England at World Cup 2018

David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Prime Minister Gordon Brown

The History of England at the World Cup

From the highs of the sole World Cup win in 1966 to the relative lows of the last few tournaments, England fans have been through it all when it comes to supporting their country through the biggest tournament in football.

For a country that prides itself on being the founders and protectors of the beautiful game, it is not necessarily a record to be proud of when compared to the other leading countries in football.

Since first entering the competition in the 1950 tournament in Brazil, England does have a good record of qualifying for the tournament, with only three missed tournaments in total including two in a row during a dark period for the nation’s football team from 1974 to ‘78. Their appearance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be their 15th appearance, with only five countries having played at more World Cup finals (Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Mexico).

The last tournament in Brazil was the first time since 1958 that the team went out in the very first round, and that result has led to a complete overhaul of the team with Gareth Southgate leading a fresh, young team to Russia with the hope of improving on a poor recent run with the side not getting past the quarter-finals since 1990.

Overall England have won the tournament once, reached the semi-finals just once, and gotten to the quarter-finals an amazing six times. After understanding the country's history in the tournament, check out our list of some of the best football bookmakers.

England’s Greatest World Cup Achievements and Memorable Moments

1966 World Cup Win

The 1966 England team

There is no doubting the greatest moment in World Cup history for England, and that has to be the win in 1966 when the tournament came to the country for the one and only time. England was dominant during the tournament, winning five of six games and scoring 11 goals at the tournament as the team, led by Bobby Moore, lifted the famous Jules Rimet trophy.

The most memorable moment of the tournament came from the extra time win in the final over Germany as Geoff Hurst, the hero of the day, broke free to score the all-important 4th goal in the eventual 4-2 win over West Germany - made all the more famous by the legendary commentary for the goal from Kenneth Wolstenholme: “They think it’s all over… it is now!” That goal gave Geoff Hurst the hat trick in the final, and he still remains the only player in the history of the tournament to have achieved that feat.

The game was also infamous for the dubious decision from the Soviet linesman to give a goal for England with the ball very close the goal line. There is still debate over whether that goal should have stood or not, with video evidence from the time inconclusive.

England’s 1966 team contained some legends of the game in this country, with the likes of Bobby Moore, the Charlton brothers, Martin Peters and Alan Ball featuring as their side took home the trophy.

Other than that triumph, there haven’t been many great achievements, and most of the memorable moments have been memorable for all of the wrong reasons.

Italia 1990

The closest the team have been to repeating that win in 1966 was at Italia 1990, with the side reaching the semi-finals for the first time since winning the trophy 24 years previously. Although the World Cup in 1990 wasn’t exactly a memorable one for most teams or for neutrals with a record low number of goals scored during the tournament, it was for England thanks to their best performance in recent memory.

England didn’t start the tournament brilliantly, drawing their first two games before a narrow win over Egypt took them through to the Round of 16. Knockout victories against Belgium and Cameroon (both after extra time) took England through to a semi-final against old enemies West Germany, and they again went to extra time in that game, taking the match all the way to penalties. It was there that the tournament ended, though, with the country starting a run of defeats via penalty shootouts at major tournaments which still endures to this day.

England’s Best World Cup Goals

England have scored 79 goals at World Cup finals, and in amongst all the tap-ins, penalties and headers, there are a few absolutely worldies that stand out as some of the best World Cup goals of all time.

Joe Cole vs Sweden

How we rank them depends on how much we value their importance. For instance, Geoff Hurst’s third goal against West Germany in 1966 won the team their only World Cup, but it was nowhere near the class of Joe Cole’s wonder volley against Sweden at the tournament in 2006. Equally, David Beckham’s free kick goal against Colombia in 1998 was a fantastic finish but had little impact on the tournament compared to others.

Bobby Charlton vs Mexico

Another great goal from 1966 was from Man United legend Bobby Charlton, where he took the ball from inside his own half before unleashing a 30-yard finish which left the Mexican goalkeeper with no chance. That goal and the victory in that game springboarded England towards their only World Cup triumph.

David Platt vs Belgium

If looking for wonder goals with added importance, who could forget David Platt’s swivel volley in extra time against Belgium at Italia 90? His finish on the turn showed immense technique and helped England towards their second-highest World Cup finish.

