England's last 20 years in World Cups and Euros summed up in 10 excuses


With another major tournament on the way, England fans are preparing themselves for more than likely another quarter-final exit, probably on penalties or as a result of some controversy.

After all, the Three Lions' record over the last 20 years has been blighted by such incidents, ranging from shootout heartache and fluke goals to outrageous penalty incidents.

Here's a look at England's shocking luck in major tournaments over the two decades...

1. Gareth Southgate's pizza ad

Euro 96

Gareth Southgate looks dejected after missing a penalty for England
(Neal Simpson/EMPICS)

England were primed to end 30 years of hurt on home soil until the pesky Germans got in the way in the Euro 96 semi-final. After taking a battering for 120 minutes Berti Vogts' team clinically won a penalty shootout and broke English hearts again. But the hosts were left asking questions.

Firstly, why did Paul Gascoigne hesitate on his run into the box which saw him miss Alan Shearer's cross by centimetres in extra-time? And secondly why did Gareth Southgate, bound for Pizza Hut adverts, choose to defer from a team policy of sending their penalties to Oliver Khan's left when everybody else had successfully converted?

2. Diego Simeone - we still remember...

France 98

David Beckham is sent off for England against Argentina
(Adam Butler/PA)

Has any England football fan ever been able to fully wipe the memory of Gabriel Batistuta smugly nodding his head in approval at Kim Milton Nielsen's decision to send David Beckham off against Argentina in the last-16 tie at France 98? It was enough to send Three Lions supporters over the edge after their blood was already boiling at Diego Simeone's outrageous over-reaction to Beckham's petulant flick.

Nielsen further enraged England late on when he denied the 10 men a winner when disallowing Sol Campbell's goal. That led to yet more penalty shootout misery, for which we blame Kevin Keegan for incorrectly tipping David Batty to score.

3. Phil Neville lost his head

Euro 2000

Phil Neville hangs his head after conceding a last-minute penalty against Romania
(Nick Potts/EMPICS)

Okay, so it was one of our own to blame here. Step forward Phil Neville. Keegan's England needed only a point against Romania in their final group game of Euro 2000 to progress and despite some dodgy Nigel Martyn moments, they were on course going into the final minute.

Then Neville junior got involved and despite three other defenders closing in on Viorel Moldovan, he rashly slid in and fouled the Romanian in the penalty box. Ionel Ganea converted from the spot to condemn the Three Lions to a 3-2 defeat and an early plane home. Neville was probably never forgiven.

4. Ronaldinho's fluke goal

South Korea/Japan 2002

Engalnd's David Seaman looks dejected after Ronaldinho's goal for Brazil
(Matthew Ashton/EMPICS)

The so-called Golden Generation had cruised into the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals and were a good bet to topple favourites Brazil until they were downed by the flukiest of flukes. Michael Owen's early goal had been cancelled out in first-half injury time by Rivaldo and the second half was finely poised when Ronaldinho stood over a free-kick 40 yards out wide on the right in the 50th minute.

Clearly aiming to send a ball into the box, the playmaker over-hit the ball, which went sailing over the back-pedalling David Seaman and into the top corner. Sven-Goran Eriksson's men were crestfallen and despite Ronaldinho's red card later in the game, there was to be no comeback.


Euro 2004

Sol Campbell celebrates a disallowed goal against Portugal
(Mike Egerton/EMPICS)

This is the one that hurts the most, the one that left us feeling cheated more than ever, and it was all down to Urs Meier. With an entertaining Euro 2004 quarter-final with hosts Portugal tied at 2-2 and heading to extra-time, England produced a real ecstasy-inducing moment when Sol Campbell headed home a corner in the 90th-minute to seemingly put the Three Lions 3-2 in front.

However, Swiss referee Meier inexplicably spotted an infringement on goalkeeper Ricardo by John Terry that no one else did and Sven's men were denied. It went to extra-time and, of course, penalties where further heartache ensued as David Beckham and Darius Vassell missed from 12 yards. The impact of that decision still lingers 12 years on.

6. The winker

Germany 2006

It had hardly been inspiring by England, but they had made it to the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup and set up a rematch with Portugal. The major incident came just after half-time when Wayne Rooney tangled with Ricardo Carvalho and appeared to stamp on him, though contact was minimal. The Chelsea defender made the most of it and with some persuasion from Cristiano Ronaldo - Rooney's Manchester United team-mate at the time - referee Horacio Marcelo Elizondo sent the England man off.

Ronaldo was distastefully caught on camera winking to his bench and after the Three Lions valiantly took the game to extra-time with a 0-0 draw, customary penalty misery followed, made even more painful by the 'Winker' scoring the winning spot-kick.

7. The wally with the brolly

Euro 2008

Steve McClaren shelters under an umbrella at Wembley
(Mike Egerton/EMPICS)

Weren't there. Steve McClaren. Let's move on.

8. It clearly crossed the line

South Africa 2010

England's Frank Lampard reacts after his goal is wrongly ruled out
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

England's penalty for limping through the easiest of groups at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in second place was a last-16 tie with highly fancied Germany and they slipped to a 2-0 deficit with just 32 minutes on the clock. But Fabio Capello's men produced a late first-half rally and got one back through Matthew Upson's 37th-minute header and then two minutes later they equalised through Frank Lampard. Except they didn't.

Lampard's effort from distance crashed into the underside of the bar and bounced a foot over the line before coming back into play. None of the hapless officials spotted it and the Three Lions were prevented going into the break with parity. They capitulated in the second half poorly, but everyone was still thinking about what might have been.

9. Penalties - again

Euro 2012

Ashley Cole and Ashley Young are consoled by team mates after losing a penalty shoot out
(Anthony Devlin/PA)

It had been six years since England were subjected to penalty shootout despair so they were due some more in Euro 2012. Roy Hodgson's side had been impressive in getting to the quarter-finals, winning two and drawing one of their three group games, but they struggled against Italy.

Andrea Pirlo ran the game, but England got through 120 minutes without conceding as it ended 0-0. The rest was a foregone conclusion as Ashleys Young and Cole missed from the spot as England crashed out again.

10. Um...

Brazil 2014

England fans in the stands in Brazil hold up a banner
(Nick Potts/PA)

Finally, at last, England's total ineptitude was the reason they exited a major tournament without a penalty shootout or refereeing decision in sight. The Three Lions fans had nothing to hide behind as they were beaten in group games against Italy and Uruguay before drawing a dead rubber with Costa Rica.

And wasn't it refreshing?