5 Biggest England Shocks at Wembley
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Roy Hodgson’s England host Montenegro and Poland in two crucial FIFA World Cup qualifiers at Wembley Stadium over the course of the next week, with the home side needing to avoid the type of shock result that has occasionally befallen the Three Lions over the course of the past 60 years if they wish to make it to Brazil 2014.
As with England currently leading Group H by only a point from second-placed Ukraine and third-in-the-table Montenegro with just two matches left to play in qualification, nothing but maximum points will suffice at the home of football on Friday and then Tuesday night if Hodgson and Co are to secure an automatic place on the long road to Rio next summer.
However, Wembley has not always been kind to England when they have been in desperate need of a result over the years, as these five painful episodes from the past demonstrate…
Hungary: 1953 (3-6)
On Nov. 25 1953, Walter Winterbottom’s England hosted the Olympic champions Hungary at Wembley in a match that few neutral observers, let alone the partisan home fans, gave the visitors a hope of winning.
The home side had never been beaten before at Wembley by foreign opposition, and, despite the fact Hungary themselves were on a three-year unbeaten run, this was an England side containing world-class players of the calibre of Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright and Stan Mortensen.
The full house at Wembley that day, as well as the England players and coaching staff, knew very little indeed about Hungary captain Ferenc Puskas and his teammates. However, that soon changed after 90 minutes in which the hosts were given a real lesson on how the game should be played.
Hungary lined up in a then totally unfamiliar 4-2-4 formation and based their game around first-time passing where the men without the ball would do the majority of the running, leaving those in possession with time to catch their breath.
And England had no answers whatsoever as they were thrashed 6-3, with the resultant effect being that Winterbottom then went away to devise a new strategic system for his team to play going forward, known as 4-4-2.
Poland: 1973 (1-1)
Alf Ramsey’s England needed to beat unfancied Poland in their final World Cup qualifier at Wembley in Oct. 1973 to make it through to the following summer’s global show-piece in West Germany.
And, despite the fact that England had already lost 2-0 in Warsaw a few months earlier, no one really expected anything other than a comfortable win for Ramsey’s world champions of 1966, especially with the likes of Peter Shilton, Emlyn Hughes, Norman Hunter, Mick Channon and captain Martin Peters in their starling XI.
However, England had failed to head the lessons from their previous meeting in June of that year, and soon found themselves behind after the brilliant Grzegorz Lato set up Jan Domarski for the opener, albeit courtesy of a howler from Shilton at his near post.
That meant the home side needed two goals to make it through to the World Cup, but instead they found themselves faced with one of the greatest goalkeeping performances from Poland No. 1 Jan Tomaszewski that the old stadium has ever seen.
The shot-stopper, who had been labelled a “clown” by Brian Clough in the buildup to the match, turned in a man-of-the-match display to thwart England at virtually every turn, and, despite a late penalty from Allan Clarke, it was the Poles who qualified for West Germany 1974 and not the much-fancied English.
Denmark: 1983 (0-1)
Another English failure to qualify for the finals of a major tournament on the back of another upset at the home of football, and this time it was Denmark who produced it by recording their first-ever, and still to this day, only, win at Wembley Stadium to deny Bobby Robson’s men a place at Euro '84 in France.
Like with their loss to Poland a decade earlier, at the time the defeat was considered to be a real low point for the English national team, although in hindsight the subsequent displays of those two nations at the 1974 World Cup and the 1984 European Championship proved just what fine sides they were.
And on this occasion in Sept. 1983 the home team were beaten by just a solitary first-half penalty from former Barcelona frontman Allan Simonsen, as England could find no reply for the technically accomplished passing of the Scandinavians.
Scotland: 1999 (0-1)
England hosted arch-rivals Scotland in the second leg of their playoff for the 2000 European Championship seemingly cruising towards the competition in the Low Countries the following summer after a convincing 2-0 win in the first leg at Hampden Park in Nov. 1999.
And no one, other than the large contingent of travelling Scottish fans who had made their way down south for the return fixture, expected anything other than another comfortable win for Kevin Keegan’s Three Lions.
However, things did not go according to plan for the home side, who fell behind just before the break to a Don Hutchinson header and then spent most of the second half clinging on to their slender 2-1 aggregate lead.
And but for a brilliant point-blank reaction save for England keeper David Seamen to keep out a late Christian Dailly header, it could have been even worse for Keegan’s men.
Croatia: 2007 (2-3)
Steve McClaren’s England only needed a draw in their final qualifier against Croatia at Wembley in Nov. 2007 to make it through to the following summer’s European championship in Austria and Switzerland, and what is more, their opponents had nothing to play for having already booked their own place in the competition by winning the group.
However, on a wet night in the capital, the home side immediately found themselves 2-0 behind after a ghastly error from stand-in goalkeeper Scott Carson had set the tone for the evening.
And despite showing some spirit and resolve to claw their way back into proceedings with two second-half goals via a Frank Lampard penalty and a Peter Crouch strike, all hopes of finishing second in the group then went up in smoke as Mladen Petric fired home from 25 yards to bring an end to McClaren’s brief tenure as England boss.