38 years of pain. Come 2004, it had been 38 years since England won the 1966 World Cup, but 2004 looked like the year things would finally change. For once, the Three Lions boasted a squad that was star-studded throughout and players in every area of the pitch up could claim to being one of the world's best.
Qualification for Euro 2004 was promising. England were unbeaten in their eight-game qualifying run, winning six of them. 2001 Balon d'Or winner Michael Owen and superstar David Beckham both featured prominently, scoring five goals each and finishing joint top scorers in their qualifying group.
It wasn’t just England’s attacking threat that was promising, though, as the defence was arguably the continent's best, with players such as Gary Neville, Sol Campbell, Jamie Carragher and John Terry. Then there is the stellar midfield that would rival any team down the international history line, with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes all at Sven-Goran Eriksson's disposal.
However, at Euro 2004, England finished second in their group and crashed out at the quarter-final stage against Portugal, after yet another failed penalty shootout. There were glimpses of promise at the tournament, such as the 4-2 win over Croatia, which is certainly one for the history books. This day showed the true power of this England side, as a 19-year-old Wayne Rooney bagged a brace and showed Europe he was soon to be one of the greats.
So, where did it all unravel? How can a team so powerful, fail so poorly. Here, we’ll look at four key factors in England’s failure at the 2004 tournament.
ICYMI: Have a look at how the Euro 2021 delay helps the current England side finally get their hands on the European title here.