England’s five biggest heartbreaks at the FIFA World Cup finals

Despite being former winners of the tournament in 1966, England have had their fair sure of let-downs on the grandest stage of all…


Luck is defined as: “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”.

People often link the above to heartache and underachievement because they don’t want to answer the hard questions.

England have started well, as well as they have at a World Cup in quite some time. But that isn’t the highest of standards to try and eclipse. A nation that have frequently underachieved on the grandest stage see their dirty laundry thrown all over the world time and time again.

In the grand scheme of things, they’re not actually terrible. One World Cup win and a couple of respectable showings genuinely isn’t the end of the world, but with the players are their disposal, the hype and the avoidance of underlying issues stick. And they twist.

Here’s the worst five tournament performances (on the pitch, not in the recording studio – thank Christ).

Back the World Cup at PaddyPower.com

5 – Italy 1990

This one’s a tad harsh, maybe – but we have to start somewhere. The evolution of penalty-taking psyche can be traced back to here.

England began this tournament by drawing with the greatest team to have ever graced a World Cup. It’s a divine miracle they even managed to pick up a point, so fair play to them.

However, after impressive wins against Belgium and Cameroon, England were on a roll. West Germany awaited – the old enemy. Psychologically, this is probably the turning point for every squad that has tried to avoid the same fate. Instead of dissecting what happened, though, they simply papered over cracks and wrote it off as luck.

A confident Lineker stepped up to take the first spot-kick in Turin. Confident after his goal, he converted. A good start on the potential path to just a second World Cup final. But Brehme also netted. Beardsley converted his – advantage England. But no – Matthaus scored. David Platt stuck his – surely some luck?

No, because Germany, be it West or unified, don’t deal in luck. Riedle and Thon scored the penalties that sunk both Pearce and Waddle, and the millions that dreamt of following in their footsteps since.

4 – France 1998

They started this tournament with a win over Tunisia, scoring twice. No foreshadowing – I repeat – no foreshadowing.

After a fairly woeful performance against Romania, they went on to beat Colombia in the final group game to secure progression. Then came Argentina. Oh boy.

A rare showing of character took place in Saint-Etienne that night. Shearer and Owen clawed the tie back in their control following an early Batistuta penalty. Zanietti equalised on the half-time whistle, but England were in control and looked most likely winners.

Then David Beckham decided that England were being far too basic about their path to failure, and he added a bit of spice by ill-advisedly kicking out at Diego Simeone.

You wouldn’t try it these days, I’m telling you. Again, the above definition will be issued to contradict the boring narrative that England have no luck. They threw this away.

3 – Germany 2006

2002 was a good time, you know. England won a knockout game convincingly and were only outdone by a piece of brilliance from who may have been the best in the world at that time. So naturally, hopes were high in 2006.

Neville, Ferdinand, Terry and Cole. That may well be the best back four in the history of the Premier League. Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham, Rooney? You wouldn’t be miles off if, in retrospect, you suggested they could have been favourited to win that tournament. But no. No, no, no.

Despite picking up seven impressive points in the group, they snuck past Ecuador in the last sixteen before meeting Portugal in the quarter-finals. There was a certain inevitability about this game going to penalties after the hour mark. It’s that same overbearing doubt that cripples England sides. They forget their collective ability and give in to history. This was no different.

Figo was 33. There wasn’t a single player in that Portugal team, bar Ronaldo, who would have started for England. So, of course – they subconsciously submitted to the will of inevitable failure by letting him score the winning penalty.

2 – South Africa 2010

You’re seeing a trend, aren’t you? The closer we get to this tournament, we worse we get. And in the previous campaigns, England could probably blame that element of luck.

They shouldn’t, but they could. The funny thing about this, is that as the supposed luck began to turn, the major crises began to surface far too late.

Draws against Algeria and the United States braced the faithful for failure and even still, media hype and what appeared as a chance of revenge culminated in bizarrely-over-confident footballers. They will still point at that goal that never was – hilariously, given England’s previous with that issue in bigger games than this one.

The reality is that they were beaten long before they even stepped foot on that pitch in what was a disastrous tournament showing, despite falling to Germany and a fantasy that they were done over by officiating.

1 – Brazil 2014

Deep breaths. Okay, the Italy result is sometimes taken out of context. In retrospect, that was one of the all-time best Italian XIs. England took 20 shots, had six on target and possession was fairly evenly-split. That wasn’t an issue. The response was.

We’re only seeing a lull in World Cup hype in English press for 2014 because of his tournament showing. Hodgson looked on – hopeless, helpless and clueless as what should have been a reinvigorated England performance, fell flat and were outdone by Uruguay side who only had 39% of the ball.

Outguiled, outworked and outsmarted. They lost their momentum in the first game, they lost their hope in this one and they lost their dignity when they recorded just one shot on target against Costa Rica.

Grab your World Cup odds on PaddyPower.com

What do you think?