By News Team
Last Updated: 24th February 2021
England have been providing head-turning performances in world cup qualifiers matches for decades. Read more at William Hill about England’s best performances to date.
Ahead of their bid to qualify for international football’s biggest prize, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of their finest ever World Cup qualifying performances. And when it comes to World Cup qualifiers England have had some dramatic moments.
Italy 0-0 England – October 1997
These days England tend to have it a lot easier when qualifying for the World Cup, with their group usually littered with sides a notch or two below their level. That hasn’t always been the case, particularly when being drawn in the same group as Italy for World Cup ’98 qualification. When it comes to World Cup qualifiers groups, this was a tough one.
Going into the final game of the group stages, England were up against it. Having lost to Italy already at Wembley, Glenn Hoddle’s men needed at least a point in Rome to secure qualification ahead of the Italians and to push them into the play-offs.
Goalless draws aren’t always the most memorable of results, but this one certainly was. The Three Lions turned in a memorable battling display, epitomised by Paul Ince’s bloodied and bandaged head. Ian Wright agonisingly struck the post in added time, but it didn’t matter as the Three Lions held on for the draw to claim top spot and book their flights to France.
Germany 1-5 England – September 2001
This performance and result has to go down as one of England’s finest ever, let alone just in World Cup qualifiers matches. Germany had only ever lost one World Cup qualifier at home in their history heading into this one in Munich, so the odds for an England win were certainly stacked against Sven Goran Eriksson’s team. Sitting six points behind Germany in the qualifying group, this was also a must-win for the Three Lions.
England looked to be up against it when Carsten Jancker fired the Germans in front within six minutes, but just another six minutes later and Michael Owen had hauled his side level. Crucially for England, on the stroke of half-time, Steve Gerrard fired them into the lead with a stunning long-range strike, before Owen’s clinical strike gave the visitors a two-goal cushion just after the restart. It wasn’t long before Owen had completed his hat-trick and England were unbelievably 4-1 to the good. But with 73 minutes on the clock Emile Heskey had made it 5-1 and England were in dreamland. Unbelievable stuff.
England 2-2 Greece – October 2001
Just a month on from the routing of Germany and there was more drama for Eriksson’s men, but this time it nearly cost them a place in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. The Three Lions headed into this one with Greece needing just a point to qualify automatically and push Germany into the play-offs, but with 93 minutes on the clock, they found themselves 2-1 down.
Angelos Charisteas had opened the scoring for Greece in the first half before Teddy Sheringham looked to have rescued England when he headed them level with his first touch just 10 seconds after coming on. However, within a minute Demis Nikolaidis had put the Greeks back in front and England were heading for the play-offs. But cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Captain fantastic David Beckham, having failed with five previous long-range free kicks, stepped up to take another one deep into injury time. This time he curled it into the top corner and a nation erupted. World Cup qualification was secured, with Beckham netting one of his most iconic goals in the process.
Croatia 1-4 England – September 2008
England came into this early qualifier for the 2010 World Cup fresh with memories of having lost out to Croatia in their previous campaign to miss out on qualification for Euro 2008 in agonising circumstances. But by now, Steve McClaren was out of the door and Fabio Capello was in charge, with a bright future on the horizon for the Three Lions.
Still, an away trip to face Croatia, who had recently impressed at Euro 2008, was no simple task. England, however, made it look easy in Zagreb – and they had a new hero: Theo Walcott. Walcott, who was starting ahead of Beckham, netted a double to put England two up before Wayne Rooney added a third. Mario Mandzukic netted a consolation for Croatia, before Walcott collected Rooney’s pass and rolled in his third for the hat-trick.
A superb display from Walcott and England that put the Three Lions on track to qualify for the World Cup in style.
Will England produce something similar this year? We’ll find out when the World Cup qualifiers start on March 25.