A look back at 3 previous crucial qualifiers for England


Peter Crouch, former Manchester United stars Beckham, Cole and Sheringham and the famous Arsenal defence all feature.

England head into tonight’s fixture with Montenegro knowing that they must win and then defeat Poland on Tuesday to guarantee a spot in Brazil next summer, but it’s not the first time they’ve been in this situation.

England 2-3 Croatia – Euro 2008 Qualifier, 21.11.07

The final Group E game saw England paired with table-toppers Croatia. It was always going to be a tough game and a defining moment for Steve McClaren. So it was therefore a huge surprise that he chose to hand Scott Carson his first competitive start and regular ‘keeper Paul Robinson was not even named on the bench. Furthermore, David Beckham was also left out of the starting XI. It was a rainy night, one which led to McClaren being nicknamed the Wally with the Brolly.

The surface was slippy and it was to be a rough introduction for Carson. In the 8th minute, Niko Kranjcar fired a shot that bounced off the ground and Carson fumbled it into the net. Just six minutes later Croatia were 2-0 up, this time through Ivica Olic.

The Wembley crowd were shocked, and at half time Jermain Defoe and Beckham were brought on. Against the run of play England were awarded a penalty which Lampard duly dispatched. Then Peter Crouch superbly chested and fired away Beckham’s cross. It was 2-2 and the point would have been enough to send the Three Lions through.

However in the 77th minute Mladen Petric sent a 25-yard shot fizzing past Carson into the top corner, and there was to be no comeback from England this time. They would not participate in Euro 2008 and on that inept performance, they didn’t deserve to be!

It would be the end of McClaren’s reign, the shortest in history, and Carson has made only 2 appearances since.

England 2-2 Greece – 2002 World Cup Qualifier, 6.10.02

England headed into this final group game knowing a point would take them through as group winners. Having beaten Germany 5-1 away from home just a month earlier, hopes were high for England and they were expected to comfortably win.

Nerves seem to get the better of them. England were playing very deep and Angelos Charisteas pounced on a mistake by Rio Ferdinand to put Greece in the lead. Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham were thrown on in the second half, and it was the latter who scored a header which was the quickest ever goal by an England substitute.

However straight after that goal Greece took the lead again, when Nikos Dabizas spun past Gary Neville and provided for Demis Nikolaidis and he gave the Greeks a 2-1 lead, silencing the Old Trafford crowd.

England stepped up the pressure and were attacking non-stop. The best player by far had been captain David Beckham. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men were heading for a play-off when in the 93rd minute they won a free-kick.

A free-kick in the perfect position for Beckham.

The nation watched on, with hope and expectation. It was nail-biting stuff. In his home stadium, Beckham unleashed an unstoppable effort that flew into the net and sent the fans and players into raptures. A superb moment that defined Beckham’s career. It was a definite you remember where you were at that moment. A memory that will live on for a very long time in England’s history.

Italy 0-0 England – 1998 World Cup Qualifier, 11.10.97

England arrived in Rome in pole position to qualify from Group 2, needing just a point to secure automatic qualification. They were facing an Italy side in their prime, captained by Paolo Maldini, the side also included Costacurta, Baggio, Albertini, Nesta, Cannavaro, Zola and Vieri. It was a tough prospect. In the previous 14 games in Rome, Italy had not failed to win.

The Italians went all out to get the win they so badly wanted. England’s resolute defence of Campbell, Adams, Le Saux and Southgate stood strong. Helped by strong performances in midfield from David Batty and Paul Ince, who famously played part of the game in a blood soaked shirt with a bandaged head, causing comparisons with Terry Butcher.

England were able to create their own chances too with Beckham providing opportunities for Sheringham and Wright. Angelo Di Livio was sent off for Italy with 15 minutes left, but England could not rest easy yet. Ian Wright nearly won it for the Three Lions when he went past Peruzzi but could only find the post. Then in the dying moments England fans had their hearts in their mouths when Vieri had a header, but were relieved when he could only guide it over the bar.

It was a monumental effort and achievement for an England side who missed out on the previous World Cup. It showed England could handle themselves against the best and in the toughest of places. Things were promising for Glenn Hoddle and England but it was not to be. Perhaps he can help create some more moments like this now he is on the FA Commission.


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