England Profile

Major Honours World Cup (1)
Year Founded 1870

From playing in the first ever men's international, a World Cup and struggles to win another tournament, the history of England makes for very interesting reading for fans of global football.

The England men's national football team, also known as the Three Lions, is one of the biggest teams in international football history.

Their golden moment came in 1966, when they won the FIFA World Cup for the first and only time to date.

Beaten finalists at Euro 2020, England's history is a catalogue of near misses at major tournaments from semi-final exits to penalty shootout woe.

England play their home matches at the iconic Wembley Stadium, which was reopened in 2007 after the original Wembley was demolished, rebuilt on the same grounds as the old stadium.

Wembley has a capacity of 90,000 and is therefore the second largest stadium in Europe behind Barcelona's Camp Nou.

England's early history

An artist's rendering of an early match between England and Scotland in 1872

England and Scotland are the joint-oldest international football teams in the world, having been founded simultaneously and first played each other in a match organised by England's Football Association (FA) on 5 March 1870.

On 30 November 1872, the teams met again in Hamilton Crescent in a match organised by Scottish football representatives. This is recognised as the first official international football match, as the teams were independently selected and run rather than both being under the control of a single football association.

England joined FIFA in 1906, but left in 1928 due to friction with world football's governing body. They only rejoined in 1946 and Walter Winterbottom was named their first full-time manager.

England were eliminated from the first round of the 1950 World Cup, but Winterbottom stayed on and led them to the quarter-finals in 1954.

In 1958, having lost several key players to the Munich air disaster, they lost to the Soviet Union in the play-offs for a quarter-final spot.

The 1962 tournament was Winterbottom's last World Cup in charge and he once again led England to the quarter-finals, losing 3-1 to Brazil.

Alf Ramsey and the World Cup victory

A former England international with 32 caps to his name who turned his hand to coaching after retiring, Alf Ramsey was raising eyebrows in club management with Ipswich Town, having won the Third Division, Second Division then First Division titles with the Tractor Boys - going from a third-tier team to champions of England in the space of just six seasons.

In 1963, Ramsey was appointed manager and led England into the 1966 World Cup, which the Three Lions went on to win on home soil.

They beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time in the final, with Geoff Hurst scoring a famous hat-trick, although one of his goals possibly did not cross the goal line, much to the chagrin of the West Germans. The goal remains highly debated today.

Ramsey has been enshrined in England football's Hall of Fame and each member of the World Cup-winning squad are all considered as legends in their own right in England.

Under Ramsey, England reached the semi-finals of the European Championships for the first time in 1968, but were eliminated by Yugoslavia - but Ramsey's men beat the Soviet Union 2-0 to secure third place in the tournament in the play-off.

England qualified automatically for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico as defending champions, but were eliminated 3-2 after extra time in the quarter-finals by West Germany as their opponents from the '66 final exacted revenge against their conquerors four years prior.

England failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, leading to Ramsey's dismissal as manager. He was replaced by Don Revie after Joe Mercer enjoyed a short temporary spell in charge. Not only was he England's most successful manager, Ramsey's 11-year stint in charge means he's one of the longest-serving national team bosses for the Three Lions.

Having served a brief stint as Birmingham City manager later in the 1970s and taking on the role of technical director at Panathinaikos, he didn't take on any other roles in the game and he eventually passed away in 1999 at the age of 79.

The Don Revie fiasco and Ron Greenwood

Under legendary former Leeds United manager Revie, England failed to qualify for Euro 1976 or the 1978 World Cup. Revie had previously enjoyed tremendous success in charge of Leeds, but had horrific relationships with some within the Football League and the FA, which meant he was never truly welcomed as England manager.

Revie ultimately left England to become manager of the United Arab Emirates, having apparently courted the job for some time while still in charge of his nation.

Upon his departure, the FA suspended Revie for 10 years on a charge of bringing the game into disrepute, but he contested this in a successful lawsuit against the FA, with the ruling being that the FA had overreached its powers.

