England have had the worst preparation for the World Cup of any major tournament this century


England have not had a positive preparation for the World Cup. In fact, it was horrible. They haven’t won in six games, losing three along the way. So far in eight games this year, they’ve averaged 1,125 points per game – the lowest number in any major tournament build-up this century.

The Three Lions have played a varying number of games over the year ahead of the World Cups and European Championships. We have therefore classified the evolution of the preparation since 2000 in points per game. Everything was very different last year…

1) Euro 2020
P5 W5 D0 L0 PPG: 3

Accumulate: Covid became a thing and acted like a d*ck in 2020, pushing the tournament back a year. It also meant that three of the five games leading up to the Euros were World Cup qualifiers, giving the Three Lions competitive preparation.

March 25, 2021 – England 5-0 San Marino (H)
March 28, 2021 – Albania 0-2 England (A)
March 31, 2021 – England 2-1 Poland (H)
June 2, 2021 – England 1-0 Austria (H, The Riverside)
June 6, 2021 – England 1-0 Romania (H, The Riverside)

how they got away with it: The Three Lions have fought their way into a tournament played mainly at home. They spent absolutely no more energy than necessary to get past the group stage before beating Germany, Ukraine and Denmark to reach a first grand final since 1966, which we still can’t talk about.

2) 2006 World Cup
P3 W3 D0 L0 PPG: 3

Accumulate: England left for Germany full of optimism after scoring nine goals in two games at Old Trafford, but against teams ranked 46th and 76th in the world, while Wayne Rooney looked ready to recover from his injury in the foot. Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick against Jamaica and the robot was everywhere…

March 1, 2006 – England 2-1 Uruguay (H, Anfield)
May 30, 2006 – England 3-1 Hungary (H, Old Trafford)
June 3, 2006 – England 6-0 Jamaica (H, Old Trafford)

how they got away with it: In his final games as England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson watched his side go through a straightforward group and work hard to beat Ecuador in the round of 16. Then they faced Portugal again in the quarter-finals. Rooney was sent off and England lost on penalties. In addition it changes.

3) 2010 World Cup
P3 W3 D0 L0 PPG: 3

Accumulate: England’s preparation also featured a training game five days before their opener against the Platinum Stars which saw Fabio Capello rip his players apart at half-time. “I had never seen him like this before,” said John Terry. “That was the worst, most angry I’ve seen.” Obviously, the blocking did not have the desired effect.

March 3, 2010 – England 3-1 Egypt (H)
May 24, 2010 – England 3-1 Mexico (H)
May 30, 2010 – Japan 1-2 England (A, Graz, Austria)

how they got away with it: Lamentable. Capello’s men, when allowed out of their South African compound, stumbled in the group stage, winning against Slovenia after draws with the United States and Algeria. Then they faced Germany in the Round of 16 and were beaten in Bloemfontein.

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4) World Cup 2018
P4 W3 D1 L0 PPG: 2.5

Accumulate: England’s preparations have been as smooth as Southgate could have hoped for their first major tournament. So much so that almost nothing was etched in memory.

March 23, 2018 – Netherlands 0-1 England (A)
March 27, 2018 – England 1-1 Italy (H)
June 2, 2018 – England 2-1 Nigeria (H)
June 7, 2018 – England 2-0 Costa Rica (H, Elland Road)

how they got away with it: It was homecoming, then Croatia ruined everything in the semi-finals. It’s still painful.

5) Euro 2016
P5 W4 D0 L1 PPG: 2.4

Accumulate: England deliberately took the show on the road for the first time since Wembley reopened to help players avoid ‘boredom’ and make preparations feel like an extension of the season rather than a at a field. Three out of three wins sent the team to France in high spirits. Rather better than those on their return…

March 26, 2016 – Germany 2-3 England (A)
March 29, 2016 – England 1-2 Netherlands (H)
May 22, 2016 – England 2-1 Turkey (H, Eastlands)
May 27, 2016 – England 2-1 Australia (H, Stadium of Light)
June 2, 2016 – England 1-0 Portugal (H)

how they got away with it: At least England got through the group stage, but with a few draws either side of the win over Wales. But they might wish they hadn’t when they were humiliated by Iceland in the first knockout round. Roy left soon after. And Big Sam left too soon after.

