Guardian Shorts - 20 Defining Matches
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1966 was England's greatest moment - and its biggest curse. After the World Cup win, crowds outside the team hotel in Kensington sang “For he's a jolly good fellow” to Alf Ramsey, looking forward to years of domination. Nearly five decades later, the wait goes on.
This is the story of how the England national team grew into the country's most engaging football soap opera; how they rose from a 19th-century team of public schoolboys, became champions of the world, then descended into a tormented string of bizarre near misses, false dawns and botched quarter-finals – and went from being led by a Sir, to a Turnip, then a Swede.
Based on original reports from the Guardian and Observer archives from the last 140 years, we revisit 20 of England's defining matches – from the 1934 Battle of Highbury and the shame of Nazi salutes in Berlin to the highs of Euro 96 and beyond, all in the words of contemporary writers. This unique collection also poses some big questions: what are the lessons of the past – and what is it that makes England's fans keep believing?