Ron Greenwood took over from Revie following his 1977 resignation and led England to the 1982 World Cup, where England were eliminated at the second group stage.

England under Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby Robson, England manager

Bobby Robson took over as England manager from Greenwood in 1982 and his reign got off to a poor start with failure to qualify for Euro 1984.

England and Robson bounced back to reach the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, but they lost 2-1 to Argentina there in a match famous for Diego Maradona's brace.

One of his goals was a blatant handball which he attributed in part to "the hand of God", while the other was a stunning solo effort from Maradona as he embarked on a superb run before beating goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

England lost every match at Euro 1988, but they impressed at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, losing 4-3 on penalties in a dramatic shootout in the semi-finals to West Germany after a 1-1 draw after extra time - including an infamous miss for Stuart Pearce which led to the nation rallying behind the England defender. England then lost to Italy in the third-place play-off.

Prior to the 1990 World Cup, manager Robson had confirmed he would step down as manager after the tournament.

The turbulent '90s

Graham Taylor replaced Robson, but England did not win a single match at Euro 1992 and he resigned after failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. After a defeat to the Netherlands, Taylor's tactics were widely criticised.

As a result, former Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur manager Terry Venables took control of the team - enjoying a two-year stint in charge between 1994 and 1996 which yielded success on the pitch.

Despite not qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, hosting Euro 1996 ensured England qualified automatically for the tournament. Alan Shearer scored five goals at Euro 1996 as England made the semi-finals, but Venables ultimately resigned following investigations into his personal finances.

Glenn Hoddle led England to the second round of the 1998 World Cup, but he left his job following controversy over his claim that disabled people were being punished for sins in a past life.

It was an up-and-down decade for the Three Lions, with events off the pitch being remembered in many ways as much as what had happened on the pitch. The so-called "golden generation" would be just around the corner, but the team's talent did not translate into major success.

The Golden Generation

Sven-Goran Eriksson was England's first foreign manager and the Swede led them to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.

It was under his management that Wayne Rooney burst onto the international scene. The rise in the careers of the likes of Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard meant that this was supposed to be England's "golden generation".

Eriksson's contract was terminated after the 2006 World Cup and he was replaced by Steve McClaren, who was sacked after failing to lead England to qualification for Euro 2008.

Fabio Capello took over and England performed well in 2010 World Cup qualifying, but at the tournament itself, they were eliminated in the last 16 in a 4-1 defeat to Germany. Lampard saw a goal ruled out after it was wrongly suggested that it had not crossed the goal-line.

Capello resigned shortly before Euro 2012 due to a disagreement with the FA over their request to remove John Terry as captain amid allegations of racism.

Roy Hodgson led England to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, where they lost to Italy on penalties. However, they suffered a disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign, which saw them eliminated in the group stage.

The Euro 2016 crisis and 2018 World Cup resurgence

Hodgson's hopes of a revival at Euro 2016 were dashed when England were embarrassingly eliminated in the round of 16 in a 2-1 defeat to an unfancied Iceland team who had qualified for their first ever major tournament.

After the tournament, Hodgson was replaced as manager by Sam Allardyce, but his reign ended in humiliation too after he appeared to advise undercover journalists on how to break transfer rules after just one match in charge of his country, making him the shortest-serving permanent manager in England history.

Having spent three years managing England's U-21 team, former England international player Gareth Southgate took charge with the senior team thereafter. With his knowledge of coaching young English talent, he managed to successfully transition the team and integrate new talent in the squad to shape a new England team for the current generation.

His approach paid dividends and led England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, where they surrendered an early advantage and lost 2-1 to Croatia, then going on to lose the third-place playoff to Belgium. This was England's best performance at a World Cup since 1990.

Gareth Southgate celebrates England progressing to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup

Euro 2020 final and heartbreak

With Euro 2020 being delayed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, England took the chance to bed-in a new-look team from the one that went so close in Russia.

