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England Football: A look back down the memory lane

England at 2006 World Cup in Germany

England under Sven Goran Eriksson was a football team that had the potential to eclipse the 1966 World Cup performance but eventually crumbled under intense media speculation and lack of big match temperament. The tournament on European soil was the ultimate test for Swede Sven Goran Eriksson who was credited for bringing back English pride since being appointed in 2001 succeeding Kevin Keegan. With the tournament in Germany being the last managerial assignment for Mr.Eriksson, the Swede was set to leave the post at the end of the world cup ending a five year association with a country that made him the first ever foreign manager to set foot on Soho Square, all eyes were on the England team that more or less looked a confident bunch going into the tournament after comfortably qualifying from a more or less tricky European qualifying group 6 that had a unique British flavour to it.

Sven Goran

Sven Goran Eriksson

Road to Deutschland 2006

When the draw for the qualification happened in December 2003 at Zurich, England were handed a straight forward group being the top seeded side along with the Czech Republic, France, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Italy and Portugal. The qualifying group consisted of Poland, Austria, Wales, Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan along with England. Group six looked straight forward on the outset yet on the hindsight David Beckham and company knew that with a strong British lineup in the group in the form of Wales and Northern Ireland, things might not be too easy particularly on the road.

Trips to Vienna and Chorzow:

England’s qualification for world cup 2006 began in Vienna on September 4, 2004 sans inspirational forward Wayne Rooney as the Manchester United star was still recovering from a foot injury sustained against Portugal in EURO 2004. The fixtures were not so friendly for Sven’s boys as the team had to play Austria and Poland in four days away from home. England started the match in the Austrian capital with two forwards up front in the form of Alan Smith and Michael Owen. The goalkeeping spot was still not confirmed, yet the Swedish manager kept faith on the eccentric David James and John Terry and Ledley King were deputizing for the injured central defensive duo Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell. Austria’s physical presence was a concern for the English as Hans Krankl’s side was always a dangerous team to face at their own backyard. Yet the visitors had a very good start to the match when skipper David Beckham, from a free kick inside the penalty area, cleverly found an unmarked Frank Lampard and the Chelsea man hammered the ball into net beating goalkeeper Alex Manninger in the 24th minute to give England the lead at the Ernst Happel Stadium.

The scoreline read 2-0 just after the hour mark when Steven Gerrard unleashed a fiery long range shot towards the Austrian top corner to silence a partisan Vienna crowd. But things turned for the worst when the home side stormed back into the match with two quick goals through Kollman and Ivanschitz, the equalizer being remembered for a severe goalkeeping error by David James. The match ended 2-2 with two valuable points dropped for the away side and the unheralded Austrian side earning a massive boost to the campaign by coming back from two goals down.

Next up was a trip to Poland. With two points dropped unnecessarily against Austria, Sven Goran Ericsson resorted to changes for the match in Chorzow’s Stadion Slaski, the major casualty in the Three Lions side being goalkeeper David James for his horrendous error in Vienna that allowed the Austrians to scrape an unlikely draw against the much fancied English.

Paul Robinson replaced James in the England goal and Jermaine Defoe partnered Michael Owen upfront replacing Alan Smith. The Tottenham man repaid his manager’s faith by giving England the lead after 36 minutes but just after the break Marciej Zurawski equalized for the Poles. But England did not face any disappointment this time on their travels as the match was decided just before the hour mark when the home side gifted Michael Owen and company with an own goal following a dangerous Ashley Cole cross down the left hand side just after 58 minutes. 2-1 to England and the long trip back to the island felt so good. After all England do tend to struggle on their trips to the erstwhile Eastern Bloc.

First home game of the campaign

A month later, England opened their home campaign of the 2006 World Cup qualification by hosting British opponents Wales at Manchester United’s home ground Old Trafford, which was still acting as the country’s temporary home given the ongoing reconstruction of the Wembley Stadium. Although the Welsh dished out a commendable physical display led by the mercurial Ryan Giggs, the quality on show from Sven’s boys was too much for Mark Hughes men and the home side comfortably won 2-0 on a sunny late autumn afternoon at the Theatre of Dreams, courtesy of goals from Frank Lampard and captain David Beckham. The match marked the return of the central defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell and that meant John Terry and Ledley King had to sit out the game. It was a match of comebacks for the home side as star striker Wayne Rooney started for the first time since his foot injury against Portugal at EURO 2004. Late on in the match, David Beckham was involved in duel with Welshman Ben Thatcher as the England captain suffered a rib injury following a clash with Thatcher and then while retaliating received a yellow card that meant the then Real Madrid star would not travel to Baku to face Azerbaijan. Yet in a nutshell it was good beginning to a crucial home campaign on the road to Germany.

