Fifty-five, 302 games and over 140,000 miles – England’s pursuit for final number two


England’s long and painful wait for a second major tournament final is over.

Fifty-five years ago, the country had its greatest moment in football by winning the World Cup at home.

Since then, managers have been hired and fired, players selected and dropped, games won and lost, but the quest for another great showdown has always ended in failure until the arrival of Gareth Southgate and of his team at Euro 2020.

Now that the wait is over, BBC Sport looks back at the players, managers, miles and more England traveled to reach their second notable international final.

A story of grief

England’s last final appearance in 1966 was greeted with glee, as the nation spread banners, waved flags and, for the game itself, left the deserted streets to huddle around televisions.

While the expectation of a rehearsal never abated on these shores, the next 55 years – which is the longest a nation has had to wait between major final appearances – were marked primarily by heartbreak and humiliation.

Since winning the World Cup, England have reached the round of 16 in official UEFA and Fifa tournaments 14 out of 28 times possible, for a success rate of 50%. Compare that with the team they beat in 1966 – Germany – which went this far 20 times (71.43%).

England’s progress in the tournament since 1966

Percentage of times reached by each stage (UEFA / Fifa tournaments)

Every England fan has their own mental slideshow of suffering.

Depending on age, it will include part of Gerd Muller’s volley in Mexico in 1970, Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” in the same country in 1986, penalties against the Germans in 1990 and 1996, Wayne Rooney limping in 2004 and sent off with a nod to Cristiano Ronaldo in 2006, and Frank Lampard’s denied shot over the line in 2010.

(Left to right) Gerd Muller scores against England in 1970, the

Portugal and Germany bring pain

In total, England have played 302 competitive matches in official UEFA and Fifa tournaments since the 1966 World Cup (qualifiers and finals). It’s been 27,570 minutes (including extra time but not stoppage time) in pursuit of another final.

Of those matches, they won 180 (a winning percentage of 59.60%), scoring 604 goals and conceding 196.

All but the 14 games, 12 wins and 47 goals that the Euro class of 2020 have achieved so far have ultimately been in vain.

England’s most common opponent in their quest to reach another final has been Poland, with 18 games between the two, 11 of which won England.

The most famous, however, is probably the 1-1 draw at Wembley, when the exploits of Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski dashed England’s hopes of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.

England have a 100% record against a number of countries, mainly those faced in the playoffs, but their best record is against modest San Marino, which they have broken seven times, scoring 42 goals and conceding one.

The one against is far more famous than any of those who scored, however, eight seconds away from the infamous 1993 World Cup qualifier which ultimately ended in Graham Taylor’s team failed to advance to the final in the United States.

England’s worst record against a team in competitive matches since 1966 has been with Portugal, which was responsible for their elimination from Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup on penalties.

Portugal are also co-responsible for inflicting the most pain on England in the tournament finals, beating them four times (either in 90 minutes or via penalties). The same number as Germany.

Worryingly, Italy, England’s opponent in the Euro 2020 final, is also on the list …

Country Games Victories Prize draws Losses To win %
Portugal 6 0 4 * 2 0
Italy 7 1 2 ^ 4 14.29
Romania 7 1 3 3 14.29
Netherlands 6 1 2 3 16.67
Republic of Ireland 6 1 4 1 16.67
*Lost two matches on penalties ^A match lost on penalties

Southgate is you …

Illustration showing Sven-Goran Eriksson, Gareth Southgate and Fabio Capello

Sir Alf Ramsay delivered the World Cup in 1966 and is one of 14 managers to take charge of matches after English football’s greatest moment.

England manager’s winning percentage

In competitive matches in UEFA and Fifa tournaments since the 1966 World Cup final (number of matches in brackets)

Sven-Goran Eriksson, who led England to the three quarter-finals between 2002 and 2006, has the best winning percentage in competitive matches since the final in 1966 (if we ignore the unique play of Sam Allardyce in charge).

Fabio Capello is a bit behind, but the Italian’s record is underpinned by a nearly flawless qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, which ended in the misery of the last 16 at the hands of Germany.

Current boss Gareth Southgate has a very healthy win rate and is the only man on the list to lead the country to three semi-finals (World Cup, Nations League and European Championship). Ramsey is the only other man with more than one.

He also equaled Ramsey as the only man to lead England to a major final.

Impressively, if we include the victories on penalties, Southgate has now overseen 24.32% of England’s wins in the UEFA and Fifa final since the 1966 tournament, and the orchestrator of a third of all the country’s blank sheets in the Euro.

He is also the only man to beat Germany in the round of 16 of a major tournament from Ramsey.

Games, goals and miles on the clock

More than 300 players have appeared for England since the 1966 World Cup, striving to help their country reach another major final.

Wayne Rooney is the man who has played the most competitive games in pursuit of that goal, with 74 to his name. The closest he got was the quarterfinals.

Other members of the so-called “Golden Generation” – Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and David Beckham – aren’t far behind, as well as the nation’s leading all-time appearance designer. (and goalkeeper of the World Cup semi-final in 1990) Peter Shilton.

The most competitive English teams since 1966

Players with the most games in FIFA and Uefa competition

As his country’s all-time top scorer, it’s no surprise to see Rooney topping the list of competitive goals scored since 1966 in pursuit of another final.

England’s top scorers since 1966

Players with the most goals in UEFA and Fifa tournaments

Harry Kane’s winner in Wednesday’s semi-final against Denmark placed him at the top of England’s top scorers in major tournaments (Euros and World Cups) with 10, tied with Gary Lineker.

Finally, England’s pursuit of another major final took them across the world.

England have covered more than 140,000 miles in 52 countries and across four continents in their quest for a major final since 1966.

This includes trips to Mexico, Japan, South Africa and Brazil for the World Cup finals.

However, when they finally put an end to their long wait, this is where the zenith of their football history occurred, to come full circle and return to home soil at Wembley.

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