Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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Iceland 2, England 1
English players hang their heads in shame
after the final whistle (above)
A British online newspaper headline (below)

England's football team has succeeded in producing some extraordinarily bizarre results in the last 66 years. In the 1950 World Cup finals, England managed to lose 1-0 to a team of part-time players from the USA ; at the time this was the biggest upset in football history. That result, of course, was forgotten when England won the World Cup on home soil in 1966. But since then the fortunes of the country in the game they invented have gone steadily downhill.

Here are some remarkable statistics:

(1) England have failed to even reach the World Cup finals on three occasions since 1950 (1974, 1978 and 1994).
(2) England won the World Cup in 1966 and came fourth in 1990, but otherwise have never reached the semi-finals ; since 1990 they have not even reached the quarter-finals in any World Cup.
(3) England have only twice reached the semi-finals in the European Championship finals (15 tournaments going back to 1960).

But recently England's much-maligned footballers managed to produce a result that surpassed even the ignominy of losing to the USA in 1950. At the European Championship Finals in France in June 2016, England were beaten 2-1 by Iceland, a country with a population of less than half a million and only about 15 000 footballers in total! Iceland had never previously made it to the finals of ANY tournament. Yet they managed to defeat a country with a population of 53 million where football is by far the most popular sport ... it beggars belief.

Because of this loss, England crashed out of the tournament, their manager/coach (Roy Hodgson) resigned and several of the players who had embarrassed themselves and their country were not selected for England again.

How is it possible that an advanced first-world country with excellent facilities, loads of money and such a large pool of talent can under-achieve so spectacularly over such a long period of time? I have no idea, and I suspect quite a few people in England are wondering the same thing ...

[Update] England performed extremely well at the 2018 World Cup Finals and reached the semi-finals in convincing fashion (the first time they have achieved this feat since 1990). They lost to Croatia 2-1 in a closely-fought semi-final and were defeated by Belgium in the third-place playoff match to finish fourth overall.

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa