Ahead of the Netherlands versus England title match on 12 August we’ll look at both nations’ histories in the UFWC. We’ve covered the Netherlands. Now it’s England’s turn.
England have a long and fairly complicated UFWC history – but we’ll try to condense it into not much more than 500 words! The English played in the very first UFWC title match in 1872. Famously, it was a dull 0-0 draw. In the second title match, in 1873, England became the very first UFWC champions.
Both of those matches were against Scotland – the only side above England in the all-time UFWC rankings. England have won 74 title matches (Scotland have won 86), and have enjoyed 21 separate title reigns.
In the early years of the UFWC, the title (and international football as a whole) was confined to the British Isles, first between England and Scotland, and then involving Wales and Ireland. England and Scotland regularly swapped the title, and England gave Ireland two notable UFWC stuffings in 1895 and 1897 – 9-0 and 13-2 respectively.
In 1909, England played in the first UFWC title match to take place outside of the British Isles, defeating Hungary 4-2. England skipper Vivian Woodward scored two of the goals. Right half Evelyn Lintott, who also played in that match, was later killed in heroic circumstances at the Battle of the Somme. In 1914, the English suffered a rare UFWC loss to Ireland, and, partly because of the Great War, didn’t reclaim the title for six years.
Then, in 1927, England beat Belgium 9-1 and France 6-0. In 1930, the English were Unofficial Football World Champions but were not invited to the first official World Cup tournament. In 1932, England survived a tough encounter with Austria’s wunderteam, winning 4-3. Then, in a 1934 match remembered as “the Battle of Highbury”, England suffered cuts, bruises and broken bones during a brutal 3-2 win over Italy.
A 1939 defeat to Yugoslavia, on the eve of the Second World War, hurt a lot more. It was the first time England had lost a UFWC match to a team from outside of the British Isles. After the war, in 1947, England regained the title in a 4-2 defeat of Sweden. Then, in 1950, The English became the first UFWC title holders to play in a World Cup finals tournament. It didn’t go well. A star-studded England team were famously beaten 1-0 by the USA courtesy of Joe Gaetjens and “the shot heard around the world”.
It was 16 years before the English regained the title – but what a way to do it: July 1966, the World Cup final against West Germany, and England win 4-2 thanks to Geoff Hurst and an Azerbaijani linesman. It was England’s most famous victory. A year later came perhaps their most famous defeat – 3-2 to Scotland at Wembley in front of 30,000 travelling members of the Tartan Army.
Another long barren spell followed for England, until, in 1975, goals from Colin Bell and Malcolm MacDonald saw them beat West Germany 2-0. England held the title for six games, then returned to the UFWC wilderness. The famous 1998 World Cup defeat on penalties to Argentina and a 1999 2-0 defeat to France were only missed opportunities.
Then, in June 2000 at the European Championships, England beat Germany 1-0 courtesy of a goal from captain Alan Shearer. That was the last time England won the UFWC title. Can they win it again on 12 August?
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