The England Challenge: Knock Out Stages. Again.

Last time we spoke we made it through to the Quarter Finals. I’m not sure how, but that’s not the point. We did it. And now we have to take on our biggest rivals…

The quarter finals.

Spain, Euro 2004 Quarter Finals, June 2004

Against us in the quarter final are Spain, who aren’t yet Greatest Team Of All Time good but still pretty handy. They have peak Raul up top alongside Morientes, Xavi coming in to his own in midfield alongside Mendieta, and Canizares and Casillas fighting over the #1 jersey. They’re not going to be easy to beat.

I stick with the same team but for one pretty significant change. Michael Owen has been absolute pony so far. I take him out, and in his place comes the one and only David Dunn. No risk, no reward.

107. Spain Tactics.png

aaaand we concede after 6 minutes.

Still, we don’t panic. Our Massing-on-Caniggia tackling serves us well for once, harassing them all over the pitch and barely given them a kick.

Beckham scores from a free kick just five minutes after we go behind, and follows that with a peach of a cross that my man Lewis Buxton powers home.

Even with all our domination we can’t find that other goal to make us safe. I panic, scarred by the experience of the Germany game where they scored with all their shots on target, and hit the tactics button. I’m going to sub off the ineffectual David Dunn.

He clearly hears me, so beats three men and slams it home. 3-1, and we’re in the Semis. Thank f*cking God.

108. Spain Result.png

Yeah, that’s right. The best performance we’ve had so far, conceding just two shots in the whole game, and Big Dion is still man of the match. I promise you if I ever meet him in real life I’ll buy him a drink.

109. Spain Aftermath.png

Damn straight.

110. Euro Quarters.png

Thank God Germany are gone. I’m not sure I could have gone through that again.

Czech Republic, Euro 2004 Semi Final, June 2004

For just the second time in 38 years we’re through to the semi finals. We draw our World Cup conquerors Czech Republic. Because of course we do.

I’d be insane to change the team after such a performance, but we have a problem. Big Dion is completeley cream-crackered. He’s got maybe 30 minutes in him at absolute most before he falls asleep in the middle of the pitch. He may be my captain, leader and legend, but he needs a rest.

Step forward Michael Owen. You’ve been trolley so far this tournament. Now would be a good time to make a difference.

112. Czech Tactics.png

He doesn’t make a difference.

It’s a fantastic game, end-to-end stuff with both teams going for it. Jankulovski scores for them early on, but David Dunn equalises in the second half. I call on Big Dion to make a difference from the bench but he’s just too tired. The poor guy gets dragged through extra-time as well, but even that can’t separate us. For the second knock out game in a row against the Czech Republic, this one is going to penalties.

We go first, with Beckham kicking it off. And kick it off he does, straight over the bar.

i'm done.gif

Stainer scores their first to go ahead. Dunn scores for us, but so does Simak for them. Still behind.

Third round of kicks. Parker scores for us. Fuck All Fukal (yes I made that joke the last time we played them and no, I don’t care) scores for them.

No, wait! He blasted it wide. Three penalties each. All square.

Okay, this is good. Back on level terms, let’s kick on. Carlton Cole steps up… but Cech saves it. Never mind.

Milan Baros next for them… and he scores.

That’s it. We’re looking down the barrel now. With one penalty left each they lead 3-2. It’s the World Cup all over again. Losing to Czech Republic on penalties once was bad enough, but twice? In the Semi Finals, no less? C’mon.

Big Dion, despite crawling around the pitch on his hands and knees, has to score to keep us in the tournament. Last time he had this kind of pressure he bottled it and missed against these exact opponents, knocking us out of the World Cup. But we need him now. More than ever.

Dublin steps up…

… and he scores. Of course. Big Dion doesn’t miss twice in a row.

The excitement wears off pretty quickly, though. We may have levelled, but they still have a penalty left. If they score, they win.

Up steps Even Bigger Jan Koller… but he misses! We’re still in it!

Taking our first sudden death penalty is Gareth Barry, the Gareth Southgate of the 2000s. No pressure, of course. And he feels none, as he scores with consummate ease. Pressure back on them.

Tomas Ujfaluksi next for them, he has to score or we win, and…

113. Czech Penalties

pass out

114. Czech Result.png

England, who lost their first group game 3-0, who conceded three against Holland in two successive friendlies, who lost to Romania and drew with Georgia in qualifying, are in the Euro 2004 Final.

Good grief.

You can find out what happened in the final here.

To check out the previous episodes you can use these links:

Come back every Monday for the latest reviews. You can also follow me on Twitter here.


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