Ashley Cole's Greatest England Performances

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Ashley Cole's Greatest England Performances
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Having been omitted from Roy Hodgson's England squad for this summer's FIFA World Cup in Brazil, long-serving full-back Ashley Cole quickly announced his retirement from the international game.

The 33-year-old has been one of England's greatest servants, amassing a total of 103 caps during a 13-year career with the Three Lions.

Cole may not have ever had the chance to celebrate a goal in a Three Lions shirt, but he certainly has some fond memories of playing for the national side.

Here are six of the best:

 

Senior Debut: v Albania. March 2001.

Representing your country for the first time is always a special moment in any footballer's career and for Cole it was no different.

The then-20-year-old would never forget the match as he infamously, as per David Lacey of the Guardian, was struck in the head by a lipstick case during the celebrations of England's opener.

Nevertheless, an England debut and three points to boot meant it was still a fantastic night for a left-back who would go on to be a mainstay within the national setup for over a decade.

 

Munich Masterclass: v Germany. September 2001

One of the greatest moments in England's football history and the night that Cole emerged as a genuine world-class defender.

Everybody knows the story of that historic night in Munich, but what makes Cole's individual display even more impressive is the fact it was only his fifth cap. The England defender was superb defensively and was equally brilliant in supporting the attack—a quality that would help him for years to come.

Cole's maturity against the future World Cup finalists was certainly a sign of things to come.

 

Containing Cristiano: v Portugal. Euro 2004

Even by 2004, Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo was already regarded as one of the trickiest talents in world football—but the England full-back was superb in containing the then-Manchester United star.

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Ronaldo rarely got the better of Cole in what was an intense 120-minute battle. England would go on to lose on penalties, as usual, but the left-back did put his spot-kick away with composure.

Cole was later named in the Euro 2004 Team of the Tournament squad, largely down to his performance against Ronaldo.

 

Ronaldo Restrained Again: v Portugal. World Cup 2006

MARK J. TERRILL/Associated Press

Two years later, England faced Portugal in another quarter-final and again would suffer the heartache of crashing out on penalties.

However, Cole further enhanced his reputation as one of the world's greatest defenders with yet another defensive masterclass against Cristiano Ronaldo.

Not many players get the better of the Portugal star—doing it twice on the big stage highlights just how influential the left-back has been for his country.

 

Failed Italian Job: v Italy. Euro 2012

When it comes to England's Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat to Italy, Cole will primarily be remembered for missing a crucial penalty. However, for the two hours before that, he was immense.

Italy completely dominated proceedings and it took the defensive heroics of Cole and co. to ensure it even went to penalties. It would ultimately end in more agony for the left-back, but you cannot detract from how well he played during the 120 minutes.

It's just a shame that a missed penalty would be his final action in tournament football.

 

Hundredth Cap: v Brazil. February 2013.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

By this time, Cole's place in the starting XI was already under severe threat from Leighton Baines. In fact, the Chelsea man was even replaced by the Everton man at half-time due to injury.

However, not only did Cole become only the seventh man to become an England centurion—he, perhaps more importantly, finally won the respect of the fans that had taunted him for years due to off-the-field issues.

As per BBC Sport, the England star said: "I was [emotional]. I'd like to thank the fans, because I didn't really expect the reception I got. It was very nice. I'm delighted and overwhelmed. I'm kind of speechless."

What do you think of your list? Tell us the games you would have included below.

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