England fans may feel their nation has been a footballing disappointment but it should be remembered that they are one of just eight countries to have won the FIFA World Cup. The Three Lions are also one of the most successful nations in the history of the competition in terms of appearances, victories and points.
However, they have failed to win the World Cup since prevailing on home soil back in 1966. Since then, they have finished in fourth place on two occasions, although they are yet to return to the final. What’s more, their record lags well behind the likes of Brazil, Germany and Italy.
When Did England Last Win the World Cup?
England’s one and only World Cup success came on home turf way back in 1966. You might have heard about it?
World Cup Results
England have participated in 15 World Cups to date, with just five countries featuring in more. They have been winners once and losing semi finalists on two occasions, most recently at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The years of hurt continue …
|Year||Host||Stage of Elimination (Position)||Manager||Top Scorer|
|2022||Qatar||Quarter finals (6th)||Gareth Southgate||Bukayo Saka (3) & Marcus Rashford (3)|
|2018||Russia||Semi final (4th)||Gareth Southgate||Harry Kane (6)|
|2014||Brazil||Group Stage (26th)||Roy Hodgson||Wayne Rooney (1) & Daniel Sturridge (1)|
|2010||South Africa||Round of 16 (13th)||Fabio Capello||Steven Gerrard (1), Jermain Defoe (1) & Matthew Upson (21)|
|2006||Germany||Quarter finals (7th)||Sven-Goran Eriksson||Steven Gerrard (2)|
|2002||South Korea & Japan||Quarter finals (6th)||Sven-Goran Eriksson||Michael Owen (2)|
|1998||France||Round of 16||Glenn Hoddle||Michael Owen (2) & Alan Shearer (2)|
|1990||Italy||Semi finals (4th)||Bobby Robson||Gary Lineker (4)|
|1986||Mexico||Quarter finals (8th)||Bobby Robson||Gary Lineker (6)|
|1982||Spain||Second Group Stage (6th)||Ron Greenwood||Trevor Francis (2) & Bryan Robson (2)|
|1970||Mexico||Quarter finals (8th)||Alf Ramsey||Alan Clarke (1), Geoff Hurst (1), Alan Mullery (1) & Martin Peters (1)|
|1966||England||Winners (1st)||Alf Ramsey||Geoff Hurst (4)|
|1962||Chile||Quarter finals (8th)||Walter Winterbottom||Ron Flowers (2)|
|1958||Sweden||Group Stage (11th)||Walter Winterbottom||Derek Kevan (2)|
|1954||Switzerland||Quarter final (7th)||Walter Winterbottom||Nat Lofthouse (3)|
|1950||Brazil||Group Stage (8th)||Walter Winterbottom||Wilf Mannion (1) & Stan Mortensen (1)|
Times England Won the World Cup
England have gone close on a couple of occasions since, but their heroics on their own patch in ’66 remain their only World Cup success. There was plenty of hope and expectation before the tournament began, and Alf Ramsey’s boys certainly delivered on home turf.
1966 – Ramsey’s Three Lions Prevail on Home Turf
Ahead of the 1966 World Cup, England’s best finish was a quarter final and a 7th spot in Switzerland 12 years prior. The Three Lions, then managed by the popular Ramsey, made the most of playing in front of their home supporters in ’66 and delivered the goods to send the nation into ecstasy.
It wasn’t the fastest of starts by the hosts but having drawn with Uruguay in game one, England booked their spot in the knockout rounds by beating Mexico and France (both 2-0). Ramsey’s boys then saw off Argentina and a strong, Eusebio-led Portugal, to secure a passage through to their first and only World Cup final to date.
An excellent West Germany team were waiting in the Wembley Stadium final. Helmut Haller put the Germans a goal up early on, but Geoff Hurst levelled shortly after. Martin Peters put the Three Lions in front with 12 minutes to go, although Wolfgang Weber’s equaliser at the death took the game to extra time. Ramsey delivered his famous “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again” speech as the nation looked on expectantly.
It was then was all about Hurst, who netted in the 101st minute, albeit with a little famous help from the “Russian linesman” (who was actually from Azerbaijan). He put the game beyond doubt in 120th minute to grab a hat-trick and win England the World Cup, making Kenneth Wolstenholme’s commentary, “Some people are on the pitch… they think it’s all over… it is now!” live forever as the most iconic piece of sports broadcasting in English history.
Apart from winning the tournament in 1966, England have had one or two World Cups to remember, even if the many tournaments they would rather forget perhaps spring more easily to mind.
It usually ends in heartbreak for the Three Lions supporters, but their side did them proud in 2018, as Gareth Southgate’s men reached the last four in Russia. After easing out of the group, England beat Colombia and Sweden to reach the last four. Unfortunately, they were beaten by Croatia in the semi final in Moscow. Still, it was England’s best finish at a World Cup since 1990.
28 years earlier they had been downed by West Germany 4-3 on penalties after drawing 1-1 and arguably being the better side in normal time. Bobby Robson’s team were welcomed home like heroes due to their performance in that game, despite finishing fourth overall. Gazza’s tears and the penalty misses of Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle would become cultural touchstones for a footballing generation that was left thinking “what if?”.
Golden Boot / Top Goalscorer
Gary Lineker became England’s first Golden Boot winner at a World Cup when he grabbed six goals in the 1986 tournament in Spain, including one in the quarters against Argentina and a hat-trick in the group phase against Poland.
32 years later, Harry Kane finished top scorer in Russia, also netting six times. Three of those were penalties and one a lucky deflection that the Spurs man was able to claim but even so, no one can take away Kane’s Golden Boot!
|Year||Host||Player||Number of Goals||Runner(s) Up|
|2018||Russia||Harry Kane||6||Romelu Lukaku (4), Cristiano Ronaldo (4), Denis Cheryshev (4), Kylian Mbappe (4), Antoine Griezmann (4)|
|1986||Spain||Gary Lineker||6||Diego Maradona (5), Careca (5) & Emilio Butragueno (5)|
Times England Didn’t Qualify for the World Cup
England have a pretty formidable qualifying record, but painfully they have missed out on three World Cups. After becoming a FIFA member, the English qualified for the first six finals before failing to make them for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. They also failed to reach Argentina four years later in what was a bleak period relatively soon after being triumphant in 1966.
Their most recent absence was in USA in 1994, when they finished third behind Norway and Netherlands in qualifying Group 2. This was perhaps an even darker time for the Three Lions given their woeful performance at the Euros two years earlier.
|1978||Argentina||Don Revie / Ron Greenwood||6||5||0||1|
|1974||West Germany||Alf Ramsey||4||1||2||1|
Along with several good tournaments, England have also had a few World Cups to forget over the years. The English had only failed to win a game in one World Cup prior to Brazil 2014. Roy Hodgson’s were among the favourites to win the competition on Brazilian turf, but they picked up just one point from three group games, going on to finish in a woeful 26th place according to FIFA’s stats-based ranking.
The Three Lions had a tough group, up against Italy and Luis Suarez’s Uruguay. This was the first time in history that three former champions had been pitted against each other in the group stage. None the less, the “Group of Death” excuse doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny given minnows Costa Rica managed to top the pile!