England’s 10 Most Tear-Jerking Defeats

Every other summer us English build up our hopes of our national team going all the way and lifting a prestigious trophy at the end of the tournament.  And ultimately, for the past 48 years we’ve been left disappointed, and often in tears.

We’ve selected England’s 10 most tear-jerking defeats over the years.  One for the Scots to enjoy reading…

  1. Romania 3-2 England (Euro 2000)

The opening day of Euro 2000 was heading for a dream just after 8pm local time – Germany had been held 1-1 by Romania in the tournament’s opening game, and less than 20 minutes into our opener against Portugal, Paul Scholes and Steve McManaman had fired us into a 2-0 lead.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold onto it – Luís Figo’s 30-yarder caught David Seaman by surprise before goals from João Pinto and Nuno Gomes saw Portugal run out 3-2 winners.

England bounced back in their second game with a 1-0 win over rivals Germany thanks to Alan Shearer’s header shortly after half-time to leave Die Mannschaft on the brink of elimination.

All England had to do now was avoid defeat against lowly Romania to reach the quarter-finals.  The Southeastern Europeans themselves had been beaten 1-0 by Portugal in their second game.  Somehow Kevin Keegan’s side threw away a 2-1 half-time lead (goals from Alan Shearer and a 20-year-old Michael Owen) to lose 3-2 in the 89th minute thanks to Phil Neville needlessly conceding a penalty.

Romania finished runners-up in the group, five points behind Portugal.  They would be eliminated 2-0 by Italy in the next round with Gheorghe Hagi’s international career coming to an end after receiving a second yellow card for diving in the penalty area.

Heading into Euro 2016 this remains Romania’s only ever victory in 13 European Championship matches.

  1. Argentina 2-2 England (World Cup 1998)

England made tough work of what was meant to be a comfortable group – losing 2-1 to Romania’s bleach-blonde squad saw Glenn Hoddle’s side finish second in the group behind their fellow Romania’s.

This set up a second round tie with the hotly-fancied Argentina who had stars such as Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Sebastián Verón, Aerial Ortega, Javier Zanetti and Diego Simeone (whilst Romania faced Croatia).

It all started badly in Saint-Étienne as Gabriel Batistuta dived to win a penalty from which he would give Argentina a 1-0 lead inside five minutes.

However, England hit back through Alan Shearer five minutes later before 18-year-old sensation Michael Owen’s first touch from David Beckham’s chipped pass took him pass José Chamot before making a fool of Roberto Ayala on the edge of the Argentina penalty area and finishing into the top corner to score one of the goals of the tournament.  2-1 England.

A cleverly-worked free kick in first-half stoppage time saw Javier Zanetti smash home an equaliser.

After four goals in the first half, England were memorably reduced to 10 men two minutes into the second half when Diego Simeone dramatically fell over Beckham’s leg.  Hoddle’s side were arguably the better and Sol Campbell even saw a goal disallowed.

No goals were scored in the second half or extra-time and despite England’s brave efforts with 10 men they would be eliminated from in a penalty shootout for the third time in their last four tournaments.  David Batty missed the crucial spot kick after Paul Ince had missed earlier.


  1. Croatia 3-2 England (Euro 2008 qualifying)

After losing their penultimate game against Russia in October, Steve McClaren’s side were handed a second chance as Russia were beaten in Israel the following month.

Assuming Russia would win in Andorra, England only needed a point at home to Slaven Bilić’s already-qualified Croatia to progress to the finals in Austria and Switzerland that following summer.

McClaren had made a bold decision to give Scott Carson only his second-ever cap and drop David Beckham to the bench.  It backfired immediately as Niko Kranjčar forced a howler out of Carson early on and then Ivica Olić gave Croatia a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes.

On came Beckham and Jermain Defoe at half-time and all momentum changed when Frank Lampard converted a penalty in the 56th minute.  Becks then set up Peter Crouch for the equaliser on 65’.

However, Croatia did not back down and Mladen Petrić caught the defence napping with a long-range stunner to eliminate England at the qualifying stage.

Croatia would reach the quarter-finals at Euro 2008, going out on penalties to Turkey after a dramatic extra-time, whilst Guus Hiddink’s Russia reached the semi-finals after eliminating the Netherlands.


  1. Germany 4-1 England (World Cup 2010)

Fabio Capello’s side were awful in the group stage – drawing 1-1 with a weak-looking USA team, held 0-0 by Algeria before scraping through the second round with a nail-biting 1-0 win over Slovenia.

Whilst 10-man German had lost to Serbia in their group, they handed Australia a national record 4-0 defeat, and beat Ghana to set up a seventh meeting in an international tournament between these two huge footballing nations.

Why many pundits and journalists were confident England could overcome a German national team that included the likes of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose is beyond me, but oh well.

Matt Upson got confused by a long Neuer goalkick to allow Klose to put Germany ahead.  Lukas Podolski made it 2-0 just after the half-hour mark before Upson halved the deficit headed home from a set piece that Germany had initially failed to clear.

