5 Forgotten England Games | Issue 3

Welcome back to this – the third issue of 5 Forgotten England Games. Most England fans could and should be able to recall the matches of 2018 like the back of their hand. Less memorable are these five fixtures. Scratch your heads and have a think about which of these you remember watching.

1 – Greece 0-2 England, 1971, European Championships qualifier

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, European Championships finals included just four teams. England had no luck in 1972, losing to fellow qualification-group-winners West Germany 3-1 on aggregate. The West Germans went on to win the tournament; England didn’t qualify. England made their group look rather routine prior to playing the Germans, even if it included Switzerland and Greece. In their final group qualifier, England travelled to Athens. Moore captained them for the 74th time with Gordon Banks in goal.

The match was lit up by the Three Lions’ attacking-midfield trio. Alan Ball, Colin Bell and Martin Peters offered flair that Greece were unlikely to be able to compete with. Midway through the second period, England took a deserved lead as World Cup winner Geoff Hurst lashed the ball past goalkeeper Nikolas Christidis.

Greece, managed at the time by 1958 Northern Ireland World Cup hero Billy Bingham, were flattered by the scoreline, even after Martin Chivers made sure of victory by doubling the lead in the final minute. England’s Manchester City number 7 Francis Lee hit the woodwork twice in this game. It was an extremely one-sided event and wrapped up the group for England.

2 – England 2-1 Poland, 1996, World Cup qualifier

A month and a week after a 3-0 win in Moldova got Glenn Hoddle’s 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign off and running, the Three Lions’ former magician faced his first home match as England manager. Nearly 75,000 packed into the old Wembley as the likes of Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Neville and Gareth Southgate lined up for Hoddle’s side, fresh from their semi-final performance at Euro ’96.

Poland took an unexpected early lead when a bouncing cross from the right was never cleared by England’s backline. The ball fell kindly for the left-most Poland attacker – Marek Citko. The young midfielder took the ball down with his right foot before volleying over David Seaman with his left. England were behind in an important qualifier – with Italy in their group they didn’t need to drop any unnecessary points. Citko the goalscorer was linked with moves to Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool after this game, but declined because he decided to train as a priest. Although, it was England looking as though they needed divine intervention…

In only his second international appearance, it was a beautifully weighted long ball from David Beckham that did the trick for England. Goalkeeper Andrzej Woźniak committed to plucking the ball out of the sky but was beaten to the ball by Newcastle United’s Alan Shearer. In red-hot form at club level, the striker leaped above the reach of the goalkeeper, heading the ball into an empty net. On 25 minutes, it was England 1-1 Poland.

England finished the half strongly, looking for the lead. It duly arrived on 38 minutes, in emphatic style. Shearer jogged towards the box with the ball and unleashed a shot that deflected off a Poland body and into the path of strike-partner Les Ferdinand. The two strikers played together for club and country and were creating quite a bond. And it showed as Ferdinand laid the ball off for Shearer to lace an unstoppable long-ranger into the top corner. England headed into the break at 2-1 up.

Poland were tireless in their attempts to force a second-half equaliser. It never came. David Seaman and England held on to three hard-fought points at Wembley. England went on to qualify automatically for France ’98, a solitary point above play-off-bound Italy.

3 – Spain 1-1 England, 1955, Friendly

England’s 1954-55 season began well, as three wins from three in the British Home Championship sandwiched a 3-1 friendly West Germany Wembley win. In May, the England side toured Europe for three prestige matches, facing France, Spain and Portugal at their places. The Three Lions went down 1-0 to France and 3-1 to Portugal, drawing with Spain in Madrid between these defeats. 125,000 were in attendance as the Bernabéu welcomed these two future world champions of the game.

Nat Lofthouse, Duncan Edwards [number 6 in the photo] and Stanley Matthews lined up for England. The match ended up being an ugly, ill-tempered affair. Lofthouse had his shirt ripped so badly that he came out for the second-half wearing a new unnumbered shirt. Edwards and Lofthouse were involved in England’s first-half lead – a 20-yard piledriver from Chelsea’s Roy Bentley. England went in to the break ahead.

The Spaniards gained their leveller on 65 minutes. A rare Duncan Edwards mistake allowed five-time European Cup winner Héctor Rial to find the back of the net. The then-Real Madrid striker went on to manage Spain’s 1972 Olympic side as well as Saudi Arabia and later El Salvador. The second period was never going to have the rhythm that the first had though. Nat Lofthouse had been rugby-tackled to the ground when through in on goal on 40 minutes, and the guilty man had not been given his marching orders.

Fouls and feuds continued until the final whistle. England claimed their single draw of a thoroughly miserable end-of-season tour.

4 – Norway 0-1 England, 2012, Friendly

This was Roy Hodgson’s first match as England manager. England hadn’t beaten Norway in Oslo since 1966 and a long list of absentees meant Hodgson’s first outing was likely to be a tough one. Robert Green started in what ended up being his last cap. Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott captained England at different periods throughout the match.

In their first match of the summer, England nearly made the perfect start. A strong run and cross from Stewart Downing deserved better than Andy Carroll’s missed header. However, just a couple of minutes later, England did get their goal. Downing and Ashley Young countered well and a smart drop of the shoulder by the latter perhaps beat Fulham centre-back Brede Hangeland too easily. Young fired the ball low past the goalkeeper and into the net.

Midfielder Mohammed Abdellaoue and goalkeeper Rune Jarstein were the best performers for the home side in a game that England perhaps didn’t dominate in the way they would have expected to. Leighton Baines and James Milner had good chances to double England’s lead before the inevitable conveyor belt of substitutes began rolling. Jordan Henderson was among the substitutes, as was a 19-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – on for his international debut. The final moment of note came in the 88th minute, when Phil Jones was replaced at the back by then-Liverpool fullback Martin Kelly. Having never appeared for England since, the defender can claim to have enjoyed the shortest England career in history.

England won the match 1-0, possessed the ball only 45% of the time and went on to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. They were defeat by Italy… on penalties.

5 – England 1-3 Scotland, 1877, Friendly

In only the sixth match in their history, England were beaten at home by the Scots for the first time ever. Oxford University’s William Rawson captained his country for the first and only time. In this match, Scotland competed better in rainy conditions, passing well and causing England to defend for long periods. England, by contrast, were much more selfish and their players were constantly robbed of the ball. Eventually, poor football cost England. Slick Scotland found themselves two up after 48, thanks to goals from John Ferguson and James Richmond.

England needed to pull one back and did through Alfred Lyttleton. The forward had been educated at Eton and then Trinity College Cambridge. Besides playing football, he was also an international cricketer and even a politician. Late on though, Ferguson found the net for the second time, this one coming direct from a freekick. 3-1. On the day that Rutherford Hayes became the 19th President of the United States, England lost to Scotland in the rain at the Kennington Oval.

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