Visit to Azerbaijan sans David Beckham

David Beckham

David Beckham

It was a wet and windy night at the Azeri capital Baku and England had to dig deep to scrape through a 1-0 win to top group 6 ahead of Poland with 10 points as WC qualification came to a close for the year. Jermaine Jenas got his first start in place of the suspended David Beckham and Michael Owen scored the only goal of the match after 22 minutes by heading the ball into the Azeri net following an incisive Ashley Cole cross. Under the freezing rain of Baku, the English defense stood still as Carlos Alberto Torres’ brave men really put the away side on the back foot on many occasions as the match wore on. A victory nonetheless but Mr.Ericsson’s tactics were slowly coming under the scanner for the team’s lack of creativity upfront.

Home games against NI and Azerbaijan

A double header at home kick started England’s WC 2006 qualification campaign for the year 2005. Six full points were a must as the teams involved were lowly Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

Lawrie Sanchez’s David Healy-inspired Northern Ireland paid a visit to Old Trafford on March 26 with the English public and the media expecting a goal fest for the highly criticized home side. But things looked opposite at half time as the match stood at 0-0 with England having much of the ball and creating chances yet denied by some poor finishing and an inspired Irish goalkeeper in the form of Birmingham City’s Maik Taylor. The home side came out all guns blazing though as Chelsea’s Joe Cole calmed the home nerves with a crisp finish following a mistake from Tony Capaldi after 47 minutes. The Northern Irish resistance ended their as England three more times in a largely one sided second half with the goals coming from Michael Owen, an own goal by Chris Baird and Frank Lampard. For the first time in the curren campaign England showcased their attacking prowess and Wayne Rooney and Joe Cole were singled out for a lot of praise.

Three days later England hosted Azerbaijan at Newcastle’s St.James’ Park and as expected it was a comfortable victory for the Three Lions with Steven Gerrard and David Beckham securing the match for the home side although honestly England should have won by a bigger margin.

Travels to British Home Nations

So far so good for England going into the last leg of the qualification campaign and it had turned to be rather more comfortable for Sven Goran Ericsson’s side as he intended to experiment with his side keeping an eye on the ultimate test in Germany should England qualify, well in all probability they would barring any miraculous slip ups, for the world cup in Germany. As the defense looked steady, with Paul Robinson being a rock under the sticks, it was time for the coaching staff to have a look at the midfield setup and the final formation of the strike force. In the match away to Wales, England coach Sven Goran Ericsson applied a new 4-5-1 formation with Wayne Rooney as the sole man upfront. Michael Owen missed the match due to suspension but for long periods of the match the visitors were on the ascendancy yet they were doing very little going forward. Wales were ready to play the waiting game and were denied by a good Paul Robinson save denying John Hartson. The winner came in the 54th minute as a Joe Cole shot was deflected into his own net by Danny Gabbidon and the visitors left Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium with full points.

A tricky away trip to Northern Ireland followed and England were hit by an unlikely storm that they never expected to face at Belfast. Michael Owen returned but the away side persisted with five in the midfield which meant Wayne Rooney moved into a very unusual position on the left hand side that he clearly disliked. Although David Beckham hit post in the first half and Michael Owen and Frank Lampard creating good chances, England lacked the penetration to dominate a spirited Northern Irish side and in the 72nd minute star striker David Healy struck the winner for the home side that stunned the whole of England, if not Europe, and handed Sven Goran Ericsson’s first ever qualification defeat in his five years as the England manager. Even with such a record, the defeat to tiny Northern Ireland was a bitter pill to swallow for the English faithful and some of them even called for an immediate sacking for the Swedish manager.

Home ties against Austria and Poland

With the unlikely defeat at the hands of Lawrie Sanchez’s Northern Ireland things got a little bit tense for England although two home games completing the Three Lions’ qualification campaign meant it was business as usual for David Beckham and company as wins over Austria and Poland would mean England not only qualify from Group 6 but top the standings going into December, 2005’s draw in Leipzig, Germany.

