The TEN Unluckiest Players not to have played for England more

In the wake of England’s game with Moldova, we unfurl our England flags once more and strap on our international game heads. Everyone always remembers the England greats, the likes of Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Peter Shilton and David Beckham. Everyone also seems to remember the one-cap wonders as well, the likes of Michael Ricketts, Francis Jeffers and Steve Guppy who should never have been allowed anywhere near an England shirt. However, since caps are handed out like confetti these days, many player appear for the Three Lions without ever really registering on anyone’s radar, in fact you’d be surprised to hear many of the names that have turned out for this country.

Some simply weren’t good enough to play for England, while others struggled with injuries. Certain individuals may have been the victim of a certain manager’s selection policy or perhaps found themselves behind a truly world class player in the race for the starting XI, costing them more appearances. Either way, there are numerous players who deserved to pull on the white shirt on more occasions and we run through the Top 10 Unluckiest England players who should have been capped more often:

To see the list, click on the picture of Matt Le Tissier:

The England All-Time XI

The Olympics have provided the nation with a constant stream of successes to celebrate over the last couple of weeks, but our Olympic men’s footballers were sadly not part of this. Once it went to penalties against the South Koreans, we all feared the worst and the outcome was almost inevitable given that the squad was predominantly English. That said, it was a young and relatively inexperienced squad that fought hard but in the end didn’t quite have the quality to challenge for a medal. So, in light of England’s Euro 2012 woes and Team GB failing to provide any consolatory medal, we have compiled the definitive English All-Time XI to remind ourselves of the truly world-class players that have represented the nation. With so many players to choose from, there were bound to be notable absences but if you’re reading this Pele, please forgive our decision to omit Nicky Butt.

Goalkeeper

Peter Shilton (125 caps, 0 goals) 1970-1990

Some may prefer World Cup-winner Gordon Banks, or perhaps even David Seaman, as the England All-Time number one, but Shilton managed to notch up well over a hundred England caps to become our nation’s most-capped player, despite beginning his international career at 32. Shilton also holds the record (jointly with Fabien Barthez) for most clean sheets at World Cup finals, with 10 clean sheets in 17 appearances.

Defence

Gary Neville (85 caps, 0 goals) 1995-2007

Neville was a top performer for both club and county. Despite lacking the pace usually associated with full backs, his overlapping runs and superb crossing more than made up for his slowness. Despite his aptitude going forward, it was in defence that Neville thrived, largely thanks to his impeccable reading of the game and tactical nous – attributes which have been exemplified in his recent work as a pundit and commentator for Sky Sports.

Bobby Moore (108 caps, 2 goals) 1962-1973

The word legend is used all too frequently in the media nowadays but it is a word befitting Bobby Moore. He was the consummate defender and played every minute of every single one of his England caps. Pele described England’s World Cup winning captain as the best defender he ever played against, which is high praise from a man more used to self-aggrandisement than praising other players.

Billy Wright (105 caps, 3 goals) 1946-1959

The Wolves legend was the first player in world football to surpass 100 international caps and was runner-up to the legendary Alfredo di Stefano in the 1957 Ballon d’Or (albeit by a large margin). Wright played for England 105 times, losing just 21 matches during that time and captaining England on a record 90 occasions.

Ashley Cole (98 caps, 0 goals) 2000-present

Cole is the only member of the current England squad to make the All-Time XI, and rightfully so. His performances for both club and country have marked him out as a genuinely world-class player, even in the twilight of his career. Furthermore, he is one of only a handful of England players in recent times to recreate his club form at international level; something which Wayne Rooney and others are yet to achieve.

Midfield

David Beckham (115 caps, 17 goals) 1996-2009

The former England captain is probably the most recognisable footballer in the world, and has twice been the runner-up of FIFA World Player of the Year (1999 & 2001). Despite his unparalleled fame, Beckham’s devotion to the national side and the passion he showed whenever he played for England was unquestionable. Unlike some players in recent times who have retired from international football simply because they have been passed over for selection (for example Jamie Carragher and Ben Foster), Beckham (along with his close friend Gary Neville) has stated that he never intends to retire from international football – he is at his nation’s disposal; just as it should be, but refreshing patriotism nonetheless, especially in this age of overpaid, egocentric footballers.

Paul Gascoigne (57 caps, 10 goals) 1988-1998

The mercurial Gascoigne had his problems off the pitch, but his ability on the pitch was clear for all to see. Though his international career was cut short due to his battle with alcoholism and other personal problems, Gascoigne demonstrated his remarkable ability and, importantly, he produced stellar performances in big games and at major tournaments – shown by the fact that he is one of only seven English players to be named in a FIFA World Cup All-Star team (Italia ’90).

