Four times when quarter-finals DIDN'T mean heartbreak for England

England have the chance to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 against Ukraine, and the quarter-finals have not ALWAYS been unkind to them before...

Let's face it: England and quarter-finals are not an especially happy combination if you're a Three Lions fan.

Historically, the last eight of a competition is where England teams, even the best ones on paper, tend to fall in some completely heartbreaking fashion.

However, as Gareth Southgate prepares to lead his troops in their Euro 2020 quarter-final against Ukraine on Saturday, we take a look at the four occasions where England made it past their traditional (nearly) impassible hurdle.

England 1-0 Argentina (1966 World Cup, England)

We tend to think of football in 1966 as a contest between gentlemen - fiercely contested but devoid of the various 'antics' of today. Whenever we feel the urge to believe that, then England vs Argentina in the 1966 World Cup is probably recommended viewing.

This was a match in which the Argentina captain, Antonio Rattin, was sent off after 35 minutes for dissent and yet refused to leave. Later, he would accuse the referee of 'playing with an England shirt on.'

Alf Ramsay, meanwhile, seemed perplexed as to why the referee hadn't sent more of the Argentinian players off. After the final whistle, he stopped George Cohen from swapping shirts with one of their players, telling him: "George, you are not changing shirts with that animal."

Afterwards things did not entirely calm down either. According to The Guardian: Argentina's Roberto Ferrero attacked the referee and the forward Ermindo Onega spat in the face of the Fifa vice-president, Harry Cavan, both earning three-match international bans. An Argentinian player urinated in the tunnel and a chair was thrown into the England dressing room. The Argentinian squad then attacked the England bus and, when someone tried to stop them, he had half an orange squeezed in his face.

The Argentinian FA apologised, but said their players were "provoked by the referee who was absolutely biased in favour of England." Italian newspaper Il Messaggero described the match as "a scandal in London."

Perhaps the Observer's Hugh McIlvanney described it best, though, famously writing it was "not so much a football match as an international incident."

By the way, Geoff Hurst scored the winner 13 minutes from time.

Cameroon 2-3 England (1990 World Cup, Italy)

While the semi-final heartbreaker against West Germany is the most memorable match of England's Italia '90 campaign, their clash with Cameroon was definitely the most entertaining.

Cameroon had been one of the stories of the tournament, with them causing a stir from the off by beating Diego Maradona's Argentina, the defending champions, 1-0 in the opening match.

England, meanwhile, were still struggling to get going. They had come through their group courtesy of a 1-0 win over Egypt in their final game, and then sneaked past Belgium thanks to a last-ditch life-changing winner from David Platt.

Platt was at it again in the quarters too, as he headed England into an early lead, but Cameroon turned the game completely on its head in four second-half minutes.

First Emmanuel Kunde levelled from the penalty spot and then Eugene Ekeke handed them the lead.

In an off twist of fate, though, penalties would be England's World Cup saviour, at least until their next match.

Gary Lineker scored from the spot to equalise with just seven minutes remaining. He repeated the trick in injury time and England's Italia '90 adventure could continue.

England 0-0 Spain (England win 4-2 on penalties), (Euro '96, England)

All you really need to know about this one is that it was the day that Stuart Pearce roared his way into English hearts forever.

Pearce missed a crucial penalty in the shoot-out against West Germany in the World Cup semi-final six years earlier, and an entire nation hurt with him.

Penalties were needed again in Euro '96 after a pretty poor 120 minutes against Spain, who were not the force they are now back then.

England were already in a good position when Pearce stepped up to earn his personal redemption. Alan Shearer and David Platt had both scored theirs, while Fernando Hierro had missed for Spain.

Pearce scored, and he exorcised his demons right there on the Wembley pitch.

In an interesting twist of sporting trivia, it was Miguel Angel Nadal who missed the decisive kick for Spain. He was known as the 'beast of Barcelona' back then, but he is also the uncle of tennis star Rafael Nadal.

Sweden 0-2 England (2018 World Cup, Russia)

It's probably fair to say that England have a little bit of a historic complex about Sweden. The Swedes have inflicted some painful football moments on the Three Lions, not least stopping them from reaching the 1994 World Cup.

When England were drawn with Sweden for the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup, there was no shortage of anxiety.

However, as it turned out, there need not have been, and that is perhaps a sign that things just might have changed after all for England.

Gareth Southgate was the manager, Harry Kane was the captain, Jordan Pickford was the goalkeeper, and England expertly negotiated themselves through a tricky quarter-final in a major tournament.

Harry Maguire and Jesse Lingard were the scorers on the day, although they did need a big save from Pickford in the middle of them to preserve the lead.

Latest news