A look at England's last 5 World Cup knockout games
Tomorrow will see Gareth Southgate’s England side look for their first victory in a knockout game at a major tournament in over a decade, as they face off with Colombia in the second round of the 2018 World Cup.
Fans of the Three Lions are already dreaming of the final, but they should be wary – England’s record in World Cup knockout games is poor indeed, as they’ve flattered to deceive more often than not in recent years.
With Southgate hoping to change that record against Colombia, here’s a look at England’s last five World Cup knockout games, dating back to the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea.
England 3-0 Denmark – World Cup 2002 Second Round
England’s 2002 World Cup saw a scenario eerily reminiscent of last week’s events and the questions surrounding the correct passage into the knockout stages. In Japan and South Korea it appeared that the Three Lions had lost the momentum they gained in their 1-0 win over Argentina by playing in a largely passive way against Nigeria, drawing 0-0 in the final group fixture and finishing in second place behind Sweden.
A commonly held belief is that England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson instructed his players to simply avoid defeat to Nigeria, knowing that finishing second would set up a supposedly easier second round fixture with Denmark, rather than face a more dangerous Senegal side. Sound familiar? In this case, it turned out Eriksson made the correct call.
England lost no momentum from the Nigeria game and simply swept aside the Danes with a scintillating attacking display in the first half. A fumble from Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen from a Rio Ferdinand header got the ball rolling in just the 5th minute, and 20 minutes later England had a second via Michael Owen after another goalmouth scramble.
Denmark tried to fight back but England’s attacking prowess was too much for them to handle, and by the time Emile Heskey swept in a right-footed shot set up by David Beckham the game was essentially over. While things petered out in the second half, it was undoubtedly one of England’s best displays under Eriksson – and arguably the last time they performed well in a knockout game.