The Three Lions had reason to believe they were screwed when Frank Lampard’s effort was ridiculously ruled out which would have made it 2-2 early in the second half if the officials and Sepp Blatter were straight.

However, at 2-1, Germany took advantage on the counter-attack with Thomas Müller scoring two quickfire goals to give Joachim Löw’s side an emphatic victory – and England’s biggest ever loss in a World Cup.

Germany would thrash Diego Maradona’s Argentina 4-0 in the next round before losing to Carles Puyol’s sole header in the semi-finals to eventual champions Spain.


  1. Portugal 2-2 England (Euro 2004)

England had thrown away a 1-0 lead in stoppage time to lose 2-1 to France in their opening group game (that one didn’t quite make it on the list) but an immaculate 18-year-old Wayne Rooney was taking the tournament by storm, scoring a brace in the 3-0 thrashing of Switzerland and twice again in beating Croatia 4-2 to progress from the group as runners-up.

Hosts Portugal had bounced back from their surprise 2-1 loss to Greece in the tournament opener, beating Russia and Spain to advance as group winners.

Members of the Portuguese Golden Generation, Luís Figo and Manuel Rui Costa were still going, whilst Champions League winners that season, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Costinha, Maniche and Deco all started.  As did Cristiano Ronaldo.

England made an impressive start in this match, taking the lead after only three minutes through Michael Owen.  The better team for the early exchanges, they would lose boy wonder Wayne Rooney before half hour as Jorge Andrade raked his studs down his Achilles heel, keeping the Manchester United-bound striker out of action for a couple of months.  The referee decided the Portuguese centre-back didn’t deserve any punishment.

Sven-Göran Eriksson’s side were hanging on for the final 10 minutes before John Terry allowed Tottenham Hotspur reject Hélder Postiga a free header to level the score.  The Portuguese striker had scored only one goal in 19 Premier League appearances that season.

With 10 minutes left of extra-time, Rui Costa smashed the hosts ahead from 20 yards before Frank Lampard turned home a corner to send it to penalties.

David Beckham blazed over the opening spot kick before Rui Costa would do similar with Portugal’s third effort.  Amazingly, England scored five in a row but Portugal didn’t miss again before Darius Vassell’s tame effort was saved by Ricardo who had even taken his gloves off just before.  The goalkeeper then scored the winner himself.

Portugal went all the way to the final where they were heavy favourites to beat Greece.  They lost 1-0 leaving a young Cristiano Ronaldo in tears…


  1. Portugal 0-0 England (World Cup 2006)

Two years later these sides would meet again in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Sven’s Golden Generation of players were unimpressive in reaching the final eight but many were hoping they would finally up their game for this rematch.

England had only beaten Paraguay 1-0 in their opener despite taking an early lead, before relying on Peter Crouch’s hair tug to finally break the deadlock in a 2-0 win over unfancied Trinidad & Tobago.  They won the group with a 2-2 draw against Sweden.

David Beckham’s cross-come-shot from 35 yards was the only goal of the game in a poor performance against Ecuador to get them past the second round.

Meanwhile, Portugal had collected a maximum nine points in the group stage with victories over Angola, Iran and Mexico before beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the second round – a game in which both sides were reduced to nine men with Deco and Costinha both sent off and suspended for the quarter-final.  FIFA let Figo get away with butting heads though.

Wayne Rooney’s sending off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho led to Ronaldo’s infamous wink – about the only highlights of this 120-minute battle in Gelsenkirchen.

Ricardo would be Portugal’s hero once again, this time saving three of England’s four penalties with Ronaldo scoring the winner.


  1. Brazil 2-1 England (World Cup 2002)

David Beckham’s penalty versus Argentina was England’s only group stage win as they were held 1-1 by Sweden in their opener and 0-0 against Nigeria in an early kickoff to progress as runners-up.

Group winners Sweden went out to surprise package Senegal in the second round whilst England smashed Denmark 3-0.  This was after the Danes topped a group that also consisted of Uruguay and defending champions France.

Brazil had it easy to the last eight – despite a struggle 2-1 win over Turkey in their opener, they then thrashed China 4-0 and Costa Rica 4-2 to set up a second round tie versus Belgium where they were comfortable 2-0 winners.

Many thought the winner of this quarter-final would go on to win the tournament, and they would be correct.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be England despite Michael Owen taking advantage of a defensive mistake Lúcio to give Sven’s side a 1-0 lead midway through the first half.

However, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side were able to find an equaliser in first half stoppage time to change the momentum of the game.  David Beckham jumped over a challenge in the opposition half to concede possession, no one would put a challenge in on Ronaldinho, who set up Rivaldo will a cool left-footed finish.

Five minutes into the second half and Ronaldinho gave Brazil the lead with a cheeky free kick, catching David Seaman off his line.  The goalscorer would be sent off for a second yellow card on 57 minutes for a nasty challenge on Danny Mills’ ankle.

Brazil held on, going on to beat Turkey in the semi-finals and then Germany 2-0 in the final (Oliver Kahn’s blunder seconds after Didi Hamann’s dive).