Austria paid a visit to Old Trafford on 8th October, 2005 and faced an England side that ringed the changes as the team fell back to the tested 4-4-2 formation with Peter Crouch replacing a suspended Wayne Rooney and partnered Michael Owen. Jamie Carragher unusually played as a left back replacing the injured Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell came in place of Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defense. It was a hard fought game as the home side won by a solitary scored by Frank Lampard from the spot. In the end England had to hold on for a narrow win after captain David Beckham was sent off with two yellow cards. With the game against Poland still to come, results from across Europe confirmed that both Poland and England would automatically qualify for Germany come 2006.

Three days later the tie between Poland and England at Manchester proved to be the battle for the top spot and England delivered one of their best performances of the campaign with a highly deserved 2-1 win with Michael Owen and Frank Lampard on target for the home team and the visitors equalized through Frankowski.

England were heading for the draw as the leaders of UEFA Qualification Group 6 leaders. The table at the end of the campaign looked like this:

PlayedWinsDrawsLossesForAgainstPoints
England1081117525
Poland1080227924
Austria10433151212
Northern Ireland1023510189
Wales1022610158
Azerbaijan100371213

The Draw In Leipzig, Germany

As one of the top eight seeds in the draw, England got a more than satisfactory Group B comprising of South American representatives Paraguay, new comers Trinidad and Tobago and European underdogs Sweden.

Preparation for the summer in Germany

In the first friendly or warm up game since qualifying for the world cup, England faced a strong Argentinian side in Geneva on November 12, 2005. This was an ideal opportunity for the England management staff to have a look at the prospective final World Cup squad that would head to Germany in 2006 and what a game to have as a starting point. Whenever these two sides meet, things get very tense but as this was only a friendly players from both sides approached the match with free hearts and attacking instincts. England were the better side but found themselves 2-1 down with four minutes to go. But cometh the hour, cometh the man! Michael Owen scored two quick goals to haunt Argentina once again and England returned home with a deserved and moral boosting 3-2 win over their fierce South American rivals.

Keeping in mind of facing a South American opposition in group stage of the world cup in the form of Paraguay, England hosted Uruguay at Anfield, Liverpool on March 1, 2006. This was to be the team’s final game before the squad for the trip to Germany was to be announced. The game finished 2-1 in favour of the home side after being a goal down after just 26 minutes when Omar Pouso volleyed home. But things improved after half time for the home side as Peter Crouch headed home the equalizer fifteen minutes from time. Chelsea’s Joe Cole grabbed the winner in injury time when he volleyed home a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross from the right wing. Things were looking really up for the Three Lions ahead of the final squad announcement.

England then entertained Belarus at Reading’s Madejski stadium on 25th May, 2006 with the hosts fielding the ‘B’ team(reserve team) apart from Ashley Cole and Michael Owen who had full fitness on their minds. The second team did play well with Aaron Lennon being the stand out performer but it was a spirited 10-man Belorussian side that took all the honours with a 2-1 victory.

The friendly international against Hungary held at Old Trafford on 30th May was the second last game before England’s opening World Cup clash against Paraguay at Frankfurt. Sven Goran Ericsson gave a strong hint about his starting line up against the Paraguayans although things could change at the last moment. It stayed goalless in the first period and although England looked sharp but there was a clear indication that the team was tensed going up front and the finishing certainly reflected that. Yet England opened up in the second half and captain David Beckham played one of his best matches for the Three Lions in a while and with his two incisive free kicks England went 2-0 up through Steven Gerrard and John Terry. But Hungary reflected England’s frailties at the back time and again and although the Eastern Europeans reduced the scoreline to 2-1 courtesy of Dardai, Peter Crouch ensured a comfortable win with a fine shot five minutes from time. At 17 years and 75 days, Theo Walcott received his first full international cap and became his country’s youngest ever international player by coming on as a substitute in the 65th minute.

England hosted Jamaica on June the 3rd, exactly a week before the team’s opening game against Paraguay. The match was hosted by Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium keeping in mind the team’s Caribbean opponent in the form of Trinidad and Tobago in Group B. No surprises in the starting line up and the team produced a strong performance before flying off to Munich with the score reading 6-0 with Peter Crouch announcing his intentions with a classy hat-trick.

