Ahead of the Netherlands vs England game, we look at the last time England won the UFWC title.
England 1-0 Germany, 17 June 2000
European Championships, Stad du Pays, Charleroi, Belgium
Scorer: Shearer (England)
How the mighty had fallen. Previously regarded as the greatest team in the world, by 2000 England had not held the UFWC title for a full quarter of a century. England’s 1975 title victory came, like the one in 1966, against Germany. It seemed that the two sides were indelibly linked as ultimate UFWC rivals.
In June 2000 Germany were the reigning UFWC champions, having taken the title from the Czech Republic earlier in the month. And struggling England were unfavoured in the Euro group match, having lost their opening match of the tournament to Portugal, with skipper Alan Shearer in particular taking a barracking from the press.
‘Fans want Owen not Shearer,’ read one headline, with the article stating, ‘Most England fans believe captain Alan Shearer should be left out of Kevin Keegan’s starting line-up for Euro 2000, according to a new poll.’ In the event, Keegan selected both Shearer and Michael Owen, alongside the likes of David Seaman, David Beckham, and Paul Scholes.
Meanwhile, things were less than rosy in the German camp, with some pundits calling the side the worst in living memory. Coach Erich Ribbeck had been recalled from retirement on the golf courses of Tenerife just before the tournament began. Having stashed away his irons, he was able to call up stars like Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack, and Carsten Jancker, but record goalscorer Oliver Bierhoff was unavailable, and in Lothar Mattaus, Germany had a sweeper old enough to be Michael Owen’s father.
The match was one of few chances, although England edged things through the build-up play of Scholes and Beckham. The goal that settled matters came 53 minutes in. Beckham’s free kick from the right was flicked on at the near post by a combination of Owen and a German defender. Shearer launched himself at the deflection and expertly headed home.
Keegan said afterwards of his goalscorer and man of the match, ‘He’s answered his critics again. I just think he’s the best at what he does and he’s done it again tonight.’ England won the group match and, even more excitingly, the Unofficial Football World Championships. Unfortunately, as is the case with a title that exists only on paper, there was no trophy for Shearer to hold aloft in Bobby Moore-style.
‘England’s ageing hero feasted mightily on his moment of glory by devouring his doubters,’ reported The Times, calling the result, ‘a famous victory secured by a leader who has had more stick than the PM at Question Time.’
Thousands of jubilant England fans sang and danced and jumped into Charleroi’s classical fountains, while others, regrettably, fought running battles with police.
England surrendered the UFWC title to Romania three days later in a 3-2 defeat. Sick of his critics, Shearer quit international football following the Euro tournament. Keegan followed Shearer out of the door two games later following a World Cup qualifier defeat to, inevitably, Germany.