The Home of Football
According to FIFA’s website, England is the home of football, and in the light of the country’s role in defining the modern rules of soccer, it is hard to contest this claim. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that England has only won a single international trophy, World Cup 1966, which is also the only World Cup that the country has ever hosted. The final at Wembley saw England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time. Geoff Hurst of West Ham is still the only player to score a hat-trick (3 goals) in a World Cup Final.
The team has never reached a final since, and only once made the semi-finals, at Italia ’90. They have had slightly more success in the European Championships, which has more or less the same format as the World Cup but is only open to European nations, reaching the semi-finals twice in 1968 and 1996, but have never won it. This lack of success is mind-boggling, given England’s official FIFA status as the home of football, the English Premier League is the richest in the world, and the vast sums invested in the development of young players.
However, the game remains the most popular sport in England, despite the inevitable misery of watching the national team labor around pitches and lose to technically inferior opposition. For example, at Euro 2016, England were knocked out of the competition by Iceland, a country with a population of only 334, 252 at the time of the tournament, and several semi-professional players. Nevertheless, the popularity of the sport has attracted enormous foreign investment in teams such as Chelsea (owned by the Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich) and Manchester City (owned by Sheikh Mansour, prime minister of the UAE), and subsequently a global fan-base.
English club teams have fared somewhat better than the national team against foreign opposition. Club sides have won the Champions League (an annual competition between the top-finishing clubs from European countries) and its equivalent antecedents 12 times since 1956, and a further 12 others have won the other, less-prestigious, European Competition (competed for by teams who were not quite good enough to qualify for the Champions League or who won domestic cup competitions). However, these statistics are far less impressive when you consider that Real Madrid of Spain alone have won the Champions League 12 times in the same period!