ENGLAND head into the World Cup with low expectations — something we have become accustomed to over recent years.
But it didn’t used to be like that! Back in the day England sent teams to World Cups actually believing they could win the whole thing.
That happened once, in 1966, on home soil. England’s best World Cup result since has been semi-final heartbreak to West Germany at Italia ’90.
It’s almost three decades since that penalty shootout and some England fans still haven’t got over it.
Yet despite England’s failures since ’66 there have been some incredible players and memorable moments for the Three Lions to be proud of.
Here, we give you England’s BEST World Cup XI. Not necessarily their best players, but those who have performed at their peak for England on the World Cup stage (trust us, that’s important to clarify!).
Not only a World Cup winner but Banks is credited with pulling off what is deemed the greatest ever save in football, denying Pele a certain goal at the 1970 World Cup. Peter Shilton and David Seaman both did their country proud between the sticks but Banks has more than one iconic World Cup moment to be proud of.
Ashley Cole may be the best left-back England ever produced but Pearce gave everything to England’s 1990 World Cup cause. He played with a lion-hearted passion that made his penalty disaster all the more poignant. Pearce made up for that at Euro ’96.
The original captain, leader, legend who took England to World Cup glory in ’66 and remained an iconic figure to English football long into retirement. There’s a reason ”that tackle by Moore” resonates so well down the years. His handshake with Pele in 1970 is an unforgettable sporting snapshot.
As gifted a ball player as he was a defender, Rio Ferdinand’s England career spanned 14 years and 81 caps. He scored in the 2002 knockout stages and was a key component in England’s 2006 campaign. Had he not been injured by Emile Heskey in training in 2010, England would have been far more prepared for the dangers of Germany in the last-16. Shout out to Jack Charlton and John Terry.
Talk about taking your chance and running with it! Cohen was not in contention for a World Cup place two years before 1966 but he muscled his way into the side and became Alf Ramsey’s first-choice right-back. Cohen impressed in the ’66 final and retired from international football a year later, having done his country proud.
Scored goals at two World Cups and was named footballer of the year in 1954 after his performances in Switzerland that summer. Preston legend Finney was a deadly winger who averaged just under a goal every two games for his country over a 12-year international career.
For sheer entertainment, Gascoigne gets the nod here. As erratic as he was brilliant, ‘Gazza’ played with the exuberance and passion that inspired a generation of English football fans. His tears at Italia ’90 will never be forgotten.
The midfield engine as England charged to 1966 World Cup glory, Charlton bagged three goals that summer and also scored at Chile ’62. His vision from central midfield meant Alan Ball and Martin Peters could get out wide and expect the ball at their feet. Charlton retired on 106 caps and 49 international goals.
Goals in three separate World Cups and two assists thrown in there for good measure. Beckham had his critics but his commitment to the England cause was never doubted. Beckham’s red card in 1998 – and subsequent absence – showed how important he was to the Three Lions. With more luck he could have been a World Cup-winning captain.
Ten goals in two World Cups, the only Englishman to hit double figures. Lineker won the Golden Boot in 1986, scoring six times in blistering conditions under the Mexico sun. Peter Beardsley was the only other England player to score that tournament. Lineker also bagged four at Italia ’90, top scoring for his country yet again.
You cannot score a hat-trick in a World Cup final and NOT be included in an England World Cup XI. Hurst had already scored earlier in the tournament and also found the net four years later in Mexico. Shout out to Roger Hunt and Nat Lofthouse, who each boast three World Cup goals, but miss out on the forward positions.
The World Cup this year promises to be a cracker with five or six teams within a definite chance of winning the tournament.
Now, England are one of the outsiders but have a good group and should progress to the last-16 with confidence.
Whether or not they can avoid the giants of Germany or Brazil before the semi-finals is another thing.
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