One of the most scrutinised nations in world football, it seems only yesterday that England had it all.
Imagine a line-up of a prime David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand locking down the defence, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard partnered in midfield, and a range of options up-front including of Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.
An international title has not sat on the isle since or before 1966 and it is astonishing that one of the greatest all-round teams in the history of the game failed to present football’s home with any gold.
The Three Lions of the 2000s is arguably the most individually talented of its time. Amazingly, a team of this quality managed to proceed no further than a quarter-final in any world or European championship.
Let’s look at how England faired in international competitions from 2000-10.
Euro 2000 – Belgium / Netherlands (group stages)
A terrible tournament for a relatively strong outfit, England only managed three points in the group stage after a 1-0 win over Germany, who finished fourth behind only England in group A.
Although only a handful of the debated squad was present for this tournament, the English only managed to score five goals and conceded 6.
World Cup 20002 – Korea / Japan (quarter-finals)
England scraped their way through the qualifiers after a Beckham-inspired 2-2 draw with Greece.
At the tournament itself – again with only six players available from the golden era squad – they secured a spot in the quarter-finals after a 3-0 demolition of Denmark in the round of 16.
Against Brazil, 2001 Ballon d’Or winner Owen opened the scoring in the 25th minute after a defensive error gifted him the ball in front of goal. After conceding two goals before the 60th minute, Ronaldinho was sent off, yet Brazil managed to see the match out as 2-1 victors.
Euro 2004 – Portugal (quarter-finals)
On the back of a disappointing stretch and with now ten of these players competing, England were eliminated by the hosts in a 2-2 (6-5 penalties) defeat.
A much more courageous performance saw the English finish second to France in Group B, scoring ten goals and conceding six in regular minutes.
World Cup 2006 – Germany (quarter-finals)
With the same ten players, England scored six goals and conceded three, managing three wins and one draw before elimination in the quarters.
Euro 2008 – Austria / Switzerland (no qualification)
After three straight quarter-finals appearances, England lost a win-at-all-cost qualification match against Croatia in what has become known as one of the most upsetting nights in English football.
With Beckham starting on the bench and now regular goal-stopper Paul Robinson out of the squad, the bout began with an infamous fumble from replacement goalkeeper Scott Carson, which gave Croatia the early lead. An absolute howler.
England then went 2-0 down before 15 minutes. Although they brought it back to 2-2 after Beckham was substituted on and inspired a Peter Crouch equaliser, Croatia sealed victory from 25 yards winning the game 3-2.
This qualification game at Wembley only featured Gerrard, Lampard and David Beckham as David James and Ashley Cole watched on from the bench.
World Cup 2010 – South Africa (round of 16)
In what should have been a relatively easy route to the knockout stages – sharing Group C with the likes of Algeria, Slovenia and the USA – England scraped through to the round of 16 after one win and two draws.
Losing convincingly to Germany 4-1, England’s ageing roster consisted only of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, David James, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney from our golden era line-up.
It would seem somewhat surprising that England managed knockout football in 66 per cent of these tournaments. Through injury or selection issues, it is painful to think that although most of these players were in all of the squads, it was a miracle to see them play all at once.
For some reason, this absolutely stacked outfit couldn’t pull it off as a team.
Nevertheless, the future is looking bright, with what many believe to be the best talent in the country’s history.
After a fourth-place finish in Russia 2018, we can only hope that this bright young team can perform both individually and as a whole.
Let’s see how England fare at Euro 2020!