England have qualified for the tournament in Russia and are so far unbeaten in their group but that does not guarantee they will have a successful tournament. Here we chart how they have got on after winning in 1966
England qualified as holders and finished second in their group, behind Brazil, the eventual winners. That meant a quarter‑final against West Germany. Sir Alf Ramsey’s side led 2-0 before losing 3-2, with Gerd Müller’s goal ending England’s hopes of retaining the Jules Rimet trophy.
West Germany 1974
For the first time since England entered the qualification process, in 1950, they failed to reach the finals. They had to beat Poland in a Wembley qualifier in October 1973 but despite taking 36 shots, forcing 26 corners, hitting the woodwork twice and having four efforts cleared off the line, they simply could not find a way past the Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, who was infamously dubbed a “clown” by Brian Clough at half-time.
England may have had a different manager in Ron Greenwood but for the second time in succession they failed to reach the finals. It came down to goal difference, with the Italians booking their ticket thanks to their 6-1 defeat of Finland.
England required victory against Hungary at Wembley in November 1981 to reach their first World Cup in 12 years and managed it thanks to a slightly clumsy Paul Mariner goal. At the tournament they started well with a 3-1 victory against France. A goalless draw with West Germany meant Greenwood’s men had to beat the hosts to advance to the semi-finals. They drew 0-0.
Bobby Robson’s side qualified with relative ease, topping their group thanks to an undefeated record of four wins and four draws. In Mexico, Gary Lineker’s six goals guided England to the quarter‑finals, where they were undone by Diego Maradona through fair means and foul.
Robson led England to a second successive World Cup finals after they finished second in their qualifying group. At the tournament, a Paul Gascoigne-inspired side reached the semi-finals and came home as heroes.
Graham Taylor’s one and only qualifying campaign as manager was a disaster. They were pipped to the two qualifying places by Norway and Holland and Taylor, who died earlier this year, became a figure of ridicule and humiliation.
A defeat against Italy at Wembley was the only stain on a near‑perfect run in the qualifiers for Glenn Hoddle’s side, with a goalless draw against the same opponents in Rome sealing England’s place at the finals. There they faced Argentina in the last 16 and lost on penalties following a match including Michael Owen’s stunning goal and David Beckham’s needless sending off.
South Korea and Japan, 2002
David Beckham’s dramatic free-kick against Greece at Old Trafford sent Sven Goran-Eriksson’s side to a tournament where they got revenge over Argentina before eventually being knocked out by Brazil, via Ronaldinho’s free‑kick, in the quarter-finals.
The “Golden Generation” secured their place by finishing top of their qualifying group. At the tournament, they flattered to deceive, eventually exiting via a quarter-final defeat, on penalties, to Portugal.
South Africa 2010
Fabio Capello side qualified with ease, winning nine and losing one of their group games. If only their performances in South Africa were as convincing – England stumbled into the knockout stages where they were thumped 4-1 by Germany.
Yet again England impressed in qualifying, going through their group undefeated. But, again, they were terrible at the tournament, failing to progress to the knockout stages after losing against Italy and Uruguay and drawing with Costa Rica.
The Guardian Sport