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

Ian Watson
Fabio Capello, Gareth Southgate, Peter Crouch preparing for major tournaments with England.

England have not enjoyed a positive build-up for the World Cup. Actually, it’s been bloody awful. They haven’t won in six games, losing three along the way. So far, over eight games this year, they’ve earned an average of 1.125 points per game – the lowest number during the build-up to any major tournament this century.

The Three Lions have played varying numbers of games during the year in the run up to World Cups and European Championships. So we’ve ranked how preparation has gone since 2000 on points per game. It was all very different last year…


1) Euro 2020
P5 W5 D0 L0 PPG: 3

Build-up: Covid became a thing and acted the 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 some competitive preparation.

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

How they fared: The Three Lions eased their way into a tournament played predominantly on home soil. They expended absolutely no more energy than necessary to get through the group stage before beating Germany, Ukraine and Denmark to reach a first major final since 1966, which we still can’t talk about.


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

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

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

How they fared: In his final games as England boss, Sven-Goran Eriksson watched his side labour through a simple group and make hard work of beating Ecuador in the last 16. Then they faced Portugal again in the quarter-finals. Rooney was sent off and England lost on penalties. Plus ca change.


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

Build-up: England’s preparation also featured a practise match five days before their opener against Platinum Stars which saw Fabio Capello tear into his players at half-time. “I’d not seen him like that before,” said John Terry. “That was the worst, the angriest, I’ve seen him.” Evidently, the b*llocking 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 fared: Woeful. Capello’s men, when they were allowed out of their South African compound, stumbled through the group stage, winning against Slovenia after draws with USA and Algeria. Then they faced Germany in the last 16 and were battered in Bloemfontein.


England player ratings as Southgate’s men meekly succumb to Nations League relegation


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

Build-up: England’s preparations were as serene as Southgate could have hoped for his first major tournament. So much so, barely any of it has been committed to 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 fared: It was coming home, then Croatia spoiled it all in the semi-finals. Still hurts.


5) Euro 2016
P5 W4 D0 L1 PPG: 2.4

Build-up: England purposefully took the show on the road for the first time since Wembley was reopened to help the players avoid ‘boredom’ and make preparations feel like an extension of the season rather than a camp. Three wins out of three sent the squad off to France in good 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 fared: At least England made it through the group stage, albeit with a couple of draws either side of beating Wales. But they might have wished they hadn’t when they were humiliated by Iceland in the first knockout round. Roy was gone shortly after. And Big Sam was gone too shortly after that.


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

Build-up: There was a distinctly South and Central American theme to England’s preparations, with Uruguay and Costa Rica to face in the group stage in Brazil. A couple of draws in Florida got 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 fared: England apparently learned nothing from their preparation. After losing to Italy in their opener, they lost again to Uruguay, making their draw with Costa Rica inconsequential. ‘A tortuous, tormented and terrible campaign,’ was how it was described in the Daily Express after England returned home before the knockout phase.


7) Euro 2000
P4 W2 D2 L0 PPG: 2

Build-up: Kevin Keegan’s side qualified by beating Scotland over two legs in November 1999. They played four friendly games between the play-offs and the tournament in Holland 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 fared: Badly. They lost their opener 3-2 to Portugal before beating Germany 1-0. Then they caved in to Romania, losing 3-2 again to return home without getting out of the group.


8) Euro 2012
P3 W2 D0 L1 PPG: 2

Build-up: The biggest hassle during the preparation for Poland and Ukraine focused on the manager. Capello quit, 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 fared: Roy’s boys topped the group after wins over Sweden and Ukraine followed an opening draw with France. Then they faced Italy in the first knock-out phase and Andrea Pirlo did this to Joe Hart as the Three Lions suffered a familiar fate.


9) Euro 2000
P4 W1 D2 L1 PPG: 1.25

Build-up: A cruise against Iceland concluded a four-match schedule, most of which was dominated by Eriksson wrestling with his midfield conundrum and how to get the best out of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes. He’s still working on it…

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 fared: An opening defeat to France was followed by wins over Switzerland and Croatia, with Wayne Rooney the star of the group stage. Then he got crocked early against Portugal in the knockout phase and England suffered the agony of a penalty shoot-out exit.


10) World Cup 2002
P5 W1 D3 L1 PPG: 1.2
Under Eriksson, England qualified for the finals in the final moments of their final qualifier against Greece in October 2001. They drew with Sweden a month later before playing five friendlies in 2002 ahead of 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 fared: Beating Argentina and a couple of 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 Ronaldinho’d in the quarter-finals.