The Famous Five: England’s most exciting qualifying campaigns

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The new England era kicks off as the Three Lions head to Slovakia under the stewardship of charismatic boss Sam Allardyce.

With England about to start their battle to reach a sixth successive World Cup, that got the Ladbrokes News team chatting about the most exciting and impressive ways the Three Lions have made it to major tournaments. Here are our picks.

Defensive Dynamos – 1990 World Cup

Playing with the passion and desire you’d expect from a Bobby Robson side, it was England’s fearless defence who really shone en route to Italia 90 – though the likes of Gary Lineker and John Barnes made vital contributions at the other end.

The highlight was a 3-0 demolition of highly-rated Poland at Wembley, though remaining unbeaten against Euro ’92 semi-finalists Sweden also ranks as an impressive feat – especially as the pair of 0-0 draws ensured England finished the six-game group without conceding a single goal.

Most memorable moment: Gary Lineker’s opener against Poland, netted from the tightest of angles. Also a memorable night for Neil Webb, who put away the most important of his four England goals to ensure a Wembley win.

Gazza’s Goodbye Goals – 1998 World Cup

England proved they could beat the best by winning 1997’s Le Tournoi ahead of France, Italy and Brazil. And they were similarly imperious en route to the following year’s World Cup, pipping Italy to top spot in qualification.

A 2-1 comeback win against Poland in October 1996 got Glenn Hoddle’s men up and running, before comfortable victories against the likes of Georgia and Moldova. The home victory against Moldova also saw a true England great score his final international goal, when Paul Gascoigne netted sweetly to cap off a 4-0 win.

Most memorable moment: Gazza’s deftly taken winner, which bamboozled Moldovan keeper Denis Romanenco and got Wembley to its feet.

Gazza sees off Moldova with his 10th and final Three Lions goal.

Gazza sees off Moldova with his 10th and final Three Lions goal.

 
Battle of Britain – 2000 European Championship

Two games in and with just a single point to their name, things weren’t looking promising for England, especially after failing to beat lowly Bulgaria at Wembley. But the arrival of affable and experienced Kevin Keegan quickly turned the tide.

Paul Scholes’ hat-trick against Poland and a 6-0 demolition of Luxembourg meant a point in Warsaw would set up a dramatic play-off tie. It was duly earned, and the Three Lions discovered the identity of their next opponents – Scotland.

Scholes netted twice in a 2-0 win at Hampden Park, to leave the Tartan Army despondent. And despite a 1-0 Wembley win for the Scots, it was those south of the border who could book their flights to the continent for Euro 2000. As for Scholes – we suspect his face was stuck to a few pub dartboards north of Berwick.

Most memorable moment: Scholes’ delightful one-two of silky finish and bullet header to down Scotland. Or that late volley away at Luxembourg, if you’re asking Gareth Southgate.

Hampden hero Scholes holds off Don Hutchison in the play-off second-leg at Wembley.

England’s Hampden hero Scholes holds off Scotland’s Don Hutchison in the play-off second-leg at Wembley.

 
The Miracle in Munich – 2002 World Cup

Dietmar Hamann’s winner in the old Wembley’s final game may have left England fans in dim spirits, but the 1-0 loss turned out to be the precursor to an incredible triumph which saw Die Mannschaft routed 5-1 in Munich en route to the Three Lions securing a place in Japan and South Korea.

David Beckham’s last-gasp free-kick against Greece was the goal which eventually secured top spot and sent Old Trafford into overdrive, but his set-piece special in the 2-0 away win over Ethniki was perhaps even more special.

And this was a campaign where club pairings really came good, with Liverpool hitmen Robbie Fowler and Owen, and Man United’s midfield maestros Beckham and Scholes linking up to deadly effect en route to the national side’s most unforgettable World Cup qualification…yet.

Most memorable moment: Where do we start? Beckham’s golden equaliser? Heskey netting the fifth in Germany? Owen’s hat-trick in the same game? Take your pick!

The Perfect 10 – 2016 European Championship

Many tried, but only England headed into Euro 2016 with a 100 per cent record, having won all 10 games, scoring a whopping 31 goals in the process.

The next generation of Three Lions stars emerged in style, with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane impressing along the way, while Ross Barkley also netted his first two goals for Roy Hodgson’s men.

Defensively solid, pacy and lethal in front of goal, the Three Lions brushed aside highly-rated Switzerland home and away, as well as inflicting Slovenia’s first competitive home defeat in over two years.

Oh, and a certain Wayne Rooney broke Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record by hitting the 50-goal mark. Not too shabby.

Most memorable moment: Rooney’s historic half-century, of course.  A neat penalty which sent Wembley wild and further cemented the Manchester United striker as a Three Lions legend.

Wayne's Wembley joy, as Rooney becomes England's all-time top goalscorer.

Wayne’s Wembley joy, as Rooney becomes England’s all-time top goalscorer against Switzerland.

 
England are Evens to win in Slovakia on Saturday, with the Three Lions having beaten Slovenski sokoli in three of the last four meetings.

Allardyce’s side are 1/4 favourites to win their group, with 20/1 for them to win every group game – just as they did en route to Euro 2016.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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