What? That was a bit weird.
Facing the very side that had knocked them out of the World Cup in front of 80,000 people, England had just scored a vital equaliser in that do-or-die Nations League decider — from a throw-in…
It certainly wasn’t the first time that the Three Lions had scored in the most unconventional of ways, and it wasn’t going to be the last. Joe Gomez had cloned peak Rory Delap to hurtle the ball into the box with a thirty-yard throw. Harry Kane went slashing around in the melee. Jesse Lingard tapped into an empty net. England went on to win the game, reach the Nations League Finals, and relegate Croatia.
UEFA did some boardroom thinking. Then they did some boardroom rethinking, and Croatia survived relegation. So did Germany.
To score from a long throw was not out of the question — Gomez works under football’s only ‘throw-in coach’ at his club Liverpool — but it was at the very least unexpected. This wasn’t a Sunday League game, where the ref is the home club secretary; this was a prestigious competitive international between a World Cup finalist and a former World Cup winner.
Ahead of their doomed trip to South Africa, England’s last warm-up match before the 2010 finals came in Austria against Japan. The Three Lions avoided defeat and turned the game by scoring twice in the final 20 minutes. Except England hadn’t scored either of them — Japan had pushed the self-destruct button twice. Does it even work like that?
The second was a textbook own goal (not that budding footballers should really be learning how to score own-goals via a textbook, or at all in fact); the first a comical classic. Joe Cole’s low-ish cross into Wayne Rooney at the far stick would never meet him. Marcus Tulio Tanaka, who had opened the scoring at the ‘right’ end, hurled himself towards the ball, thumping a cannon header past his hapless No 1. At the risk of opening up a hefty legal dispute, it looked decidedly like the kind of act that was going to earn ‘Tulio’ a pretty penny from some questionable individuals post-match.
England mucked up their 2010 World Cup campaign, of that there is no doubt. Things were even worse four years on though. Roy Hodgson and England prepared for Manaus, Brazil and bombing out, with a package holiday to Miami where they faced Ecuador and Honduras.
In the first of those underwhelming draws, the side’s opener in an entertaining 2-2 draw came courtesy of talisman Wayne Rooney. It owed much to Rickie Lambert, and it owed absolutely nothing to Lambert all at the same time.
The then Southampton forward backheeled the ball against the post from no more than a yard out. You work your way up from employment at a beetroot factory to scoring freely in the Premier League, and then miss a genuinely open goal from a yard out in a full England international. Was it all worth it after all?
Luckily, Rooney was there, gobbled it up, equalised for England, and set his team on their way to taking the lead emphatically — thanks to none other than Lambert — early in the second half. If Lambert’s goal was cracking, Rooney’s was cringeworthy, because of Lambert.
October 2013, a freezing cold Wembley. England needed maximum points from a home double-header with Montenegro and Poland to guarantee automatic qualification for the World Cup. Ukraine were breathing down their necks. They needed to stop drawing with average sides. Ukraine home, Poland away, Montenegro away, Ukraine away: four games, four draws.
Inspired by an irrepressible debutant called Andros Townsend, England thrashed Montenegro 4-1. At a critical moment of the match, they doubled their lead thanks almost entirely to the visitors’ fringe player Branko Bošković (pictured).
He might have played for Paris Saint-Germain seven years earlier, but he certainly wasn’t being beckoned back on a one-way flight to the French capital any time soon. Danny Welbeck ran into the unmarked left channel, digging the ball back to the edge of the box. Daniel Sturridge wasn’t going to reach it, but Bošković did, connecting an awful, awkwardly stretched right foot onto the spinning ball. It bounced further and further towards the far corner of the goal, evading the desperate goalkeeper and nestling quite perfectly from England’s point of view. Bošković turned away, chatting and chuckling wryly to himself.
England won the match comfortably, but who knows how it might have turned out had attacking midfielder Bošković not netted a truly bizarre, almost impressive, own goal?
Does it get any more unlucky than this? Alessandro Della Valle is not a familiar name for many. In fact, he’s merely a bank clerk from San Marino. Why would he be at all recognisable, then?
It could be because he scored not one but two own goals ‘against’ England. San Marino faced Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions in successive qualifying campaigns for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championships. Not only did Della Valle stab into his own net to open the scoring in an 8-0 England away win in 2013, but he also converted the last of a 5-0 Wembley rout a year on.
The shaggy-haired centre-back has two England goals — two more than Matt Le Tissier, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Jordan Henderson, Ashley Cole and both of the Neville brothers combined… An almost commendable record.
England goals from strange places. David Seaman hoofed the ball upfield after Scotland had been caught offside in the England box. A give-and-go in the middle of the park. Paul Gascoigne looped the ball over Colin Hendry. ‘Gazza’ volleyed into the net superbly. Route one.
A terrific England goal celebrated with intemperance and ingenuity. A goal crafted from a goalkeeper’s clearance.
Photo Credits: Sky Sports [photo 1], Getty Images [photo 2], Associated Press [photo 3]