An emphasis was placed on youth while retaining some key senior players such as Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Raheem Sterling, and Jordan Pickford.

At Euro 2020, the new younger England went all the way to the final, winning their group ahead of Croatia, Czech Republic, and Scotland, and then beating Germany, Ukraine, and Denmark in the knockout stages. Italy awaited in the final.

However, although it was England's first final in 55 years, the result was a crushingly familiar one, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka missing in a penalty shootout disappointment at Wembley.

World Cup in Qatar

The French players celebrate while Harry Kane of England regrets his penalty kick

Though England cruised through qualification for the 2022 World Cup, they struggled to perform at the 2022/23 Nations League.

They recorded their worst home defeat since 1928 in a 4-0 loss to Hungary in June 2022. After another defeat, this time to Italy again, England dropped into League B of the competition.

A run of six games without a win was quickly forgotten in the opening group match of the 2022 World Cup in November 2022, as Southgate led his team to a 6-2 win over Iran.

England then stumbled to a grim 0-0 draw with USA, before dispatching home nations rivals Wales 3-0 to top the group.

In the round of 16, Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal were brushed aside 3-0 with captain Harry Kane scoring his first goal of the tournament.

But their hopes were once again dashed at the quarter-final stage this time against reigning champions France.

France opened the scoring through Aurelien Tchouameni's early thunderbolt, only for Kane to level from the spot and equal Wayne Rooney's goalscoring record for the national team.

France's all-time scorer Olivier Giroud restored the World Cup holders' lead and it proved to be the winner after Kane blazed over a late penalty in a crushing 2-1 exit.

England legends

Former Everton and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is England's all-time top goalscorer with 53 goals. Peter Shilton, the goalkeeper who was beaten by Maradona in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals, is their record appearance-maker with 125 caps.

Bobby Moore was the captain of the England side that won the 1966 World Cup and the West Ham United legend is also regarded as one of England's greatest ever players.

Bobby Moore waves to the crowd at Wembley before kickoff for an England game

Other cap centurions for England are David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Billy Wright.

World-class talents have also appeared for England in the past, including the likes for Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Michael Owen, John Barnes and more.

England have had several fan-favourites in recent years to have played for their country, including the likes of Peter Crouch - whose famous 'robot' celebration became popular in England, alongside his fantastic return of 22 international goals in just 42 caps.

Despite the depth of talent to have played for England, the country is yet to add to its sole World Cup victory in 1966.

England's biggest rivals

England have a long-running rivalry with Germany as a result of their many major tournament battles, including the 1966 final and the 2010 round of 16 - both matches which were marred by controversy.

There is also a strong footballing rivalry with Argentina, who inflicted two of England's most notorious World Cup defeats. Diego Maradona's "hand of God" goal and Diego Simeone getting David Beckham sent off 12 years later were two moments which consolidated the rivalry. The rivalry was also exacerbated by the events of the Falklands War, when England and Argentina were in conflict in 1982.

The likes of WalesScotland and the Republic of Ireland also have rivalries with England. Scotland in particular hold the distinction of playing England in the oldest ever international fixture, with the nations having now met over 100 times and England boast the superior head-to-head record between the countries.

England's passionate fanbase

England national team supporters have long been associated with hooliganism, although the problem is not as widespread in the country as it used to be.

Despite changes to the football culture, there have been various unsavoury incidents involving travelling England supporters in recent years, including at Euro 2016 and a March 2018 friendly against the Netherlands. The latter incident saw over 100 English supporters detained. This was evident in London too for the final for Euro 2020, where a number of ticketless fans attemoted to storm gates at Wembley to gain access to the ground.

The 'Barmy Army' have always travelled in large numbers to major tournaments and international away matches, making England one of the best-supported countries in the game - wherever they play.

In big matches at major tournaments, English bars and public spaces are often overtaken by thousands upon thousands of supporters getting behind their team, often turning into wild celebrations when England win.

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