Bobby Charlton (106 caps, 49 goals) 1958-1970

England’s top goal-scorer and 1966 Ballon d’Or winner is probably the greatest player ever to don an England shirt. Having survived the tragedy that was the Munich air disaster of 1958, Charlton received his first England cap just over a month later, scoring on debut. This marked the start of Charlton’s meteoric rise to international recognition, winning the World Cup in 1966 as well as the Golden Boot for the tournament.

Tom Finney (76 caps, 30 goals) 1946-1958

Preston born and bred, Sir Tom Finney played for North End for his entire career. Finney was renowned for his dribbling ability and famously never received a booking during his 14-year career. Possibly the greatest tribute to Finney came from Tommy Docherty, who, when asked this year which modern day players are as talented as Finney, replied that only Lionel Messi could be compared to the great man.

Attack

Alan Shearer (63 caps, 30 goals) 1992-2000

The Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer and joint-fifth goalscorer for England had an incredibly slow start to his England career, scoring just five goals in his first 23 matches at international level. However, Shearer eventually managed to recreate his domestic form at Euro 96 and never looked back. His 25 goals in his subsequent 40 England games repaid the faith shown in him by Terry Venables and made Shearer a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.

Gary Lineker (80 caps, 48 goals) 1984-1992

England’s own fox in the box is famous for his prolific goalscoring record and for being squeaky-clean as a player (barring an unfortunate incident one night in Cagliari). Though he ended his career one goal shy of Bobby Charlton’s record, Lineker is undoubtedly England’s best striker. The decision by Graham Taylor to substitute Lineker in the Euro ’92 match against Sweden has retrospectively been criticised for robbing Lineker of the opportunity to break Charlton’s record but in reality it mattered very little. Taylor’s decision is only loosely analogous to Michael Atherton’s famously cruel declaration against Australia with Hick not out on 98; Lineker may have been denied the prestige of being the record-holder, but his legacy had already been secured.

Disagree with our selection? Let us know who we’ve missed out:

 

TEN players who pointlessly retired from international duty

Playing for their country should be the pinnacle of any player’s career. Most people would give their right arm to stand and sing the national anthem wearing the colours of their nation, but in recent years, it seems as if national service has become a chore for some. The constant pressure on players, especially England’s, to perform has become a source of much frustration to the professionals and the criticisms they face is often not worth the hassle.

Although some like David Beckham and indeed David James, who said he would never retire from international duty, would always make themselves available for England, more and more players are simply dropping out of the international scene for no particular reason. Here are ten figures who ended their international careers for no apparent reason:

Euro 2012: Flops of the Tournament

We’ve brought you our team of the tournament, so now see if you agree with the flops of Euro 2012 as well. Once again, just click on the gallery to see the choices:

Euro 2012: Team of the Tournament

To celebrate the end of Euro 2012, the Coin Toss selects its team of the tournament. See if you agree with our selection below by clicking on the gallery:

Euro 2012: Heroes and Zeros – The Final

With Euro 2012 done and dusted, it’s time to bring you the final week of Heroes and Zeros from the showpiece event. The Spanish proved once again that they’re simply another level above everyone else and fully deserved their victory. Congratulations to Vicente Del Bosque and his men. Here’s who impressed in the final and who didn’t:

HEROES

Jordi Alba – The Valencia left back certainly wasn’t the most illustrious name on the Spanish team sheet before the tournament began, but he’s finished it as one of the players of the summer. His goal in the final was superbly taken, racing onto a through ball despite having six Italians surrounding him. He’s now sealed a move from Valencia to Barcelona for a bargain £11 million, so expect to hear plenty more of Alba’s name in the coming months. One of the stars of Euro 2012.

Tiki-Taka – Boring? Pull the other one. Spain’s style of play had attracted criticism before the final as many people decided the Spaniards were simply too dominant to play beautiful football anymore. Del Bosque’s men utterly destroyed that concept in the final and the merits of tiki-taka were there for all to see as the midfield maestros in the Spanish line-up pulled their opponents all over the park. Everyone else needs to catch up and fast.

Xavi and Iniesta – Simply brilliant in everything they do. Messi and Ronaldo may steal all the plaudits when it comes to the best player in the world tag, but take these two out of either Spain or Barcelona’s side and there simply wouldn’t be a team. They’re that good. Xavi provided a number of assists in the final, while Iniesta picked up the player of the tournament award after bossing Andrea Pirlo out of the final. Majestic.

Cesare Prandelli – Ok, his side got beaten 4-0 on the night and were completely played off the park, but credit has to go to the manager who’s done a wonderful job this tournament. No one expected Italy to get this far, but Prandelli rallied his troops after a difficult build-up that featured a hammering by Russia and match-fixing allegations. His dignity after the final whistle along with skipper Gianluigi Buffon was commendable and it’s a lesson that Mario Balotelli could do with learning.