Opening tie against a plucky Paraguay

On a hot and sunny afternoon at the brand new Waldstadion in Frankfurt, England launched their World Cup 2006 campaign with a hard fought and a somewhat lacklustre 1-0 win over an equally muted Paraguay. It was a party atmosphere across the German financial capital right through the day and the inside of the stadium was no exception as the whole place was covered with St.George’s flags and scarves. Sven Goran Ericsson applied the predicted 4-4-2 formation and put out his best side with the 6feet 7inches Peter Crouch keeping out Wayne Rooney by partnering Michael Owen upfront. England came off the blocks instantly when a David Beckham free kick was floated in from the left hand side and an under pressure Carlos Gamarra put the ball in his own net to give England the lead just after three minutes. The match meandered along in a snail’s pace on a hot day with England getting cautious after the break and Paraguay taking the opportunity to provide some anxious moments for the singing English crowd. England’s lack of killer instinct was a major concern and the South Americans gave the Three Lions a hard time late in the game but Paraguay was not a top side and the Europeans got away with a dry performance that started so promisingly but faded as the match went on.

England: Robinson, Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole (Hargreaves 82), Owen (Downing 56), Crouch. Subs Not Used: Bridge, Campbell, Carragher, Carrick, Carson, James, Jenas, Lennon, Rooney, Walcott.

Booked: Gerrard, Crouch.

Goals: Gamarra 3 og.

Paraguay: Villar (Bobadilla 8), Caniza, Gamarra, Caceres, Toledo (Nunez 82), Bonet (Cuevas 68), Acuna, Paredes, Riveros, Valdez, Santa Cruz. Subs Not Used: Barreto, Cabanas, Da Silva, Dos Santos, Gavilan, Gomez, Lopez, Manzur, Montiel.

Booked: Valdez

England avoiding major embarrassment

After a drab display against the Paraguayans, England faced tournament debutants Trinidad and Tobago at Nuremberg. Leo Beenhaker’s brave side already proved in their opening WC match that they were no pushovers by holding Sweden to a goalless draw, a massive achievement for such a small island nation. The Three Lions started brightly and played with ease against a side that had no stars but as the match went on and England failed to score, T & T’s confidence increased and Sven Goran Ericsson’s side looked increasingly short on ideas and confidence as chances came and went. Peter Crouch was guilty of some poor misses and this played a part in the team losing confidence in scoring goals. It was the same old England under Sven Goran Ericsson that showed promise early on but wilted as the match progressed. As the scoreline stayed goalless, Trinidad and Tobago became adventurous and some timely defensive interventions by John Terry prevented a major embarrassment for a high-profile team like England. 10 minutes into the second period, Wayne Rooney was introduced for the first time in the World Cup as he replaced an off-colour Michael Owen. But it was the introduction of Aaron Lennon and Stewart Downing that galvanized England and Peter Crouch left behind his wasteful performance by rising high enough to head home a David Beckham cross to break the deadlock in the 83rd minute. With Trinidadian hearts broken, Steven Gerrard put the English anxiety to bed by scoring a screamer in the 90th minute past West Ham’s Shaka Hislop.

In general, it was a lucky performance by England as it could have been so bad had Trinidad and Tobago taken the lead. But ultimately quality prevailed although the caribbeans made themselves proud by taking England to the brink of a shock result.

With the two wins in the bag, England qualified for the next round and the penultimate group clash against Sweden would be a formality although the battle was for the top spot.

David James

David James

England: Robinson, Carragher (Lennon 58), Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole (Downing 74), Owen (Rooney 58), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Campbell, James, Bridge, Hargreaves, Jenas, Carrick, Carson, Walcott, Neville.

Booked: Lampard.

Goals: Crouch 83, Gerrard 90.

Trinidad and Tobago: Hislop, Edwards, Sancho, Lawrence, Gray, Birchall, Whitley, Yorke, Theobald (Wise 85), Stern John, Jones (Glen 70).
Subs Not Used: Cox, Latapy, Samuel, Charles, Scotland, Ince, Wolfe, Andrews, Jack.

Booked: Theobald, Whitley, Jones, Hislop, Gray.

Att: 41,000.

Ref: Toru Kamikawa (Japan).

Fifa man of the match: David Beckham

Match against Sweden

England went into their penultimate group game knowing that a win or a draw against Sweden would mean the Three Lions topping Group 6 and avoiding a second round knock out encounter with Juergen Klinsmann’s resurgent Germany. Sven Goran Ericsson’s men also knew that England have failed to beat the Scandinavians since May, 1968. This was a repeat of England’s opening group game against Sweden in the 2002 World Cup which finished 1-1 in Saitama, Japan.

The match again proved to be a game of two halves with England dominating play in the first period but as often in the past let the Swedes off the hook in the second half.

