Football

A Definitive List of England's Biggest Sporting Heartbreaks

A Definitive List of England's Biggest Sporting Heartbreaks

In the aftermath of Euro 2020, it's been nothing but heartbreak for England. A nation that blooded 'It's Coming Home' as it's anthem and slogan had to taste a slice of humble pie once again.

Over the Irish sea, most of us swapped the orange in the tricolour for red, and channelled their inner Italian on Sunday. While many Irish people revel in England's sporting losses, there's more where that came from.

So if Euro 2020 wasn't enough, here's some other England related heartbreaks for your enjoyment or whatever kick it gives you.

England vs South Africa - Rugby World Cup Final - 2007

England entered the 2007 Rugby World Cup as defending champions, but the hype wasn't as strong having come second in Pool A. Nonetheless, the English had maintained Jonny Wilkinson and some other 2003 standouts and found their way into the final, besting Australia and France on the way.

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South Africa had beaten England easily in the Pool stages, and came away winners in the final after a tense 15-6 affair. It was seen as an overachievement for England making the final, but they ultimately came up short against the South Africans for a second time.

Tim Henman vs Goran Ivanisevic - Wimbledon Semi-Final - 2001

The revellers on Henman Hill had hoped this day would come. Not since the great Fred Perry had an English man made the finals of Wimbledon, and all that stood in their way was a Croatian wildcard by the name of Goran Ivanisevic.

Ivanisevic was no slouch despite being ranked #125 in the world, having made three finals prior in the 1990s. Henman had bested a young Roger Federer in the Quarter-Finals and the English were swooned.

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Five sets and two tie-breakers later and Ivanisevic shattered their dreams. He went on to beat Patrick Rafter in the final in a huge underdog win.

England vs Germany - Euro 96' Semi-Final - 1996

We're probably all a bit sick of hearing about this and the narrative going into Euro 2020. But the comparisons are quite evident in this. It might not have been a final, but it was a high profile European Championship exit, in Wembley, after penalties.

England had topped their group to start the tournament, and beat Spain on penalties to reach the semi-final. All that stood in their way to a final on home soil was Germany and another set of.. penalties.

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The infamous Gareth Southgate miss led to Andreas Möller slotting it home to dump them out of the tournament.

Ricky Hatton vs Floyd Mayweather Jr. - 2007

While he may have been the pride of Manchester, Ricky Hatton had a nation behind him going into his fight in Las Vegas in 2007.

Rings of 'Hatton Wonderland' ran through the MGM before and during the fight, with over 1 million people buying the PPV in the UK alone.

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It was one of the more high profile boxing bouts of the decade, with celebrities and stars out in full force. Mayweather would go on to produce a boxing clinic and finish Hatton off in Round 10. It was heartbreak for Hatton and the English that had followed him to the fight.

Paula Radcliffe - Athens Olympics Women's Marathon - 2004

This might be one of the more sympathetic choices. Paula Radcliffe had the pressure of a nation over her heading into the Olympics in 2004. The long distance runner was a heavy favourite for a gold medal after setting the world record at the London Marathon a year prior.

Going into the games, a leg injury hampered her preparations and her use of anti-inflammatories led to an upset stomach in the race.
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Radcliffe had an infamous 'pit-stop' 22 miles into the big race, and couldn't continue. The British media reacted harshly to her withdrawal in the aftermath, as she went on to compete in the 10,000 metres five days later but didn't finish the race.

England vs Croatia - World Cup Semi-Final - 2018 

Two years after a humiliating exit at Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, England attempted to conquer their first major tournament since 1966. The hopes were high, but to say they were one of the favourites was a stretch too far.

England finished second in their group behind Belgium. A favourable draw saw them beat Colombia (on penalties) and Sweden on their way to a World Cup semi-final.

90 minutes couldn't separate them from Croatia, and Mario Mandžukić was the final thorn in England's side, sending them home after extra-time.

Let us know if there's any we missed.

Jonathan Byrne

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