England won the World Cup once, you know. We don’t like to go on about it, but it happened back in 1966, as our plucky wingless wonders defeated West Germany via a hat-trick from Geoff Hurst, with absolutely no debate about any of the goals. But we don’t like to go on about it.
Other than that though, the Three Lions have a fairly average record at the greatest tournament on Earth, with only a semi-final in 1990 and six quarter-final defeats from their 14 finals appearances - and on three occasions they didn’t even qualify.
Still, we’ve had our moments. And we’ve scored some crackers.
These are the ten best strikes in an England shirt: insert your own Alan Partridge commentary.
10. Steven Gerrard v Trinidad & Tobago, 2006
The former Liverpool legend scored in two tournaments, and while his goal against the USA in 2010 was a shrewd prod into the bottom corner of the net, this one, four years earlier, was destined for only one place: the top corner. Dropping a shoulder already weighed heavily with the hopes of a nation, the strike had us all believing the tournament was ours. The big tease.
9. Bryan Robson v France, 1982
Some headers are diving, others glancing, and some are just downright thumping. Bryan Robson’s, the second goal in a 3-1 win over France (he netted the first after just 27 seconds) in the opening group game of the Spanish-held 1982 World Cup, was firmly the latter of these options. England went on to top the group, with this performance in particular boasting the most free-flowing moves we’d seen from an English side for some years thanks again to Robson, raiding the French flanks at will and showing wanton disregard for the knackered wing backs he tormented all afternoon.
8. Gary Lineker v Poland, 1986
This beauty from the England legend was the meat in a hat-trick sandwich in England’s final 1986 group game vs Poland, which, following an earlier loss to Portugal and scoreless draw with Morocco, was a must-win. What makes this the pick of the bunch, and one of the greatest ever Three Lions goals, is the neat interplay between Peter Beardsley, Steve Hodge and the eventual Golden Boot-winning Lineker.
7. Paul Scholes v Tunisia, 1998
Scholes, the boy wonder, the ginger assassin, the midfielder revered more on the continent than his home country, was something of a wasted force during much of his England career, never fully replicating the golden form nor attacking verve he enjoyed with Manchester United. One rare productive spell came during France 1998, most notably against Tunisia where he pinged in a curling shot from outside the box, doubling the Three Lions’ lead after Shearer scored his first and only World Cup goal.
6. Geoff Hurst v West Germany, 1966
God bless ‘Russian’ linesmen everywhere. Had the surfeit of technology showed off by FIFA today been around then, we might have one less star on that badge of ours, as Geoff Hurt’s still debatable World Cup final winner against West Germany in 1966 ricocheted off the bar and gave officials an almighty call to make. Whatever the outcome would’ve been, the control and pivot by Hurst to elude his markers and unleash a rasping upwards drive, was superb. We’d meet our old friend karma in Bloemfontein, of course.
5. David Platt v Belgium, 1990
England, of course, eventually lost on penalties to the West Germans at Italia ‘90, but there could have been a shoot-out much earlier in the tournament had it not been for this wonderstrike by David Platt, which netted England a victory against Belgium in the last minute of extra time. Not only was it from a tough angle, it had been crossed in over his head, leaving the goalie helpless as the midfielder caught it sweetly with a hooked shot.
4. David Beckham v Columbia, 1998
One minute you’re the hero, the next you’re a curtain-fringed footballer married to a Spice Girl who’s ordered from the pitch for a petulant kick against Argentina in the quarter finals of the 1998 World Cup. Before the effigies mind, were the heroics: earlier in the tournament, Beckham scored the first of what would be many bending trademark free kicks for his country against an energetic Columbia, swerving and dipping the ball with aplomb.
3. Bobby Charlton v Mexico, 1966
At first glance, not much looked on for Bobby Charlton as he shuffled into the Mexico half 37 minutes into England’s second 1966 group game, his side hoping to park their tanks on the Wembley lawn by registering a first win. Oh but there was. One second was all it took for the Mexican defence to look as exposed as Charlton’s scalp as the star midfielder let fly with a net-smasher of a shot that sailed in. Considering the ball probably felt like concrete, it was some hit.
2. Joe Cole v Sweden, 2006
Joe Cole, believe it or not, was selected in the England squad for three World Cups. Some players don’t even get one, never mind the chance to score an absolute worldie in front of millions, as Cole did so exceptionally in a group game against Sweden in 2006. Nonchalantly chesting the ball from 30 yards out to set himself up, his fizzing half volley was simply unstoppable. Has there been a better goal for the Three Lions since? We think not.
1. Michael Owen v Argentina, 1998
So youthful are the features of Michael Owen in this classic 1998 clip that we might as well be staring at a foetus in football boots. Still, as he carries the ball so majestically into the Argentina half in this 1998 tussle, feigning a dummy before skipping past two men to get into the box and dispatch the goal of a lifetime.