In Brazil’s seven games at this World Cup, this was the only game in which Golden Boot winner Ronaldo didn’t score.


  1. Argentina 2-1 England (World Cup 1986)

Four years after the Falklands War, Argentina and England met in the quarter-finals of Mexico ’86 which would see two of the most famous goals in World Cup history.

After starting the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Portugal and being held 0-0 by Morocco, Sir Bobby Robson’s men were beginning to find their form with a 3-0 win over Poland to progress from the group and then a 3-0 thrashing of Paraguay in the second round.

Argentina beat South Korea and Bulgaria either side of a draw with defending champions Italy, in their group, then eliminated fellow South Americans, Uruguay, 1-0 in the second round.

Diego Maradona punched Argentina into a 51st minute lead – a ‘goal’ which over 100,000 fans in the stadium and everyone at home knew shouldn’t have stood, but which only Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser claimed not to see.  Years later Maradona would give the referee an Argentine national football team shirt, calling him “my eternal friend” – suggesting he was in on it.

This gave Maradona the confidence to score one of the greatest goals in football history four minutes later as England had not cleared their heads from the ridiculous opener.  Gary Lineker scored a late consolation but Argentina progressed, going on to beat West Germany 3-2 in the final.


  1. West Germany 0-0 England (World Cup 1990)

The FA showed little faith in Sir Bobby Robson before the start of Italia ’90, letting him know that he would not be in charge following the conclusion of the tournament.  The English legend subsequently agreed to join PSV Eindhoven but not before taking the national team on a memorable run in 1990.

The Three Lions made hard work of their group stage – drawing 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland and 0-0 with the Netherlands before beating Egypt 1-0 in their final game to top the group (if that game had have finished 1-1, all four teams would have finished with three draws and identical goals scored).

David Platt scored the only goal of the game in the second round win over Belgium, in te last minute of extra time before Sir Bobby’s team came from behind to beat Cameroon 3-2 in extra-time in their quarter-final.

West Germany were comfortable group winners, comfortable second round winners over the Netherlands and then beat Czechoslovakia 1-0 in Milan to set up their next part of their rivalry with England.

The better team lost this match no doubt.  Chris Waddle struck the ball from 40 yards as England failed to beat Bodo Illgner before Andreas Brehme scored a free kick off a ridiculous deflection off Paul Parker whom himself had ignored teammate Peter Beardsley’s advice to stand on the edge of the wall.

Gary Lineker’s scuffed effort late on sent England into extra-time for their third successive game.  Paul Gascoigne picked up the most famous yellow card for a foul on Thomas Berthold that would mean he missed the final.  Berthold himself made the most of it and this came moments after Germany had got away without a booking for a far worse foul.

It came down the penalties with both teams scoring their first three.  Stuart Pearce blasted his at Illgner’s legs before Chris Waddle blazed his over and England were on the plane home.

Gazza had lit up the tournament for England fans who started to believe in their national team once again, flying home heroes.


  1. Germany 1-1 England (Euro 1996)

After a disappointing Euro 1992 campaign that saw England finish bottom of their group (losing to a Thomas Brolin goal after drawing 0-0 with eventual champions Denmark, and France).

England then failed to qualify for USA ’94 and didn’t head into hosting Euro ’96 in any sort of form or confidence.

Baddiel and Skinner’s Three Lions song got every pumped that summer and despite drawing 1-1 with Switzerland in their opening game, Terry Venables’ side were on a role after beating rivals Scotland 2-0 and then thrashing one of the favourites, the Netherlands, 4-1 (Patrick Kluivert’s consolation goal for Guus Hiddink’s side would end up eliminating Scotland).

The Tree Lions relied on some help from the linesman and a penalty shootout to beat Spain in the quarter-finals.

Germany progressed from a tricky group with a game to spare – beating Czech Republic 2-0 and Russia 3-0 before holding Italy to a stalemate in their final game.  Who knows what would have happened to Berti Vogts’ side in the quarter-finals if Croatia’s Igor Štimac hadn’t have got himself sent off.  The Germans progressed 2-1 none-the-less.

In the show down at Wembley, England lost a coin toss meaning Germany got to wear their white kit and Venables’ side dressed in that memorable, ugly grey thing.

Germany were without the suspended Jürgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff and things were looking great when Alan Shearer headed England in front at the near post from a corner inside three minutes.

Stefan Kuntz equalised on 15 however and no more goals were scored for the next 75 minutes.  Germany had a Golden Goal disallowed in extra-time whilst Darren Anderton struck the inside of the post and Paul Gascoigne twice narrowly missed out sliding home at the back post.  Penalties once again.

Both nations scored their opening five kicks but it would be Gareth Southgate who would become England’s enemy that summer with his tame effort easily saved by Andreas Köpke.  Andy Möller smashed home Germany’s winner before strutting off to taunt the crowd.

Germany went on to beat Czech Republic with the first-ever Golden Goal and in the only game at Euro 96 where a team came from behind to win…


You must be logged in to post a comment Login