Drab. Dull. Forgettable. International friendlies are routinely accused of being all these things and more. Lacking the intensity and focus of qualifiers or tournament matches, many can feel a little aimless. England have been involved in their fair share but there have also been some eventful ones too. Here are just five worth picking out from recent years.
After Kevin Keegan’s infamous resignation in the Wembley toilets, Peter Taylor was placed in temporary charge while a replacement was found. Former Lazio manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was the FA’s choice, becoming the first foreigner to manage the England team. His reign started in impressive style with a 3-0 win over Spain at Villa Park – Nicky Barmby, Emile Heskey and Ugo Ehiogu getting the goals.
Under Eriksson, friendlies started to become a bit shambolic, with a raft of changes regularly made at halftime. This game, where the entire team was replaced at the interval, was enough to prompt condemnation from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and a new rule, limiting the number of substitutes that could be made in an international friendly. Eriksson gave six players their debuts at Upton Park, including Wayne Rooney and Francis Jeffers, who scored on his one and only England appearance.
Argentina 2-3 England, 2005
One of the best quality and most exciting England friendlies in recent memory was played in Switzerland. A meeting on neutral territory, it still had plenty of edge. Argentina were twice in front through Hernan Crespo and Walter Samuel but the strike partnership of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen was irrepressible. Rooney scored the opener and then dropped deep to help set up two late headed goals from Owen to win the game in injury time.
This was quite simply the Zlatan Ibrahimovic show. He scored four goals, including a breath-taking overhead kick from 30 yards after Joe Hart ran out and failed to clear his lines with a looping header. For England fans so often reluctant to acknowledge the talismanic striker’s ability before he moved to the Premier League, this was the perfect response. Danny Welbeck and debutant Steven Caulker scored for England but the night belonged to Ibrahimovic.
The most devastating attacking display of Roy Hodgson’s reign came away to the reigning world champions, boosting England hopes ahead of what proved to be an incoherent and dispiriting Euro 2016 campaign. Germany went in front through Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez but a tremendous late fightback sealed victory. There were three excellent goals, with Jamie Vardy’s nonchalant heel-flick to cap off a sweeping counter attack the pick of the bunch.