With news of lockdown restrictions in the U.K. potentially being lifted by 21 June, the door has been opened for some sense of normality when it comes to this years European Championship.
Initially planned for last summer, EURO 2020 will now be the first tournament of its kind NOT to take place in the year it is named after.
While England’s scheduled group games all occur in a familiar setting – Wembley Stadium – the last of those, against the Czech Republic on 22 June, is supposedly after all restrictions will have been lifted and some fans will have rejoined inside the arena.
Several bookmakers have even labelled Gareth Southgate’s men as joint-favourite to win the whole thing, in what would be the biggest party since… 2019.
With this in mind, though, The Three Lions haven’t exactly put together a lot of form in this particular international tournament – having never even reached a final.
Taking place every four years since its inaugural edition in 1960, we look at every England team ever’s performance at a European Championship finals.
Stage: Third Place
After not entering in 1960 and failing to qualify four years later, England actually registered their joint highest finish in this tournament, taking place in Italy. That sounds all the less impressive, though, when you consider that only four teams entered and England came just third. After losing the first-round-turned-semi-final 1-0 to Yugoslavia, goals from Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Bobby Charlton were enough to defeat USSR 2-0 and seal bronze.
Two more tournaments of failure ensued before we reached another, ironically also in Italy. Despite victory over Spain on the final day of the group, an earlier draw with Belgium and a 1-0 loss to the host nation saw us bow out of the European Championship, after an already disappointing 12-year absence.
After failing to make the 1984 tournament in France, England successfully qualified for the next in Germany – but will have quietly wished they didn’t bother. A 1-0 defeat to Ireland and two subsequent 3-1 losses to the Netherlands and USSR saw Bobby Robson’s team ejected after just six days.
Despite the first back-to-back qualifications for the European Championship bringing some small amounts of joy, that was largely dashed again after another group stage exit. Staged in Sweden for the first time, England failed to register a goal in either opening games with 0-0 draws to Denmark and France, before the hosts dumped the Three Lions out with a 2-1 victory on the final day of the group. In the 32 years since that had passed since the first tournament, England had won just two of the matches they had played in – one of those being a meaningless third-place playoff.
The year, 1996, will inspire the greatest European Championship memories of any Three Lions fan. The year football was coming home, England played host to the tournament for the first time – also the first time it was expanded from eight to 16 teams. Despite the added tournament depth, manager Terry Venables led the side to the semi-final, with mammoth wins against Scotland and Netherlands in the group stage living on in the folklore of English football, before a nerve-wracking penalty shootout victory over Spain. Bitter disappointment eventually fell at the feet of Germany, and this European Championship will long feel like ‘the one that got away’.
Host: Belgium and the Netherlands
Normal service resumed after, just like in the World Cup 30 years prior, England had put on a good show for the hometown fans. Hosted in Belgium and the Netherlands, 3-2 defeats to Portugal and Romania sandwiched a stunning victory over Germany, the latter proving to be not quite enough to progress.
An 18-year-old Wayne Rooney set alight this tournament, scoring four times as England reached the quarter-final. Despite losing 2-1 to France on the opening day, convincing victories over Switzerland and Croatia earned The Three Lions the right to play the hosts in the knockout stage. Although England went ahead via Michael Owen after just three minutes, Rooney limped off after just half-an-hour and Portugal would eventually progress 6-5 on penalties, despite a late extra-time equaliser from Frank Lampard.
Host: Poland and Ukraine
After a humiliating absence from the 2008 games, England performed triumphantly in the group stage under Roy Hodgson, who was appointed just weeks before. Seven points were collected from France, Sweden and hosts Ukraine, before facing Italy in the last-eight. The famous old footballing teams battled out a not-so-famous 0-0 draw, but the class of Andreas Pirlo’s panenka penalties and co proved too great for the poorly tournament-hardened Three Lions.
Stage: Round of 16
The most recent European Championship took place five years ago, in France. England once again faltered in this tournament, that they’ve never quite got to grips with. A 1-1 draw with Russia and 0-0 paint-dryer with Slovakia were a sign of things to come, regardless of the 90th-minute winner Daniel Sturridge had put past the Welsh midweek. Rooney’s fourth-minute penalty put The Three Lions ahead against Iceland in the round of 16, but the minnows came back to win 2-1 and inflict yet another EURO misery on Hodgson’s side.