Euro 2004 Threatens To Repeat Itself As England Must Meet Expectations

This Weekend, England‘s Euro 2020 campaign kicks off as they face Croatia at Wembley. The Croatians are a familiar opponent for The Three Lions having beaten them in the Semi-Finals at the World Cup three years ago and facing them on the group stage at Euro 2004. This time is different however, England must meet Expectations.

Euro 2004 Threatens To Repeat Itself As England Must Meet Expectations

England Kick Off Euros Against Croatia on Sunday

Three years ago in Russia, England had little hope of lifting the trophy but came home as heroes after finishing fourth. The squad for that tournament was young and lacked quality compared to the squads of the favourites but England had a system that worked and overachieved.  This summer England’s squad is still young but now packed full of talent which has performed on the biggest stage. The team is full of Champions League and Premier League winners and the hope that England can finally break their trophy drought is bigger than ever. At Euro 2004, England had similar expectations. We look at how they managed expectations then and how they may fare this summer.

Euro 2004


Goalkeepers: 1. David James (Manchester City), 13. Paul Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur), 22. Ian Walker (Leicester City)
Defenders: 2. Gary Neville (Manchester United), 3. Ashley Cole (Arsenal), 5. John Terry (Chelsea), 6. Sol Campbell (Arsenal), 12. Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), 14. Phil Neville (Manchester United), 15. Ledley King (Tottenham), 16. Jamie Carragher (Liverpool).
Midfielders: 4. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool|), 7. David Beckham (Real Madrid), 8. Paul Scholes (Manchester United), 11. Frank Lampard (Chelsea), 17. Nicky Butt (Manchester United), 18. Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), 19. Joe Cole (Chelsea), 20. Kieron Dyer (Newcastle United)
Strikers: 9. Wayne Rooney (Everton), 10. Michael Owen (Liverpool), 21. Emile Heskey (Birmingham City), 23. Darius Vassell (Aston Villa).


England headed to Euro 2004 in Portugal with a Squad full of young, world-class talent, much like this year’s squad. Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville were fit after missing the 2002 World Cup with injury and England had a new star in 18-year-old Wayne Rooney. The Three Lions had one key absentee in the banned Rio Ferdinand, much like how Harry Maguire may miss games this summer. England’s golden generation was taking shape and Euro 2004 looked like their best chance at silverware. They were drawn in a group with France, Switzerland, and Croatia.

A mistake from Steven Gerrard saw England lose against France but the Liverpool legend made up for the mistake with a goal in the next game against Switzerland, a game where Wayne Rooney also scored a brace. The Three Lions needed just a draw against Croatia to advance. Backed by tremendous support in Lisbon, they ran out 4-2 winners. Rooney became the hero again with another brace with Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes also scoring. This was the first time England had made it out of a European Championship group not at home. All the media attention was on the teenage Rooney, who was leading the golden boot for the competition. The next challenge was a Quarter-Final clash with hosts Portugal.

England started the game brightly, scoring in the 3rd minute through Michael Owen but when Rooney went off injured they lost all momentum. They were finally unlocked with 7 minutes to go when Helder Postiga scored a header, breaking English hearts. A late Sol Cambell goal was ruled out controversially by referee Urs Meier, who was on the end of a media campaign run by The Sun after the game. Rui Costa and Lampard both scored in extra time to send the game to penalties where a Darius Vassell miss saw England bow out.

The Aftermath

The 4-4-2 system used by manager Swen-Goran Eriksson was the subject of much criticism after the game with many believing England was too defensive in the loss to Portugal. This is similar to the criticism of the five at the back system Southgate prefers as opponents have now figured it out.  The failure to fit Scholes into a central midfield role with Lampard and Gerrard saw him retire from international football aged just 29. The media thought England had missed a golden opportunity to win, with Greece eventually beating Portugal in the final. Eriksson left England after the 2006 World Cup, once again losing to Portugal in the Quarter-Finals.

Home Advantage Means England Must Meet Expectations

Euro 2004 is probably the closest tournament to Euro 2020 in recent memory, Both squads are packed full of world-class talent that is/was still yet to break out on the international stage. The team is to play most of the tournament on home soil so they’ll be hoping to go further than the 2004 team as England must meet expectations this time. All of England’s group games are at Wembley with there sure to be a great atmosphere after a year with no fans.


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