No More Years of Hurt? When England Won Le Tournoi In 1997

25 years ago, Glenn Hoddle's Three Lions returned home from France with an actual piece of silverware
06:55, 08 Jun 2022

The England football team and success are rarely mentioned in the same sentence and with good reason as a solitary World Cup victory, all the way back in 1966, is all the Three Lions fans have to shout about – or is it?

That’s because sandwiched between a fine showing at Euro 1996 and a World Cup last-16 exit in 1998, Glenn Hoddle actually took a squad abroad and came home with silverware – or a huge glass football to be more precise – something that no other England boss has ever achieved.

Okay, it could be accused of being nothing more than a series of meaningless summertime friendlies, but the affection with which the tournament is remembered by some England players and fans is about more than that - and not just for Roberto Carlos's now famous free-kick.

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The summer of 1997 was an exciting time to be an England supporter; Glenn Hoddle had replaced the outgoing Terry Venables as manager following the near-miss of Euro ‘96 and things appeared to be going to plan ahead of the World Cup in France 12-months later.

His first eight matches in charge had produced seven wins with 15 goals scored and just three conceded with their only defeat coming at the hands of Italy in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

Le Tournoi was ultimately a warm-up competition ahead of France ‘98 and featured four teams: France, Brazil, Italy and England - who would all face each other in a round-robin format over an eight-day period of action-packed football.

The fact that the quartet of teams shared eight World Cups between them, while France would add their name to the list the next year, not only injected some real spice, but also provided quality opposition for a side who were daring to dream of finally emulating the likes of Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Bobby Charlton and Gordon Banks three decades before them..

Hoddle’s squad that summer were no mugs either and boasted names such as David Seaman, Stuart Pearce, Gary Neville, Paul Ince, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Paul Gascoigne, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, to name a few as an optimistic nation dared to believe on the eve of another major tournament.

"We had youthful exuberance but with a few old heads too, it was sprinkled with leadership," Three Lions’ Le Tournoi-winning full-back Stuart Pearce later revealed. "The players conducted themselves in the right manner and sent the right messages to the younger players coming into the squad."

"You think of where England are now, it was a similar period," Phil Neville, who also featured in that squad, told Sky Sports in 2019. "A young, fresh team with a new manager who was tactically astute."

In their opening game against Italy, the Three Lions enjoyed their first victory against the Azzuri for 20 years as Ian Wright opened the scoring in the 26th minute before Paul Scholes' first international goal on his full debut sealed the result just before half-time.

History was once again re-written against the hosts when England registered their first away victory over France since 1949 in a game that appeared to be heading for a draw before Fabien Barthez spilled the ball and Alan Shearer converted from close range with just four minutes remaining.

England finally tasted defeat in their final game of the tournament against Brazil with Romario's second-half strike being the difference, but by then victory had already been secured due to the Selecao drawing their two previous fixtures - meaning England were the winners.

Skipper Alan Shearer was presented with the budget-looking trophy at full-time before the squad embarked on a tongue-in-cheek lap of honour in celebration in front of 40,000 bewildered-looking spectators at the Parc des Princes.

In the years since the FA has admitted losing the trophy England lifted that day, but perhaps Hoddle’s men would have taken their celebrations a little more seriously had they known that all these years on, it would remain the country’s only triumph in an overseas competition.

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