Written by Jon Clarke

We are all guilty of it aren’t we? Heaping all kinds of pressure on the team, proclaiming with confidence that football is indeed coming home. Along comes the big competitions, and the weight of expectation shows. If there are some things you can always expect from a World Cup, it’s that the annoyingly relentless Germans will always be in the later stages, and England will stumble at an early hurdle - probably Iceland.

Anyway, we aren’t being pessimists here. Realists with a dash of optimism is how we like to think of GSHQ. So while they could do it, while they COULD win the World Cup for the first time in 52 years… we won’t hold our breath just yet. What we will do however, is share with you five little-known facts about our beloved nation at the World Cup finals - just to get us all in the mood for it.


1. England did not take part in the first three World Cups

That’s right. Although we’ve attended 14 out of the possible 20, England didn’t actually go to a World Cup until 1950. Although the FA had joined FIFA in 1906, the relationship with the British associations was fraught. In 1928, the British nations withdrew from FIFA, in a dispute over payments to amateur players. This meant that England did not enter the first three World Cups.


2. The famous St.George’s flag was a rare sight in 1966

Notice anything strange about this crowd image from the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany?

England supporters waving the Union flag at the 1966 World Cup final.


There's not a St George's Cross in sight and instead the Union flag is supporting England. The St George's flag was once so disliked by some, it was considered racist. However, during the Euro '96 competition, football fans decided to reclaim the St George's flag. Why then in particular? Some people say it was a reaction to Scotland competing in the competition but also it was the time when a Scottish devolution referendum was brewing.


3. Robson’s famous 27 second goal… not as fast as first believed

Contrary to popular belief, England didn’t score the fastest goal in World Cup history in 1982. When Bryan Robson netted after just 27 seconds against France, commentators incorrectly reported it as the fastest goal in World Cup history. It lived as a widely believed fallacy for some years, but in fact Václav Mašek of Czechoslovakia had scored after 16 seconds against Mexico in 1962, a record that stood for 40 years. Hakan Şükür of Turkey since scored after just 11 seconds in 2002. Robson's goal can be correctly described as the fastest England goal in the World Cup Finals. Still an impressive record.


4. That one time David Beckham became Bryan Mills from Taken

Beckham was scapegoated for the defeat to Argentina in 1998 because he got himself sent off after 46 minutes for an altercation with Diego Simeone. He took so much abuse, he recalled later, that "I've got a little book in which I've written down the names of those people who upset me the most. I don't want to name them because I want it to be a surprise when I get them back.” A pretty chilling message from Becks, wonder if he’s got everyone back yet?


5. England own an unwanted ‘shocking’ record

Back in 1950 (England’s first World Cup) an American team featuring a postman, a mill worker and a funeral director beat an England team - who were favourites to win the tournament - 1-0 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. And according to sports data company Gracenote, the Americans had only a 9.5% chance of winning. A recent poll by the BBC found that this is regarded as the most shocking upset in World Cup history.

Here at GSHQ we have to disagree though. We’d say the way Germany dismantled Brazil 7-1, in their own country no less, back in 2014 was jaw dropping. Oh and fun fact, this humiliation took place in exactly the same location as England’s shock loss to the US mentioned above. Spooky.

What do you think is the most shocking moment in World Cup history? And do you have any little facts about England not many people will know?

June 18, 2018 — Bonnie Jackson