When England’s first-ever Test Match was played a few weeks ago, the team reached number two in the world rankings for the first time since 1982. It’s been a long road, and a number of people have been instrumental in England’s recent successes.

Michael Vaughan once said: “There’s no point having ambition if you’re not going to chase it all the way”. Throughout his career, Vaughan has been a source of inspiration for everyone who has watched him play – even when he was a happy member of the opposition. Since his retirement in 2013, he has continued to be a firm favourite with millions of fans around the world. His stories of his travels around the world, in the days leading up to and since his retirement, have kept many people entertained and, most importantly, inspired.

England’s long and arduous wait for the second final of a major men’s tournament is over.

Fifty-five years ago, the country experienced its greatest footballing moment when it won the World Cup on home soil.

Since then, managers have been appointed and fired, players selected and dropped, matches won and lost, but the search for the next big star has always ended in failure, until Gareth Southgate and his Euro 2020 squad came along.

Now that the wait is over, Sport looks back at the players, managers, milestones and more that helped England reach their second major international final.

Heartbreaker Story

England’s final appearance in the 1966 final was met with cheers: People hung bows, waved flags and left the deserted streets during the match itself to crowd the TV sets.

Although the expectation for another edition in the country never faded, the following 55 years – the longest period between a country’s participation in a grand final – were marked by heartbreak and humiliation.

Since winning the World Cup, England have reached the last 16 14 times out of 28 possible UEFA and FIFA tournaments, a 50% success rate. Compare that to the team they defeated in 1966, Germany, who went on 20 times (71.43%).

You can boost that figure for England somewhat by arguing that they reached the second group stage in 1982, but that still leaves the country behind many of their major international rivals.

History of the England tournament since 1966

Percentage of each stage reached (Uefa/Fifa tournaments)

Every England fan has their own slideshow of misery.

Depending on your age, those moments include Gerd Muller’s volley in Mexico in 1970, Diego Maradona’s hand of God in that same country in 1986, penalty kicks against the Germans in 1990 and 1996, Wayne Rooney’s limp leg in 2004 and Cristiano Ronaldo being sent off with an accompanying nod in 2006, or Frank Lampard’s uncounted shot over the line in 2010.

Portugal and Germany hurt

England have played a total of 302 matches in official UEFA and FIFA tournaments (qualifiers and finals) since the 1966 World Cup. That’s 27,570 minutes (including extra time but not including interruptions) in the search for a new finale.

Of those games, they won 180 (59.60% winning percentage) with 604 goals and 196 against.

Aside from 14 games, 12 wins and 47 goals scored, the 2020 European Championship class sucked.

England’s most frequent opponent en route to another final was Poland – 18 meetings between these countries, of which England won 11.

But perhaps the most famous was the 1-1 draw at Wembley, where the heroics of Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski ended England’s hopes of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.

England have a record of 100 per cent against a number of countries, including those they faced in qualifying, but their best result is against lowly San Marino, who they have beaten seven times with 42 goals and just one goal against.

But this match against is far more famous than any other scored so far. It happened eight seconds before the start of the infamous 1993 World Cup qualifier, which ended with Graham Taylor’s team failing to qualify for the 1994 USA final.

England’s worst record in a league game since 1966 is against Portugal, who eliminated them on penalties at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.

Portugal were also partly responsible for inflicting the most pain on England in the final round of the tournament, as they were beaten four times (after 90 minutes or on penalties). As much as in Germany.

Worryingly, Italy, England’s opponents in the Euro 2020 final, are also on the list ….. are.

Country Games Benefits Drawings Losing Profit (%)
Portugal 6 0 4* 2 0
Italy 7 1 2^ 4 14.29
Romania 7 1 3 3 14.29
Netherlands 6 1 2 3 16.67
Republic of Ireland 6 1 4 1 16.67
*Lose two games in a penalty shootout ^Lose one game in a penalty shootout

Southgate you are the…

Sir Alf Ramsay hosted the 1966 World Cup and is one of only 14 managers to have attended matches since the biggest football event in England’s history.

Percentage of UK managers earning

In competitive matches in Uefa and Fifa tournaments since the 1966 World Cup finals (number of matches in brackets)

Sven-Goran Eriksson, who led England to the quarter-finals three times between 2002 and 2006, has the best record for winning a league game since the 1966 final (excluding Sam Allardyce’s only game as head coach).

Fabio Capello is just behind him, but the Italian’s record is based on a near-perfect qualification for the 2010 World Cup, which ended with a defeat against Germany in the last 16.

Current manager Gareth Southgate has a very good record and is the only man on this list to have led the country to three semi-finals (World Cup, Nations League and European Championship). Ramsey is the only person who has more than one.

In doing so, he matched Ramsey to become the only man to lead England to the final of a major tournament.

Impressively, Southgate has been responsible for 24.32 per cent of England’s victories at UEFA and FIFA finals since the 1966 tournament, if you count victories on penalties, and he has also been responsible for a third of the country’s games at the European Championships.

He’s also the only one to beat Germany in a major tournament since Ramsey in the Round of 16.

Games, targets and clock kilometres

More than 300 players have played for England since the 1966 World Cup and wanted to help their country reach another final.

Wayne Rooney is the man who has played the most games for this purpose, with 74 games to his name. He only came close in the quarterfinals.

Other members of the so-called golden generation – Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and David Beckham – are not far behind, as is the country’s best player (and goalkeeper of the 1990 World Cup semi-final) Peter Shilton.

England’s most competitive matches since 1966

Players with the most appearances in Fifa and Uefa leagues

As his country’s top scorer, it’s no surprise that Rooney is at the top of the list of all-time top scorers since 1966 on his way to another final.

England’s top scorers since 1966

Player with the most goals in Uefa and Fifa tournaments

Harry Kane’s goal in Wednesday’s semi-final against Denmark puts him on a par with Gary Lineker at the top of England’s points standings for major tournaments (European and World Cups) with 10 points.

England traveled the world in search of another grand finale.

England have covered more than 140,000 miles and played in 52 countries on four continents since Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy over his head in 1966.

These include trips to Mexico, Japan, South Africa and Brazil for the World Cup finals.

And yet, when they finally end the long wait for the final, they will be back where the high point of their footballing history took place: at home, at Wembley.

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