6) World Cup 2014
P4 W2 D2 L0 PPG: 2

Accumulate: There was a distinctly South American and central theme to England’s preparations, with Uruguay and Costa Rica to face in the group stage in Brazil. A few draws in Florida were quite tasty, with Raheem Sterling sent off against Ecuador.

March 5, 2014 – England 1-0 Denmark (H)
May 30, 2014 – England 3-0 Peru (H)
June 4, 2014 – Ecuador 2-2 England (A, Miami)
June 7, 2014 – Honduras 0-0 England (A, Miami)

how they got away with it: England apparently learned nothing from their preparation. After losing to Italy in their opening match, they lost again to Uruguay, rendering their draw with Costa Rica inconsequential. “A torturous, tormented and terrible countryside”, is how it is described in the Daily Express after England returned home ahead of the knockout stage.

7) 2000 euros
P4 W2 D2 L0 PPG: 2

Accumulate: Kevin Keegan’s side qualified by beating Scotland in two legs in November 1999. They played four friendlies between the play-offs and the tournament in the Netherlands and Belgium, winning two and drawing two.

February 23, 2000 – England 0-0 Argentina (H)
May 27, 2000 – England 1-1 Brazil (H)
May 31, 2000 – England 2-0 Ukraine (H)
June 3, 2000 – Malta 1-2 England (A)

how they got away with it: Wrong. They lost their opener 3-2 against Portugal before beating Germany 1-0. Then they gave in to Romania, again losing 3-2 to go home without breaking out of the group.

8) Euro 2012
P3 W2 D0 L1 PPG: 2

Accumulate: The biggest hassle during the preparation for Poland and Ukraine focused on the manager. Capello resigned, leaving Stuart Pearce to take charge of the Netherlands defeat, before Hodgson had two warm-up friendlies to assess his new players.

February 29, 2012 – England 2-3 Netherlands (H)
May 26, 2012 – Norway 0-1 England (A)
June 2, 2012 – England 1-0 Belgium (H)

how they got away with it: Roy’s boys topped the group after wins over Sweden and Ukraine followed by a draw against France. Then they faced Italy in the first knockout stage and Andrea Pirlo did it to Joe Hart as the Three Lions suffered a familiar fate.

9) 2000 euros
P4 W1 D2 L1 PPG: 1.25

Accumulate: A cruise against Iceland concluded a four-game schedule, most of which was dominated by Eriksson grappling with his midfield conundrum and how to get the most out of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes. He is still working there…

February 18, 2004 – Portugal 1-1 England (A)
March 31, 2004 – Sweden 1-0 England (A)
June 1, 2004 – England 1-1 Japan (H, Eastlands)
June 5, 2004 – England 6-1 Iceland (H)

how they got away with it: A first defeat against France was followed by victories against Switzerland and Croatia, with Wayne Rooney the star of the group stage. Then he was crushed early against Portugal in the knockout stage and England suffered the agony of a penalty shootout.

Credit: Alamy

10) 2002 World Cup
P5 W1 D3 L1 PPG: 1.2
Under Eriksson, England progressed to the final in the dying moments of their final qualifier against Greece in October 2001. They drew against Sweden a month later before playing five friendlies in 2002 before the tournament. They won one…

February 13, 2002 – Netherlands 1-1 England (A)
March 27, 2002 – England 1-2 Italy (H, Elland Road)
April 17, 2002 – England 4-0 Paraguay (H, Anfield)
May 21, 2002 – South Korea 1-1 England (A)
May 26, 2002 – England 2-2 Cameroon (A, Kobe)

how they got away with it: Beating Argentina and a few draws with Sweden and Nigeria were enough to get out of the group. England impressed in a 3-0 win over Denmark in the last 16 before being beaten by Ronaldinho in the quarter-finals.

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