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Top 5 England qualification strolls and Euro 2016 connotations

| 08.09.2015

A 6-0 defeat of San Marino proved an apt summary of England’s overall qualification campaign – comfortable, stress-free and lacking in drama.

In becoming the first nation to qualify for Euro 2016 with seven wins from seven, England’s fans and management can begin planning next summer’s tournament safe in the knowledge that no final game or play-off drama can scupper the trip.

But in a group that failed to stretch or challenge Roy Hodgson’s men, just what can we take from it? Could England be undercooked heading into the tournament? Or will they be brimming with confidence as 12/1 fifth-favourites?

We take a look at England’s previous qualifying strolls and see if we can take any lessons from recent history. Spoiler alert: Optimists may wish to stop reading now.

1. World Cup 2010

Tricky might be the word used more than most when describing qualifying draws, and it certainly got an airing when Fabio Capello’s England were drawn alongside Ukraine and the architect’s of Steve McClaren’s downfall two years earlier, Croatia.

However bar a 1-0 slip-up to Ukraine in Dnipro, England were brilliant: winning nine of their ten games and even putting nine goals past Croatia. Finishing with 34 goals to their name, they scored six more than the next best in Europe, Spain.

Unfortunately and frustratingly the free-flowing nature of England’s attack came to an abrupt halt in South Africa, scoring only two goals in a group arguably less daunting than their qualifying (USA, Slovenia, Algeria), and scraping through in second before being unceremoniously dumped out by Germany, 4-1.

2. Euro 2012

England negotiated their eight games without a defeat, registering draws against Montenegro (twice) and Switzerland while comfortably dispatching the likes of Wales and Bulgaria.

Only three other sides (France, Italy and Russia) boasted a better defensive return than the five goals they conceded.

In Poland and Ukraine they topped their group impressively, drawing their opening game against France before defeating Sweden and Ukraine.

Against Italy in the quarters their solid defensive work paid dividends as they ground out a 0-0 draw before, somewhat predictably, any hope and promise was swiftly extinguished in a penalty shoot-out loss.

3. Euro 1988

England topped a four-team group with five wins from six, a 0-0 draw in Turkey their only dropped points. Somewhat incredibly, Bobby Robson’s side conceded only the one goal throughout qualifying yet scored 19.

Yet despite heading to West Germany possessing Europe’s meanest defence and most potent attack, England finished rock bottom of a group featuring the Soviet Union, Holland and Republic of Ireland.

Three defeats from three and with a goal difference of -5 proved the Three Lions’ worst tournament performance in nearly forty years.

4. World Cup 1962

Tasked with finishing top of a three-team group including Portugal and Luxembourg, Walter Winterbottom’s England side did exactly that without breaking much sweat, thumping Luxembourg 9-0 and 4-1 and beating Portugal 2-0 at Wembley after sharing the points in a 1-1 draw in Lisbon.

But four years before they’d lift the trophy under Alf Ramsey, Winterbottom saw his 16 year reign as England manager come to an end after his much-fancied side underwhelmed at the tournament in Chile, finishing second to Hungary in the group stage before being dumped out by Brazil in a 3-1 quarter-final loss.

5. World Cup 1950

Back in the days when the British Home Championships would double as World Cup qualifying, England finished top with three wins from three against Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

And after the FA agreed to enter a side at a FIFA World Cup for the first time ever, the great English side featuring the likes of Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen were expected to wipe the floor with all comers in Brazil.

Instead, the national side endured arguably their most embarrassing showing on foreign soil, failing to qualify from their group and, most famously, losing 1-0 to an amateur USA side.

The result was so shocking and unexpected that when the score was printed in the UK press, many assumed it to be a misprint.

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Thomas Reynolds