With Spain going out of the World Cup yesterday, England’s side of the draw has opened up massively. In my 34 years, I cannot recall a better opportunity for them get to a final. Colombia, then Sweden or Switzerland, and then Croatia or Russia stand in front of them. Most of the football power nations have gone and there is no way to meet a Brazil or France until the final. What a chance this is. But England have history against them. This is a look at what they must overcome to take this opportunity.
A Loss In The Group Stage:
After the loss against Belgium in the third group game, England have fallen into an unlikely category. Of the 20 previous World Cups, only 4 times has a country lost a game in the groups and gone on to lift the trophy; West Germany in 1954 & 1974, Argentina in 1978 and Spain in 2010. This suggests that momentum has been important for a World Cup winner and a defeat in the first round of matches doesn’t usually bode well. Usually.
Since the World Cup format was expanded to 32 teams in France 98′, the defences of the winners have been outstanding. In the last 20 years the maximum goals to be conceded by the team that wins the tournament is 4. England have already let in 3. After conceding against Tunisia and Panama, it’s hard to imagine that England will only have one more goal scored against them for the rest of the competition, especially if they were to go far.
Let’s be serious, England’s record in knockout competition is poor. Since they won the tournament in 1966, England have only won 5 knockout matches at World Cups; Paraguay in 1986, Belgium and Cameroon in ’90, Denmark in 2002, and Ecuador in ’06. With the exception of Belgium (who weren’t considered a top team in 1990), that list doesn’t exactly fill you with hope. They are teams that England should be beating. When they have been knocked out it’s from a defeat to one of the power nations; Argentina in ’86 & 1998, the Germans in ’90 & 2010, Brazil in 2002 and Portugal in 2006. The good thing for England at this tournament is that the only way they can meet a big nation now is in the final, and the teams left on their side of the draw would certainly go on the beatable list. Without a knockout match victory in any competition since 2006 however, they should just concentrate on Colombia for now.
If their knockout record is poor, then England’s penalty shootout performances are diabolical. In World Cups it reads: Played 3, Lost 3. Add three European Championship defeats on penalties in Euro ’96, ’04 and 2012, and you have a real problem. History suggests that to win a major tournament then you will probably have to win a penalty shootout along the way. Since the first World Cup shootout in 1982, four teams have had to win one on their way to becoming champions; West Germany in 1990, Brazil in 1994, France in 1998, and Italy in 2006. In the Euros, 6 champions have had to win a match via penalties during their respective routes. It’s such an important part of tournament football and if England don’t get past their penalty hoodoo, then they are unlikely to ever win a major competition. It has to happen one day.
Golden Boot Winner:
It’s a very surprising statistic this, but as Harry Kane is currently top of the Golden Boot table (at the time of print) it’s worth looking at. Since the First tournament in 1930, only 3 Golden Boot winners have actually won the World Cup with their country in the same year; Mario Kempes for Argentina in 1978, Paolo Rossi for Italy in 1982, and Ronaldo for Brazil in 2002. It’s clear that the majority of the time, the goals for the winners are shared with the whole team making a contribution. Hopefully Kane can continue his great start and go against this remarkable stat, but England can not rely on him alone.
My thoughts are that statistics and records are there to be broken. West Germany won the World Cup in 1954 after conceding 14 goals. England have still won a penalty shootout before against Spain in Euro ’96. Nations have been going against these stats for years and have still triumphed, it just so happens that England may have to get passed two or three of them. As we’ve seen, anything can happen at this World Cup. Get excited people! It’s coming home!! 🏴