The most painful World Cup exits for England, graded

The most painful World Cup exits for England, graded

Since 1966, England has been associated with World Cup heartache, and fans were forced to face even more agony when France eliminated the Three Lions in the quarter-finals of the 2022 event.

The manner of their loss infuriated long-suffering English fans who have gone so long without seeing their nation experience victory on the biggest stage.

Defeat to France was brutal to swallow, given the circumstances and how the game unfolded, but where does it rank among England’s most agonizing World Cup exits?

6. Quarter-final vs. West Germany (Mexico 1970)

England’s World Cup defense got off to a good start in Mexico, as they advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Romania and Czechoslovakia in the group round.

In the last eight, a furious West Germany awaited, but the 1966 champions appeared set to progress with a 2-0 advantage with 20 minutes left.

However, a Franz Beckenbauer goal radically changed the game’s momentum, as Uwe Seeler equalized in the 81st minute. England, stunned going into extra time, was finally defeated by a Gerd Muller goal in Sir Bobby Charlton’s farewell game for the Three Lions.

5. Quarter-final match vs. Portugal (Germany 2006)

This was maybe the most talented England team we’d ever seen. The pinnacle of the Golden Generation.

However, the Three Lions were deceived for the most part in 2006, as they stumbled into the quarter-finals after defeating Ecuador in the round of 16.

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson expected an excellent performance against Portugal, but England showed nothing more than grit to force penalties after Wayne Rooney was sent off on the hour.

They never came near in the shootout, as Ricardo stopped three penalties from sending Portugal to the semi-finals and ending Eriksson’s turbulent reign.

4. Argentina in the Round of 16 (France 1998)

While this setback came early in the knockout rounds of the 1998 World Cup, England had come so close to defeating old adversaries Argentina against all odds.

This was a terrific battle with everything, including Michael Owen’s grandeur sequence, a deft free-kick routine, and David Beckham’s moment of petulance.

England was down to 10 men after Beckham’s departure, but they felt they had grabbed a 3-2 lead with ten minutes remaining when Sol Campbell headed in Darren Anderton’s corner. The ecstatic defender dashed off, only to learn that referee Kim Nielsen had ruled the goal out due to Alan Shearer’s phantom foul on goalie Carlos Roa.

Glenn Hoddle’s team survived penalties but were defeated in the shootout after Roa saved David Batty’s penalty.

3. Semi-final match vs. Croatia (Russia 2018)

England entered the 2018 World Cup with relatively low expectations after years of disinterest and underperformance.

The objective was to win their first knockout game in the tournament since 2006, and they’d do it in the most ironic way possible: by winning on penalties.

Sweden was eliminated in the quarterfinals before Kieran Trippier enthralled the country with an incredible free-kick against Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Dubai in the opening stages of their first World Cup semi-final since 1990.

However, a shrewd Croatian team quickly took control, and victory looked to be on the cards when Ivan Perisic equalized with more than 20 minutes left. In extra time, Mario Mandzukic buried the knife into English hearts.

2. Quarter-final match vs. France (Qatar 2022)

Recency bias is probably at work here, but England’s most recent World Cup loss remains one of the most agonizing for various reasons.

They were equal to, if not better than, France in the quarter-finals and had a chance to equalize after Olivier Giroud gave the holders their second lead of the match when Theo Hernandez bundled Mason Mount over in the area.

Harry Kane, the so-often-emphatic-from-12-yards man (as he demonstrated 30 minutes earlier), stepped up but fired his spot kick into orbit. A nation cried.

This is a likable England team, and their performance in Qatar hinted that they could bring football back home. If they had defeated Les Bleus and gone to the final four, you would have bet on them against any other team in the competition.

1. Semi-final match vs. West Germany (Italia ’90)

Much of the attention around England going into Italia ’90 was centered on their fans rather than Bobby Robson’s squad, who had a disastrous Euro ’88 campaign.

Consequently, expectations were low, with the domestic media ready to slash Robson following an embarrassing stalemate against Ireland on Matchday 1.

Slowly but steadily, Robson’s Three Lions started to persuade the nation. Following a narrow victory against Egypt, they advanced to the knockout stages thanks to an excellent performance in a draw with the Dutch.

England advanced to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1966, thanks to hard-fought victories against Belgium and Cameroon. West Germany was the best of the crop and the favorite to win it all, but England put up an excellent performance that should have resulted in triumph.

If only Chris Waddle’s extra-time attempt had landed in the bottom corner…

Penalties were imposed, but the Germans were flawless. England, however, was not. Stuart Pearce’s attempt was saved before Waddle’s historic blazing over. While the loss was heartbreaking like no other in English football history, Robson’s team had won over the hearts and minds of doubters at home.