England's Most Memorable International Friendlies
Major competitions may be the headline-grabbers, but international friendlies have also generated their share of memorable England moments.
Whether big results against key rivals or unforgettable debuts, these matches form an important part of England’s international football story, especially since the Three Lions resisted competitive tournaments rather longer than many of their peers.
Following are 13 such encounters from the country’s past—standalone matches whose stories warrant retelling.
13. Spain 2-4 England: Bernabeu, 1987
Bryan Robson captained the England side that faced Miguel Munoz's Spain in February 1987.
Emilio Butragueno opened the scoring after 14 minutes, but what followed was one of the Three Lions’ finer individual displays.
Four times before the hour mark, Gary Lineker found the back of the net, powering England to a 4-2 win at the Bernabeu.
12. England 3-0 Spain: Villa Park, 2001
Jose Antonio Camacho, now Spain manager, brought La Roja to Villa Park for a February 2001 friendly against England.
His side lost 3-0, but even he must have been surprised at who scored the goals that night in Birmingham.
Nick Barmby, who earned 23 caps for the Three Lions, scored one of his four international goals in the 38th minute, and Emile Heskey scored his second England goal shortly after the restart.
The scoring was rounded out by one Ugo Ehiogu—the Middlesbrough defender who would never find the back of the net again for his country.
11. England 3-0 Portugal: Wembley, 1998
Manager Glenn Hoddle got his goals from rather more likely sources when England thumped Portugal 3-0 at Wembley in April 1998.
Alan Shearer opened the scoring after just five minutes and added a second shortly after the hour mark. Wedged between his strikes was a Teddy Sheringham goal scored just seconds after the restart.
That night’s England team also included Gary Neville, Tony Adams, Paul Ince, David Beckham and Paul Scholes.
10. England 1-2 Scotland: Wembley, 1977
Don Revie’s short and disastrous spell as England manager included one of England’s more famous losses to Scotland.
Gordon McQueen and Kenny Dalglish had found the back of the net for the guests on either side of the break before Mick Channon converted a late penalty, but it was after the final whistle that things escalated inside Wembley.
Moments after their 2-1 win was secured, some of the travelling fans invaded the pitch, tearing some of it up and dismantling the nets.
Revie was sacked the next month.
9. England 1-1 Brazil: Wembley, 2007
The England roadshow came to an end on June 1, 2007 when Brazil helped the Three Lions open the new Wembley Stadium.
After a cagey first half, John Terry broke the deadlock in the 68th minute, although Diego’s 90th-minute equaliser deprived them of a first win at their new ground.
Steve McLaren’s starting lineup that night was as follows: Paul Robinson, John Terry, Ledley King, Jamie Carragher, Nicky Shorey, David Beckham, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Alan Smith, Michael Owen.
8. Germany 1-2 England: Olympiastadion, 2008
It’s not every day England win away to Germany.
But on November 19, 2008, the Three Lions produced what still stands as their most recent victory over their arch-rivals when they produced a memorable 2-1 win in Berlin.
Matthew Upson (who would later score England’s only goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup—in fact, his two goals against Germany are the only goals he ever scored for his country) opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, and the Three Lions managed to hold the lead until Patrick Helmes equalised shortly after the hour mark.
The stage was set for late dramatics, and John Terry rose to the occasion when he scored the winner with six minutes remaining.
7. England 4-3 Austria: Fulham Road, 1932
In 1932, Hugo Meisl’s Austria were one of the best international sides in world football.
Two years later, they’d take fourth place at the second World Cup, and in 1936, they’d win the silver medal at the Olympics.
But on December 7 the "Wunderteam" ran into a sprightly England side that opened the scoring after only five minutes through Sammy Crooks en route to a 4-3 win, capped off by James Hampson’s 82nd-minute winner.
6. Italy 0-4 England: Stadio Comunale, 1948
Vittorio Pozzo’s Italy were two-time defending world champions when they welcomed England to Turin's Stadio Comunale in May 1948.
But Walter Winterbottom’s England happened to include one Tom Finney, who had turned 26 the month before and would produce one of his finest international displays against the Azzurri.
Finney bagged a brace in the space of two minutes midway through the second half—adding to a 2-0 lead established by Stan Mortensen and Tommy Lawton.
5. England 7-1 Spain: Highbury, 1931
In 1929 England had tasted defeat for the first time when they lost 4-3 to Spain in Madrid, so when a 1931 rematch rolled around, they were itching to set the record straight.
By the time Guillermo Gorostiza had found the back of the net for Spain in the 87th minute, the Three Lions had scored seven times—a goal haul that included braces from Tommy Johnson, John William Smith and Sammy Crooks.
Dixie Dean scored the other goal.
4. Austria 2-3 England: Praterstadion, 1952
Nat Lofthouse, take a bow.
One of England’s best-ever individual performances came at Vienna's Praterstadion in 1952 when Lofthouse, a Bolton Wanderers forward, scored twice against Austria in a 3-2 win.
But it was his second goal—the match-winner, scored with 10 minutes to play—that earned him the nickname "Lion of Vienna."
Harassed and hacked to ground as he put himself through on goal, Lofthouse nevertheless found the back of the net and delivered a memorable win for England.
3. Hungary 7-1 England: Nepstadion, 1954
In November 1953, England lost to a foreign side at Wembley for the first time when they were humiliated 6-3 by Ferenc Puskas and the "Magical Magyars."
But if they were hoping to for revenge six months later when they contested the second leg of the two-match series in Budapest, they had another think coming.
Puskas and Sandor Kocsis each scored a pair of goals for Hungary that night at the Nepstadion in Budapest, and the hosts—by consensus, the best team in the world—romped to a 7-1 win.
2. Germany 3-6 England: Olympiastadion, 1938
England had faced Germany on two previous occasions (posting a win and a draw) before they travelled to Berlin for a May 1938 friendly that drew 120,000 spectators to the Olympiastadion.
Shortly after giving the Nazi salute to the dignitaries in the Berlin stands, the Three Lions were in front thanks to Cliff Bastin’s 15th-minute opener.
Germany’s Rudolf Gellesch and England’s Jackie Robinson then traded goals before Frank Broome restored the guests’ two-goal lead, and three minutes prior to the break, Stanley Matthews scored what proved to be the winner when he netted his sixth international goal.
England went on to win 6-3.
1. Portugal 0-10 England: Estadio Nacional, 1947
It was in Lisbon that Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney played together for the first time.
But it was Tommy Lawton who opened the scoring just seconds after kick-off, and by the 11th minute, the Chelsea man had his second—giving England an early three-goal cushion following Stan Mortensen’s seventh-minute marker.
Then Finney found the back of the net. Matthews would also score in England’s 10-0 rout of Portugal, but Lawton and Mortensen were the night’s true stars with four goals apiece.
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