Happy July 11th everyone in Scotland! Because in England the date isn’t so much a happy time, as one to reflect on what might have been…

In the past four years, fans of the Three Lions have seen their team come so close to the kind of glory that has been far beyond them since 1966, only to screw things up.

For what seemed a lifetime, certainly most of my own, England teams would go into tournaments with a lot of hope and expectation, before living up to none of it and crashing out in an embarrassing way.

The nadir of it all came in 2016 as Iceland knocked Roy Hodgson’s team out of the second round of the Euros, with the only upside being Steve McClaren’s awkward blunder on tv.

Things have definitely got better for England since the loss to Iceland, even if there’s still been heartbreak. Image: Alamy

But two years later, under Gareth Southgate, the wonderful summer of 2018 was a completely change to what had come before, with England making a decent run of things.

The weather and a dramatic season of Love Island coupled with the whole country believing that success was possible was a wonderful thing to experience.

In typical fashion, England nearly messed things up in their opening game, with Harry Kane needing an injury time winner to beat Tunisia, before a 6-1 thrashing of Panama and then a loss to Belgium that actually meant an easier route to the final.

Southgate’s side then did the unthinkable and actually won a penalty shoot out against Colombia in the second round, before dispatching Sweden in relative ease in the quarters, and the country began to really believe.

That’s when Kieran Trippier delivered a fifth minute free kick of pure quality that flew into the Croatian net in the semi final and suddenly England were staring a first major final in 52 years right in the face.


That’s when heartbreak struck, as England just couldn’t hold on to the ball for long enough and Luka Modric and his teammates came roaring back into the game.

They equalised in the 66th minute, with Tottenham Hotspur new man Ivan Perisic scoring, before Mario Mandzukic scored in extra time to end the Three Lions’ hopes.

The team then had to wait three years to put things right, thanks to the outbreak of Covid delaying the Euros by a year, but knew they had a great chance.

Whilst Euro 2020 wasn’t officially a home tournament for England, all three of their group games were at Wembley, with the semi finals and final also scheduled in London.

The 2018 World Cup also gave England fans a penalty win. Image: Alamy

A second round match was then added to Wembley’s schedule, due to Republic of Ireland not being able to host games, meaning England could get to the final playing just one game away, which is exactly what they did.

A measure of revenge was taken on Croatia, in a 1-0 win in the opening group game, before a nervy 0-0 draw with Scotland and another 1-0 win, over Czech Republic, to secure top spot in the group.

England then defeated old enemy Germany in the second round, and once again that was cause for the country to start believing.


They beat Ukraine 4-0 in the quarters to set up a semi final with Denmark, riding an emotional wave following the heart attack suffered by Christian Eriksen in a group game.

England players celebrate during the win over Germany in Euro 2020. Image: Alamy

For the first time in the tournament England conceded but Southgate’s side bounced back to equalise minutes later. They needed a controversial penalty in extra time to secure a first final since 1966, where they met Italy.

Roberto Mancini’s side had been brilliant throughout the tournament but England took the lead in just the second minute, inside a raucous Wembley, in which trouble in the ground saw ticketless fans get in.

Luke Shaw started a move deep in his own half before continuing his run, unmarked, into the box and finishing perfectly from a brilliant cross.



Once again though, it was all too early, with Italy eventually asserting their dominance on the game in the second half and equalising through Leonardo Bonucci.

The game went down to penalties and though Italy missed twice, including a save from Jordan Pickford for Jorginho’s penalty, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed for England and Italy were European champions.

Along with the loss, England players were also hit with vile racist abuse following the game, making July 11th a truly grim day for English football.

Suddenly it feels like a good thing that this year’s World Cup is in the winter…

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/ITV


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