classed as an England hero once again.
3. Euro 2000 – Belgium and Holland
By the year 2000 Kevin Keegan had been handed the ropes. Our naive, hot-headed young squad had matured a little. Could they be trusted to bring home the silverware?
Alas, that inevitable disappointment came around all too quickly when we failed to even get out the group. A late penalty to Romania sent us packing. England were coming home. Again.
4. World Cup 2002
Despite our 5-1 destruction of Germany in Munich, it was still left to Beckham’s infamous injury time free kick against Greece to pull us through the qualifying stages by the skin of our teeth. Yay! Golden Balls is a hero once again!
Still, we had a squad of young, exciting, world class players. It looked very promising. Sven was still our hero. Then the injuries hit.
Less than two months before the tournament, David Beckham broke his foot. Then, Gerrard bowed out to have groin surgery, Dyer was doubtful.
But we made it out the group. Smashed Denmark 3-0 in the second round. Our belief surged, especially when we went ahead against Brazil in the quarters thanks to a stunning opener from Michael Owen. But alas, England did what England does best. We crumbled, losing 2-1 booking our tickets home.
5. Euro 2004
This time we had maturity, experience, and a sparkle of youth! David Beckham, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Sol Campbell etc.
And we were (are!) still living off the glory of England’s 2001 5-1 defeat of Germany – on their home turf. Sven was still in charge, still our hero.
We were so convinced this time. And we started well at the tournament in Portugal. Rooney scored four goals in our opening three games. Once again, we had that trophy in our sights. But then Rooney broke a metatarsal 27 minutes into the quarter-final against Portugal.
And as he limped off, our hopes went with him. One disallowed goal later, extra time happened, before England went out on penalties for the fourth time since 1990. But on the bright side, underdogs Greece took home the trophy, giving us the hope that one day, that could be us!
6. World Cup 2006
What started off so well, so promising, so, and here’s that word again… hopeful. But our journey to Germany in 2006 ended in complete and utter disaster. First of, our faith in Sven, a hero for so long, began to wobble.
Still, once again our lads had fought their way out the group. Then we had to face a team fast becoming our nemesis. Portugal.
And the quarter-final sure was a battle. England lost skipper, the restored David Beckham, to injury just after half-time. And then Wayne Rooney lost it, Golden Balls style, stamping on Ricardo Carvalho. Down to ten men, we still held the score to 0-0 by the final whistle.
So, then guess what happened? Yep – penalties. A dismal attempt followed and three of our stars – Lampard, Gerrard and Carragher – all failed to score. And none of them even got a pizza advert.
Still, the 2006 World Cup will forever be known for this, unbelievable Zidane headbutt!
7. Euro 2008
England inexplicably decided they’d rather not travel to Austria and Switzerland in 2008, so didn’t bother winning any important matches. They were too busy being divas, promoting their brands and competing for the best looking WAG. The shame the nation felt as the tournament played out can still be felt by die hard England fans. It hurt. A lot. Especially because we really thought, if they’d got their act together and bothered to play, we really, really had a shot…
8. World Cup 2010
Poor performance in the group stage meant we scraped out the group as runners up to the USA. Who don’t even really play football. By now England are wondering if we do either! It meant we faced Germany in the second round.
We get hammered 4-1. But then again, there was that dubiously disallowed Lampard goal, and us English love lamenting the unfairness of things, and the what ifs. That goal happened at a crucial moment. England would have equalised. It would have changed the entire game, we could have won, knocked out our biggest rivals and gone on to be victorious. We could have. If…
But we didn’t. We flew home, humiliated, as always. But, at least we didn’t have the disastrous tournament France did. The team’s behaviour was deemed so bad the poor lads were flown home economy…
9. Euro 2012
We’d topped the group, had a couple of wins under our belt, and a quarter-final against Italy loomed. The fans were brimming with confidence! Only, the pressure got us. When the final whistle went at 0-0 after extra time, we were asking one question. How? Italy hit the post twice, had a goal disallowed and had been relentless at attacking our goal. Still, we just had to score a few from the spot and we’d be through. Oh, right. Well that was never going to happen, was it.
10. World Cup 2014
We had every faith in Roy Hodgson to lead our boys to glory. But they didn’t win a game. Not one. Nada. We were out before it even really began and some fans even defected to Germany.
But don’t worry! Rio Ferdinand told us all to still have faith. Only lack of experience cost us the World Cup, but it was very important to develop the young players…Euro 2016 could, finally, be our year!
11. Euro 2016?!
We will have to wait and see what happens…