The Empire Stadium in Wembley, popularly known as
Wembley Stadium, was the most famous football ground in the
world. Because England was the birthplace of the modern game and
shared with Scotland the founding role in international football,
as it evolved into England's national
stadium, gained worldwide regard as the citadel of football and as
hallowed ground. After England began playing teams
other than Scotland at Wembley in 1951, the world's national sides considered an
invitation to play there a great honour.
223 matches at old Wembley.
They played the other home countries there every other year as part
of the British Championship, Scotland
since the 1920's and Wales and Northern Ireland since the 1950's.
For that reason, Scotland played the most matches against England at
Wembley, 30, followed by Northern Ireland, 18, and Wales, 16.
Outside the home countries, Brazil and Germany/West Germany led the way
with nine matches each.
England played 51 representative teams at Wembley.
Two of those teams, the Rest of Europe and the
Rest of the World, were not national selections, but representative
sides consisting of players drawn from several nations. England
thus played 49 national teams at Wembley, although that number is
smaller by two if predecessor and successor
nations are lumped together (united Germany and West Germany, on the one hand, and Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, on
Primarily because England played a comparatively large number
of matches at Wembley against the other home countries, they had more
wins against Scotland, 16 in 30 matches, Northern Ireland, 13 in 18
matches, and Wales, 10 in 16 matches, than against any other national
team. Of the teams from abroad, Hungary went down to defeat at
Wembley more often than any other, six times in seven matches.
most memorable victory at Wembley is, of course, the 4-2 extra-time win over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.
It is still constantly discussed in England since it remains the
national side's only victory in a World Cup final. But the
continuing controversy over whether England's third goal--the first in
extra-time--crossed the goal line has ensured the match also remains
known throughout the footballing world more than 35 years later.
Because England were widely regarded as the world's leading
football power through the Second World War and had not been decisively dethroned as the second half of the 20th century
began, it is more for famous England defeats
than for celebrated England victories that Wembley is remembered in much
of the world. Thus, although
Hungary lost six of their seven matches at Wembley, more than any other
foreign team, it is the
single match in seven that England did not win, the momentous 1953
match in which England fell, 6-3, that is recalled around the globe.
Scotland were the first of 17 countries to beat
England at Wembley (16 if Germany and West Germany are considered as
one). Their first of nine Wembley wins came in 1928 in only the second
international played at Wembley, when the side remembered as the
"Wembley Wizards" tore apart England, 5-1. In fact,
since the first international the two old rivals played at Wembley ended in a 1-1 draw in 1924, Scotland
were the first national side to win at Wembley. England did not
gain their first win there until 1930, when, in the third Wembley
international, they beat the Auld Enemy, 5-2.
By 1951, when Argentina became the second national
team to play England at Wembley in an official international match, Scotland had gained three
more victories there--1-0 in 1938, 3-1 in 1949 and 3-2 in 1951, just
before the South American team's visit. Thus, in 1953, when Hungary became the
second national team to beat England at Wembley, thrashing
them 6-3 with a side still hailed half a century later as the "Magical Magyars," Scotland
already had accomplished the feat four times.
Still, it is Hungary's 1953 victory that is the most
celebrated Wembley match outside the World Cup final of 1966, and to this
day the football world fetes Hungary of 1953 as the conquerors of
England, not only because their brilliant football decimated
both the England team and England's claims to footballing supremacy, but also because they are regarded as the first foreign side to
beat England on English soil. In fact, four years earlier, in
1949, the Republic of Ireland had
beaten England, 2-0, at Goodison Park in Liverpool. Apparently because the Republic's side consisted of
players who regularly turned out for Football League clubs in
England, and perhaps because Ireland was once under British control, the
English did not regard the Republic as a foreign side. It is
undeniable, however, that the Republic of Ireland were the first foreign team to
beat England on English soil, and Hungary hold slightly lesser
distinctions as the first team from outside the British Isles to achieve
the feat and the first foreign side to do so at Wembley.
Yet Hungary got all the glory, and deservedly so, for
the manner in which they disposed of England was unforgettable, and they
undoubtedly were the strongest national team in the world during the
first half of the 1950's. Their victory on that bleak November
afternoon almost 50 years ago is a landmark in the history of English
football. It shattered forevermore the claim still prevalent in England that
English football was superior to the rest of the world's, revealing it
for what it was, an illusion that had long since lost any basis in
reality. At the
same time, it forced examination of the English game and the beginning
of its emergence
from the stultifying rigidity--so cruelly exposed by Hungary's mobility,
flexibility and skill--that the complacency of decades had bred.
Almost 50 years later, as old Wembley closed down
for demolition and construction of a new national stadium meeting modern
standards, defeating England there no longer conjured up images of wizards exercising magical powers, although it usually remained a difficult feat. The dreary 1-0 loss to
a decidedly ordinary German side in the World Cup 2002 qualification match
played on a rainy Saturday afternoon
on 7 October 2000 marked the
end of the grand
old stadium. It was England's 30th defeat at Wembley over the 76
years the stadium served as England's main home ground.
Scotland won by far the most matches against England at Wembley,
nine, followed by several countries with two wins, Brazil, Italy, Northern
Ireland, united Germany and West Germany. If the united Germany
and West Germany totals are combined, the Germans are second to
Scotland with four Wembley wins.
In addition to Hungary, whose dazzling display in
1953 was their sole Wembley victory against six losses, national teams that won a
single match against England at Wembley were Austria, Chile, Denmark, France,
Spain, Sweden, the U.S.S.R., Uruguay and Wales.
Only two visiting teams, Chile and Italy, had winning records
against England at Wembley, and their win/loss margin consisted of a
single victory. Chile played there only twice, winning one and
drawing the other. Italy visited Wembley five times, winning two,
drawing two and losing one. United Germany had a win/loss margin of two
victories against England at Wembley on the basis of two wins and
a draw in three matches, but if West Germany's results are tacked
on, the German record at Wembley was all even at four wins, four losses and a draw
in nine matches.
Other sides achieving even records at Wembley were
Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, the Rest of Europe, Romania, Saudi Arabia,
Sweden and Uruguay, but only Brazil, Romania, Sweden and Uruguay
played more than two matches there. England managed to hold Brazil
to two wins in nine Wembley matches while winning two themselves and
drawing five. All four Wembley matches with Romania ended in
draws. England won only one of four Wembley matches with Sweden,
while losing one and drawing two. And they had an identical one
win, two draws, one loss record at Wembley against Uruguay.
Eighteen national teams that played England elsewhere
never played at Wembley. Two of those nations, Bohemia and united
Ireland, ceased to exist before Wembley opened. Bohemia became
part of Czechoslovakia, which played at Wembley four times, and later
part of the Czech Republic, which played there once.
course, was partitioned in 1921, the southern part becoming what is
known today as the Republic of Ireland, which played at Wembley five
times, and the northern part becoming Northern Ireland, which played at
Wembley 18 times. The other England
opponents never to play at Wembley were Australia, C.I.S. (the Commonwealth of Independent States that succeeded the Soviet
Union, which played at Wembley four times), Canada, China, Ecuador,
Egypt, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand,
Paraguay, Peru, South Africa and Tunisia.