The UK and Republic of Ireland will co-host Euro 2028 after their joint bid for the championships ended up being unopposed. This is a big deal for all five nations involved, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but perhaps especially for those last three countries, who have never before hosted any part of a major tournament finals.
Scotland was one of the 11 nations to jointly host Euro 2020, whilst England were too, with England also doing the honours for the 1966 World Cup and 1996 Euros as well. Anything can happen in football, as Luton’s presence in the Premier League and Leicester’s name on the competition’s trophy prove. As such, we won’t entirely dismiss the chances of any of the host nations but England are undoubtedly the most likely to go all the way.
Of the five nations set to host Euro 2028, they are the only ones to have made the final of the tournament. But what has been their best performance at a past edition of a UEFA European Championship? Have they ever won it?
Euro 2020: England’s Best Euros Result, so Near and Yet so Far
|Round of 16
|2-1 Win (AET)
|1-1 Draw (AET), Pens 3-2 Loss
England’s best performance at a European Championship thus far came in 2021, at Euro 2020! For reasons that we would all rather forget, the tournament – like so many sporting events scheduled for 2020 and even 2021 – was delayed. The big kick-off finally happened on the 11th of June, England opening two days later with a 1-0 win over Croatia.
This tournament was “nomadic”, spread over 11 host nations as said, but England played all their group matches on the home turf of Wembley. They drew 0-0 with Scotland but then beat Czech Republic 1-0 to top group D and set up a last 16 game with Germany, again at Wembley. A fine performance secured a 2-0 victory and a quarter final in Rome against Ukraine, whom they thrashed 4-0 to really excite their success-starved supporters.
Both semi finals and the final were at Wembley so the Three Lions had a clear advantage and vocal home support helped them edge out Denmark 2-1 after extra time. That win ensured their first major-final appearance since 1966 and they started the final as favourites against an Italy side that had beaten Portugal, Belgium and Spain in the decidedly tougher half of the draw.
Gareth Southgate’s men got a dream start when Luke Shaw gave them the lead after just two minutes but England seemed to retreat as the enormity of what they might achieve struck them. Italy’s old warhorse Leonardo Bonucci equalised after 67 minutes but the game remained 1-1 after first 90, then 120 minutes.
Penalties, what could possibly go right? Well, Southgate’s assured, highly prepared team took the lead, 2-1, after two kicks apiece and then, well, let’s forget about what happened next shall we? If you don’t know, England lost 3-2. But let’s look on the bright side, this was their best showing at a major tournament since 1966 and remains their best performance ever at the Euros.
1996: Home Comforts and a Familiar Story Once More
|0-0 Draw (AET), Pens 4-2 Win
|1-1 Draw (AET), Pens 6-5 Loss
England’s second-best performance in this tournament again came when they had the benefit of home advantage. Terry Venables was the man in charge and Alan Shearer was the striker the team looked to for goals. Like Southgate and Harry Kane in 2020, both delivered but England couldn’t quite deliver the trophy the nation so desperately craved in what was a glorious embodiment of the mid-1990s.
England were again drawn with Scotland, with Netherlands and Switzerland the other nations in Group A. The hosts underwhelmed in their opener with the Swiss but Shearer ended a long international goal drought by bagging the tournament’s first goal after 23 minutes. A late penalty meant Venables’ men had to settle for a draw but they beat Scotland 2-0 in their next clash.
The result could have been different had Scotland not missed a penalty but the game will be remembered not for that, nor Shearer’s opener, but for Paul Gascoigne’s magical second goal. The celebration wasn’t bad either!
Things got even better for the hosts in the next clash as they thumped a strong Dutch side 4-1. England’s SAS front-two, Shearer and Teddy Sheringham both got a brace as Venables’ men produced a style of free-flowing attacking football rarely witnessed at Wembley, at least not with the Three Lions scoring the goals.
Having topped the group ahead of the Dutch, who eliminated Scotland only by goals scored, a quarter final against Spain awaited. England failed to reproduce the mesmeric football of the game against Netherlands and were a little lucky to draw the game 0-0. It was a dour contest, most memorable for the fact that England somehow won a penalty shootout, and also Stuart Pearce’s incredible, if somewhat unhinged, celebration after he blasted home his spot kick.
Once again home fans were starting to believe that the “30 years of hurt”, so famously described in the anthem of the tournament by Skinner and Baddiel (and The Lightning Seeds) might be about to end. Once again, England would take an early lead. Once again the clash would be 1-1 after 90 minutes and then remain that way after extra time. And, of course, once again England would lose on penalties.
The Three Lions dispatched their first five pens but so did Germany. In fact the eventual winners scored their first six. Southgate stepped up to take England’s sixth and his tame effort was saved and that was that.
England’s Overall Record at the Euros
Technically speaking England finished third in Euro 96, based on their results at the finals as there was no third-place play-off match. They matched that outcome in 1968 but back then the tournament was very different, the finals only consisting of four teams and far fewer teams entering at the qualifying stage. For those reasons, we rate the performances of 1996 as more impressive.
The 1968 competition was the third staging of the tournament after England declined to enter in 1960 and then didn’t make the finals in 1964. They also failed to qualify in 1972 and 1976, not reappearing in a Euros finals until the competition was expanded to eight teams in 1980. They were poor in Italy and finished sixth, missing out in 1984 and being woeful in both 1988 and 1992 when they finished seventh of eight both times.
Euro 2024 – England Have Chance to go One Better
Germany will host Euro 2024 and England are, at the time of writing, vying with France for favouritism. They have an intelligent, assured manager, a great mix of youth and experience in their squad and have been on a steady upward curve since making the semis at the 2018 World Cup. In Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane, Kyle Walker and John Stones, they have four world-class players, with the likes of Phil Foden and Declan Rice close to that level. With a plethora of brilliant attacking options to choose from in support, England might finally win the Euros!