Kiev – All the pre-tournament talk was of racism and vicious gangs that kept supporters away but these fears were fortunately never realised. Both Poland and Ukraine staged a memorable tournament, one of the more entertaining international competitions we’ve seen for a while. And Kiev’s hosting of the final was simply sensational as everything ran smoothly from the kickoff countdown to the spectacular fireworks at the end. Round of applause necessary.

ZEROS

Injuries – The Azzurri must be cursing those damn injuries that essentially ruined any chance they had of winning the game. If losing Giorgio Chiellini early on wasn’t bad enough, Thiago Motta’s second half demise reduced Italy to ten men, allowing Spain to simply rip them apart across the midfield. Bad luck is one thing you just cannot afford if you want to beat the Spanish.

The Italian defence – The back four that looked so assured against the Germans in the semi final and that defended terrifically in the opening game against Spain simply fell apart. They had plenty of men back to deal with Jordi Alba’s second goal, but nobody picked his run or that of Cesc Fabregas for the opener. Whether it was fatigue or just the size of the occasion, the Azzurri back four never turned up.

Spanish strength in depth – It’s an absolute killer that Spain can bring a player of Juan Mata’s calibre on with just three minutes remaining so he can score with his first touch of the tournament. Mata would walk into most other international teams as would forward Fernando Llorente who didn’t kick a ball all competition either. Iker Casillas says this is only the beginning for Spanish football and looking at some of the youngsters coming through like Bilbao’s Iker Muniain or Barca’s Thiago Alcântara, you have say he’s right. Scary prospect for world football and a highly annoying one as well.

Mario Balotelli – It just wasn’t the Manchester City man’s night up top, especially having to chase shadows for almost the whole 90 minutes. Unfortunately the petulance was there for all to see again. A couple of times during the game he looked like lashing out and when the final whistle went, he stormed off down the tunnel in a fit of rage. To his credit, he reappeared for the presentation in a flood of tears, but he needs to learn to control his emotions. No one else in the losing team behaved like that.

Riccardo Montolivo – He’s had a wonderful tournament, the highlight being his through ball for Balotelli’s second in the semi final, but Montolivo simply didn’t turn up in Kiev when the Italians needed him most. With Spain deploying those six midfielders once again, Montolivo needed to step up to take the pressure off Andrea Pirlo who found himself surrounded by a wave of red every time he stepped foot in the opposition half, but he didn’t and Prandelli replaced him early in the second half. He can still be proud of his performances during the rest of Euro 2012 though.

Euro 2012: Top 10 Goals

So Euro 2012 is over and Spain are the Champions. It’s been a wonderful few weeks of glorious football and to celebrate it, the Coin Toss brings you the Top 10 goals from the tournament:

10. Sami Khedira vs. Greece – After the Greeks surprisingly levelled the quarter final at 1-1, Germany hit back immediately, Sami Khedira thumping home a volley that thundered in off the underside of the crossbar.

9. Andrea Pirlo vs. Croatia – The midfield magician was better known for his metronomic-like passing throughout the tournament, but he also opened the scoring against Croatia with a well-placed free kick.

8. Danny Welbeck vs. Sweden – England were struggling against Sweden, despite equalising at 2-2 thanks to Theo Walcott. However, they went one better as Walcott broke down the right before feeding Welbeck in the penalty area who finished with a casual backheel.

7. David Silva vs. Italy – The opening goal in the final was the perfect example of Spanish passing at its very best. Xavi and Iniesta sprayed the ball across the park on numerous occasions before Cesc Fabregas broke clear on the right before tucking the ball back for Silva to nod home.

6. Mario Gomes vs. Netherlands – The German goal machine gave his side the lead against rivals Netherlands in the group stage, sumptuously turning to fire home a through ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger.

5. Mario Balotelli vs. Germany – With Italy already a goal to the good, the Germans were laying siege to their defence before Buffon parried out a cross. The Italians broke up field before Riccardo Montolivo picked out Balotelli with a delightful pass. The striker brought it down before unleashing a rocket beyond Manuel Neuer. And what about the celebration too!

4. Rafael van der Vaart vs. Portugal – Possibly the only bright spot of the Netherlands’ entire tournament. Needing a 2-0 win over Portugal to avoid an early exit, Van der Vaart gave them the perfect start, curling home a beauty from the edge of the area.

3. Mario Balotelli vs. Republic of Ireland – Italy were 1-0 up against the Irish in stoppage time when they won a corner. Balotelli met it with a spectacular acrobatic effort, firing beyond Shay Given before rather ruining it by attempting to mouth off at the bench.

2. Jakub Błaszczykowski vs. Russia – Poland were staring down the barrel when they were 1-0 down to Russia in their second group game before the skipper saved them with a moment of magic. Picking up the ball outside the area, he skipped past one defender before curling a bullet into the top corner.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. France – Zlatan proved his worth on the big stage at last when he notched with a volley of stunning technique and power that flew past Hugo Lloris in the French goal. A truly brilliant finish that deserves the prize of goal of the tournament.