England had a horror start to the match at Cologne’s Rhine-Energie Stadium when with less than a minute on the clock influential striker Michael Owen, while delivering a pass, twisted his right knee and had to crawl in agony to the touchline to receive treatment. From that very moment it was all over for poor Michael Owen as he was stretchered off the ground being replaced by Peter Crouch and the England team were left stunned with such a disastrous twist of fate. The match took time to get going but when it did England came out of the blocks the quicker with Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney running the show. England took the lead after 34 minutes with Chelsea’s Joe Cole scoring one of the best individual goals of the tournament- a ferocious dipping volley just from outside the box that gave keeper Andreas Isaksson no chance.

Yet as often against England, the opposition came back into match and former Aston Villa striker Marcus Allback scored the equalizer six minutes after the break, 2000th goal in World Cup history, to bring parity to an eventful and colourful match. England were lucky not to have gone behind in the match as the defence looked terribly shaky. Just when England looked to have been outplayed by Sweden in the second half, Steven Gerrard scored five minutes from time to give his side the hope of beating Sweden for the first time since 1968. But Sweden had a player named Henrik Larsson who as always came up with the goods right at the death to again deny England a competitive win against his side since 22 May, 1968.

With this draw though, England earned a knock out tie against unfacied Equador rather than hosts Germany.

Sweden: Isaksson, Lucic, Mellberg, Edman, Alexandersson, Linderoth (Andersson 90), Kallstrom, Ljungberg, Jonson (Wilhelmsson 54), Larsson, Allback (Elmander 74).
Subs Not Used: Alvbage, Hansson, Ibrahimovic, Nilsson, Rosenberg, Shaaban, Stenman, Anders Svensson, Karl Svensson.

Booked: Alexandersson, Ljungberg.

Goals: Allback 51, Larsson 90.

England: Robinson, Carragher, Ferdinand (Campbell 56), Terry, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Hargreaves, Joe Cole, Rooney (Gerrard 69), Owen (Crouch 4).
Subs Not Used: Bridge, Carrick, Carson, Downing, James, Jenas, Lennon, Neville, Walcott.

Booked: Hargreaves.

Goals: Joe Cole 34, Gerrard 85.

Att: 45,000.

Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

First Round Knock out tie against Equador

On a stifling hot afternoon in Stuttgart England produced a workman like performance to beat a brave and energetic Equadorian side that secured a quarter final clash against Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Portugal. It was the side from South America that had the chances to humiliate England but to preserve their energy Sven Goran Ericsson employed a strange 4-1-4-1 formation keeping Wayne Rooney upfront alone. It was a trademark second half David Beckham free kick from 30 yards that took England to the quarter finals, the third time under Sven Goran Ericsson in a major tournament after quarter final appearances in WC 2002 and EURO 2004.

A tearful quarter final tie against Portugal

Wayne Rooney sent off!

Wayne Rooney sent off!

England went out of a third successive quarter final game in the third major competition under Sven Goran Ericsson but not before a lion hearted performance at Gelsenkirchen’s Auf Schalke Stadion. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Portugal again proved to be Sven Goran Ericsson’s nemesis after masterminding the fall of England thrice, all in quarter finals, first with Brazil in 2002, then twice for Portugal in Euro 2004(on penalties) and here again in Germany beating the Three Lions 3-1 on penalties.

Apart from captain David Beckham getting injured just after half time, England played much of the second half and extra time on penalties with 10 men as star striker Wayne Rooney was sent off for kicking Ricardo Carvalho and his Manchester United teammate Christiano Ronaldo was the man who insisted referee Horacio Elizondo to send his club mate off.

Even with a man short England played with great hearts but were undone by Sven Goran Ericsson’s lack of instinctive ideas although luck played a big role as the team was devastated by injuries and the Three Lions suffered from inconsistencies and lack of killer instincts. The lack of success in the international stage again haunted the English as the team got knocked out on penalties with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher missing penalties to bring an early end to the outgoing Sven Goran Ericsson’s reign as the first foreign manager to be based at Soho Square who never played at Wembley in his five year tenor as the England boss.

England: Robinson, Neville, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Hargreaves, Beckham (Lennon 51), Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole (Crouch 65), Rooney, Lennon (Carragher 118).
Subs Not Used: Campbell, James, Bridge, Jenas, Carrick, Downing, Carson, Walcott.

Sent Off: Rooney (62).

Booked: Terry, Hargreaves.

Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel, Meira, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Figo (Postiga 86), Maniche, Petit, Tiago (Viana 74), Ronaldo, Pauleta (Simao 63).
Subs Not Used: Paulo Ferreira, Caneira, Ricardo Costa, Quim, Boa Morte, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Santos.

Booked: Petit, Ricardo Carvalho.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina).

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