The first nation of football and the global distributor of the game, England are big on passion but short on actual prizes with their 1966 FIFA World Cup™ success on home soil still their only major tournament triumph.
England have made 11 previous FIFA World Cup™ finals appearances, starting with their debut at Brazil 1950. Since the glory of 1966, however, the furthest they have travelled in the competition was to the semi-finals in 1990, where they lost on penalties to West Germany.
In 2006, England advanced to their third successive FIFA World Cup finals under Swedish coach Sven Goran-Eriksson by topping the standings in their qualifying group ahead of Poland and Austria. They retained a 100 per cent record at home with five wins, with their only points dropped in a draw with Austria and a surprise defeat in Northern Ireland.
The Three Lions progressed past the group stage in Germany topping their section with a 1-0 win over Paraguay, a 2-0 triumph over Trinidad and Tobago and a 2-2 draw with Sweden. After beating Ecuador 1-0 in the Round of 16, England's tournament ended in a 3-1 penalty shootout defeat by Portugal in the quarter-finals following a 0-0 draw at the end of extra time.
Steve McClaren's appointment in May 2006 as the man to
succeed Eriksson crowned a remarkable rise to prominence from his
time as the assistant to caretaker manager Peter Taylor in 2000.
Yet, despite the all-star cast at his disposal, he was unable to
guide England to a place a UEFA EURO 2008, losses to Russia and
Croatia in their last two matches condemning the Three Lions to a
third-place finish in Group E.
In December 2007, Fabio Capello was named as McClaren's successor and charged with leading England through a pool also comprising Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra into the South Africa 2010 field.