England vs Wales: A 137-Year Footballing Rivalry


On June 16th 2016 the 102nd meeting between England and Wales will take place at the European Championships. As the Three Lions and the Welsh Dragons prepare to face each other, The Panenka looks at the history of clashes between the two British home nations.

When England play Wales at Euro 2016 it will be the first time the two countries have met at a major tournament. Before then, duels between the two have been restricted to friendlies, Euro and World Cup qualifiers and the now defunct Home Nations Championships.

The history of clashes between England and Wales makes poor reading the Welsh. Out of the previous 101 matches England have won 66 and drawn 21. Wales have only beaten England 14 times in a 137-year history of football.

The first ever meeting between England and Wales took place on 18 January 1879 in a friendly. England won the match 2-1 which took place at the Kennington Oval, London on the cricket pitch. It is reported that around 200 people attended.

The two nations met at least once a year between the 1880s and 1984. The earliest engagements were restricted to friendlies but in 1884 the Home Nations Championship was invented.

The British Home Championship consisted of Scotland, Ireland (eventually becoming Northern Ireland), Wales and England playing each other in a round robin style tournament to decide the winner.

The competition ran for 100 years until it was abolished in 1984. It was played every year with the exception of the periods between 1915-1919 and 1939-1945.

In 1949 and 1953 the Home Nations Championship took on particular importance as is doubled as the qualification stages for the 1950 and 1954 World Cups. England beat Wales 4-1 on both occasions to qualify for the tournaments held in Brazil and Switzerland respectively.

In the 1949 meeting the great Jackie Milburn scored a hat-trick for England at Cardiff’s Ninian park. In the 1953 clash Nat Lofthouse scored a brace for Walter Winterbottom’s England.

The meetings between England and Wales in 1966 and 1967 saw the Home Nations tournament take on a different format. With qualification to the 1968 European Championships at stake each of the four home nations would play each other home and away over two years.

World Champions England beat Wales twice. Firstly, 75,000 people witnessed a Geoff Hurst brace and a goal from each of the Charlton brothers in a 5-1 victory at Wembley in November 1966. In the return leg, Wales were dismissed 3-0 at Ninian Park with goals from Martin Peters, Bobby Charlton and an Alan Ball penalty.


Liverpool club-mates Emyln Hughes (left) and John Toshak (right) do battle at Ninian Park in 1973.

In 1972 and 1973 fans of England and Wales were treated to an extra serving of home nations action when England were drawn in the same qualifying group for the 194 World Cup. Neither team qualified for the World Cup in Germany as they both missed out to Poland.

In the 1972 meeting England won 1-0 in Cardiff thanks to a solitary Colin Bell goal. In the return leg the Welsh dealt England’s qualification hopes a blow as they escaped Wembley Stadium with a 1-1 draw thanks to John Toshack’s 25th minute opener. It was this failed qualification attempt which cost Alf Ramey his job when he was acrimoniously sacked a year later.

The Home Nations Cup was stopped due to fixture congestion and rise in prestige of the World Cup and European Championships. Northern Ireland won the 1984 edition of the home nations championships, they still posses the trophy and the envious title of British Home Nation Champions.

The last time Wales beat England was at the last ever Home Nations tournament. Wales beat England 1-0 at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. A Welsh team including Ian Rush saw off the English in a famous victory where Mark Hughes scored the only goal.

In the last four meetings between England and Wales it has been the English who have reigned supreme. In those four games Wales were unable to muster a goal and were consequently prevented from qualifying for a major tournament.

England had to wait 20 years to get their revenge for the 1984 defeat when the Three Lions met Wales in qualification for the 2006 World Cup. In October 2004 Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England beat Mark Hughes’ Wales 2-0 thanks to goals from Frank Lampard and David Beckham at Old Trafford in Manchester.

A year later England defeated Wales 1-0 in the Welsh capital thanks to a Joe Cole effort. England topped the qualification group while Wales finished second bottom above only Azerbaijan and below Northern Ireland.

The last time the two sides met was in September 2011 in a qualification game for Euro 2012. England ran out 1-0 victors at Wembley in an instantly forgettable performance that put them in touching distance of Euro qualification.

The previous game in front of a raucous Millennium Stadium in Cardiff ended in similar fashion. Fabio Capello’s England silenced the passionate home support inside 14 minutes as England found themselves two up via Frank Lampard and Darren Bent.

England finished the qualification group in top spot and unbeaten. Wales meanwhile managed three wins but five losses meant they finished 4th and 3 points off even a play-off spot.

After England’s domination in the fixtures between the two countries it is obvious to many that the meeting in France at Euro 2016 is going to be a different proposition. Against this Wales team they cannot be considered the clear favorites they have been in the past.

Their neighbors are experiencing a renaissance that took them into the top-10 of FIFA’s World Rankings during qualification. Furthermore the Welsh have Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale within their ranks who looks set to be a potent force at Euro 2016.

England play Wales on June 16 2016 in Lens. Kick off is at 3pm CET.


One thought on “England vs Wales: A 137-Year Footballing Rivalry

  1. Wales go into the game desperately aiming to secure a first victory over England since Mark Hughes stooped to head the winner in a 1-0 win at Wrexham in 1984 – only the Principality’s h victory over their neighbours in 137 years of cross-border rivalry.


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