Here begins a new series. England have now played 985 matches, and no one could possibly remember them all. Therefore, in a series of n parts, I will be reminding some of us [and educating others] about many of The Three Lions’ most irrelevant and forgotten games. Enjoy.
England’s second of four qualifiers for Chile 1962 saw them face Portugal in Lisbon. The heat was intense, and the score was level at the break. Just after the break, though, England fell behind. A defence lapse caused Three Lions keeper Ron Springett clashed with Bobby Robson, allowing prolific Benfica striker José Águas to steam in and stab home. England’s saviour was Ron Flowers, who found the equaliser with a deflected freekick nine minutes from time. Portugal’s outstanding keeper Costa Pereira is the reason England were unable to find the winning goal, here. Having already won 0-9 in Luxembourg, England managed to recover from this match, eventually topping the three-team group to make the following year’s finals. Portugal, in their next match, managed to lose to Luxembourg. That’s quite an achievement…
This one was worth forgetting. In England’s opener of the 1979-80, Wales ran out 4-1 winners over an England side including Glen Hoddle, Paul Mariner and Trevor Brooking. Having beaten world champions Argentina just four days earlier, England actually led through Mariner after sixteen minutes. The Ipswich Town forward slammed home following a goal-line scramble. By the thirty-minute mark, England were behind. Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground enjoyed a sunny match of football, but things were going from bad to worse for England. Leighton James’ perseverance down the left-wing brought his first, but Wales’ third, goal. Mike England’s side turned a win into a whipping, as Phil Thompson scored an unlucky own-goal. The match brought England right back down to earth after their victory over the Argentinians, and they never recovered, losing the Home Championships to Northern Ireland.
3 – England 2-1 Scotland, 1899, Home Championships
I won’t be disappointed if you don’t remember this one. In England’s final match of the 19th century, the home side stole a 2-1 win at what is now called Villa Park, of Aston Villa. 25,590 people were in attendance as G. O. Smith scored the first goal of the game for England, with a 20-yard strike that clipped the post on its way in. Good work on the wings gave England their second goal. It was scored by James Settle, on forty minutes. Scotland began the second half well, and at this point they forced their goal. However, England embraced the dark arts, and held on to a 2-1 victory. England’s goal scorers, Smith and Settle, had scored seven goals between them just two months earlier, as The Three Lions thrashed united Ireland 13-2 in Sunderland. They’d had to work a great deal harder for this win.
In this one, Fabio Capello’s England had to fight from two goals down to steal a 2-2 draw at Wembley. Switzerland took the lead on 32 minutes – the first of three goals in five minutes. Midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta’s clipped freekick was delivered into the box. Eluding everyone, it bent round before beating Joe Hart at his far post. The then-Bayer Leverkusen midfielder was little craftier with his next freekick, just three minutes later. He spotted Joe Hart’s poor positioning, catching him out with a shot from what Hart anticipated would be a cross. Jack Wilshere’s marauding runs, a little lacking these days, helped England earn an immediate penalty afterwards. Taken down by his Arsenal teammate Johan Djourou for the spot-kick, England had a goal back when Frank Lampard snuck his penalty under goalkeeper Diego Benaglio for 1-2.
England’s equaliser was a thing of beauty. James Milner chipped the ball into the chest of left-back Leighton Baines. As the ball bounced kindly, Ashley Young volleyed across it, and the ball nestled powerfully in the bottom right corner, well beyond Benaglio’s dive. England were back level on 51 minutes. The two substitutes had combined excellently for the goal. Darren Bent, Stewart Downing and Young all had golden opportunities to complete the perfect comeback for England, but the winning goal never came. This thrilling home qualifier ended 2-2. Capello wasn’t to know it would end up being Roy Hodgson that led England to Euro 2012, not him.
England’s opening match of Euro 2004 qualifying was a tough tie in Bratislava. David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes all started in midfield, whilst current manager Gareth Southgate made his 51st appearance for The Three Lions. A terribly cut up pitch was maybe the distraction for England, as Slovakia took a shock lead. The opponent England knew most about, Middlesbrough’s Szilárd Németh, stabbed the ball under pony-tailed David Seaman for 1-0. Southgate and Beckham missed huge chances to put England back level, and Slovakia went into the break ahead.
England kept pressing for their leveller, and they earned it when David Beckham sent a curling freekick all the way in from thirty-five yards. Michael Owen claimed the final touch, but strikers always will! The goal belonged to Beckham. Owen got his moment though, as he gave England the priceless winner on eighty-two minutes. Paul Scholes did well to intercept the ball on the right-wing. The United man’s cross was deflected higher into the air, allowing Owen to nod home a simple header. England, in red and white, celebrated a hard-fought victory. The Three Lions were off to a winner in Sven Goran Eriksson’s first qualifier of any kind. England went on to win the group and qualify, just a point above second-placed Turkey.