Michael Owen vs Argentina

But probably the most famous England World Cup goal was by Michael Owen in 1998. Here we had a true English wunderkind, shining on the biggest stage and scoring a sensational goal, dribbling from his own half before beating the Argentine ‘keeper. England might have gone out in that game on penalties, but Owen’s goal will live on in the memory of English football fans forever.

England’s Worst World Cup Moments and Horrible Memories

Unfortunately, most of the memorable moments for England have been for all the wrong reasons, and while there have been some huge highs for the country in the history of the World Cup, there have also been some terrible lows - particularly in recent years.

2014 World Cup

The 2014 tournament in Germany was a particular low point, with England failing to win a game and exiting after finishing bottom of their group. They had been given a tough assignment in a group containing Italy and Uruguay, but even so, the performances and results were simply not good enough. It represented the first time that they had gone out in the first stage since 1958.

2010 World Cup

The tournament in South Africa in 2010 wasn’t much better, with England exiting the tournament in the Round of 16 with a thumping at the hands of Germany. Fans felt rightly hard done by, with a goal from Frank Lampard not being given despite clearly crossing the line. That goal would have taken the game back to 2-2 and given England a way back into the match. Instead, Germany went on to win 4-1 and knock the team out of the World Cup in the last tournament for Capello and the so-called ‘Golden Generation’.

Penalty Shoot-outs

Before that, the problem had always been the dreaded penalty shoot-out, with England exiting a host of major competitions by this method, including in the World Cup in 1990, 1998 and 2006. The cruellest was perhaps in 1990 when losing in the semi-finals to old enemies West Germany.

’Hand of God’ Goal

An equally cruel elimination came in 1986 when the ‘Hand of God’ from Maradona (as well as possibly the best goal in World Cup history) sent England out at the quarter-final stage against Argentina. It was another moment of huge controversy as Diego Maradona clearly punched the ball into the back of the net, but the team were left frustrated and out of the tournament despite having Gary Lineker become the only English player to win the Golden Boot​  at the tournament.

The Road to Russia 2018

England’s qualification for for Russia 2018 couldn’t have been easier, with a simple group allowing them to go through the entire process unbeaten and with just three goals conceded in 10 games.

All in all, it was a rather uneventful road to Russia with a number of solid if unspectacular performances against teams like Slovakia, Scotland, Malta and Lithuania. The most memorable moment in the group stage for England was the first game, with Adam Lallana scoring a last-gasp goal in Bratislava to beat Slovakia and give Sam Allardyce a winning start to his reign as England boss.

Incidentally, that was his only game, as a newspaper scandal brought him down and left England looking for another new coach. Allardyce was recorded giving advice on how to ‘get around’ rules about transfers, and after that his position became untenable. Gareth Southgate came in as interim and was appointed as the permanent boss after a decent start and having guided the U21 side for the past several years.

Southgate used his knowledge of the youth team players and started to introduce a new generation of talent into the first team, with his young side steadily improving and playing some decent football under his stewardship.

England won all of their games at Wembley, and finished with a total of 8 wins and two draws from their 10 games, scoring 18 goals and conceding three. They qualified with a game still to spare and ended the group 8 points clear of second-placed Slovakia.

PositionCountryPlayedWonDrawnLostGoals ForGoals AgainstGoal DifferencePoints
1England10820183+1526
2Slovakia10604177+1018
3Scotland105321712+518
4Slovenia10433127+515
5Lithuania10136720-136
6Malta10019325-221

England’s World Cup Squad and Who to Watch

Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford

England have a young squad with a lot of potential but perhaps not a huge amount of players with enough quality for them to compete in the latter stages of this tournament.

  • Harry Kane - The star player for the team is undoubtedly Harry Kane, who has had a fantastic year scoring at a rate of better than a goal per game. He started to find the net more for England in the latter stages of the qualification campaign as well, which is a good sign ahead of Russia 2018, where he is one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot.

  • Dele Alli - Kane’s Spurs teammate Dele Alli is another to watch as he has the ability to be a match winner for the team. His form at the back end of 2017 hasn’t been brilliant, but his off-the-ball movement means he is always a danger to the opposition.

  • Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford - Two Manchester-based players are also likely to feature prominently in the England attack, with Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford both offering pace and a genuine goal threat from the wider positions. Sterling has been rejuvenated this year under Pep Guardiola at Man City, while Rashford has shown flashes of his potential at United and continues to see solid game time at one of the best clubs in England.

While at the top end of the field there are several strong first team players, the other end of the pitch is a bit of a mystery.

The goalkeeper position is a particular area of hot debate, with Joe Hart, the England #1 for a number of years, going through a poor run of form and a lack of confidence having been outcast by Manchester City. A couple of young goalkeepers are looking to stake their claim for the starting spot, and both Jordan Pickford of Everton and Jack Butland of Stoke enjoying good seasons and having been more consistent than Hart over the last couple of years since the European Championships in 2016. Southgate has indicated he believes in Joe Hart, but it is becoming harder and harder for him to keep the faith with Hart now struggling at West Ham.

The defence is another area up for debate, with only Kyle Walker a guaranteed starter (if available) for the team. Ryan Bertrand and Danny Rose are battling it out for the starting left back position, while Harry Maguire, John Stones, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling all have realistic chances of starting in the opener against Tunisia.

With half a season of Premier League action to come, there is plenty of time for those players or indeed others to force their way into the team for the start of the World Cup.

England World Cup Group Table

PositionCountry
1Belgium
2Panama
3Tunisia
4England

England were drawn into Group G in the 2018 tournament and will face off against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia as they seek to qualify for the Round of 16.

England’s first match will take place against Tunisia in Volgograd on 18th June. A 6pm kickoff in Britain means that most should be able to get home from work in time for the game.

Next up is a game against the group’s underdogs, Panama, who are making their debut at the tournament. That game will take place at the new Nizhny Novgorod Stadium and will be played at midday on Sunday 24th June, making it another match that most in England should be able to enjoy watching.

The final group game is against the seeded team, Belgium, with England faced with the long trip west to Kaliningrad in what looks likely to be a crucial game for both sides. The team will be hoping to have gotten two wins from the opening games and to have qualified, with Belgium having an outstandingly talented team including several Premier League players that will be well-known to English fans. It’s another 6pm kickoff, this time on Thursday 28th June, meaning it’s another that fits in well with British working life.

The clear challenge from the group is Belgium, with the other two teams much weaker than England and unlikely to cause Gareth Southgate’s side too many problems. However, given England’s recent record in the World Cup against the so-called minnows, nothing can be taken for granted if the team are to qualify for the knockout stages.

Can England Win the World Cup?

There have been bigger surprises in football - Leicester winning the Premier League in 2015/16 or Greece winning the European Championships in 2004 - but England are undoubtedly not as talented as other more favoured sides in the betting. Brazil and Germany have far more depth and experience in their sides, and while England have a number of young and talented players, there are doubts about the defence and goalkeeper which could end up meaning they come up short against the bigger teams. The team defended well in qualification and kept both Germany and Brazil to draws in recent Wembley friendlies, but there are doubts about how far they can go in this tournament.

Every team goes to Russia 2018 with a chance of doing something, and England are certainly in amongst the small group of teams who actually have any chance of winning the tournament. Teams like France, Germany, Brazil and Portugal probably have more chance than them, but it isn’t impossible for England to come away from Russia with the trophy. If we want to win our football betting in Russia, however, we might want to look elsewhere in the betting.

They should improve on recent World Cup performances, especially given their draw in the group stages, and with Group G paired with Group H when it comes to deciding the fixtures for the Round of 16, England should be hopeful of making the quarter-finals with a potential Last 16 match being against either Poland or Colombia.

England are capable of beating either of those teams but are unlikely to cause the bigger nations that they will face thereafter too much of a problem - especially given their woeful record in penalty shootouts. Therefore our top England World Cup betting tip would be for them to reach the quarter-finals which can be backed at a general 5/2.

About the Author

Dan Bradley

Ever since he was 6 years old and made the fatal mistake of asking his Dad, 'What's that on the TV?', Dan has been engrossed by football, and many other sports have since had a similar impact on him. Sadly, he was never good enough to open the batting for England, or to don the famous number 7 shirt for Southampton, but his love for sport remains. Dan has been blogging and writing about sport for the last few years, usually looking at things from the perspective of a bettor, but most of all as a true sports fanatic. From golf to ten pin bowling: You name it, Dan’ll have an opinion on it.

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