England are currently preparing for their first European Championship semi-final since 1996, as they take on Denmark on Wednesday night.
The Three Lions have been blessed with a plethora of talent in their storied history, yet never have they had a better chance to reach a second major tournament showpiece than against the Danes – who shocked the world to win the competition in 1992.
While there’s been a long barren period since the World Cup triumph in 1966, there have still been moments of joy nonetheless, with major tournaments seemingly having the knack of making or breaking English stars.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the England players who’ve netted the most goals at major tournaments for the Three Lions.
David Platt – 4
David Platt enjoyed a lengthy career at the top level that saw him turn out for the likes of Juventus, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest, although it’s perhaps with England where he is most fondly remembered, particularly for his performances at the 1990 World Cup.
One moment especially will forever remain etched in the minds of England fans, the then Aston Villa midfielder scoring arguably one of the nation’s greatest ever goals, netting a stunning volley on the turn in the 120th minute of extra-time in the last-16 against Belgium.
David Platt's volley vs Belgium at the 1990 World Cup. pic.twitter.com/WdAPqcr8vr
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) April 15, 2017
That impact off the bench – and an injury to Bryan Robson – saw Platt earn his first start of the competition against Cameroon, where he netted the game’s opening goal with a header, while he rounded off his tournament with a goal in the third-place playoff defeat to Italy, after Bobby Robson’s men had lost to West Germany in the semi-final.
Platt’s fourth and final goal came against Sweden in the final group game of a disappointing Euro 92 campaign, although he would feature again four years later at Euro ’96, starting both the quarter-final and semi-final.
He called time on his international career not long after, having registered an impressive 27 goals in 62 caps for his country from midfield.
Steven Gerrard – 4
Part of England’s famed ‘Golden Generation’ of the mid-noughties, Steven Gerrard’s international career began back in 2000, the midfielder going on to earn a remarkable 114 caps for his country in a 14-year career at international level.
His major tournament experience didn’t get off to the best of starts, as he featured just once from the bench at Euro 2000, before missing out on the World Cup squad two years later through injury.
At Euro 2004 and nearing the peak of his powers, the Liverpool midfielder was in excellent form as England impressed in the group stage, Gerrard netting in the 3-0 win over Switzerland, before Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men bowed out to Portugal in the quarter-final’s on penalties.
The Three Lions would suffer a similar fate against the same opposition at the World Cup two years later, although Gerrard did net twice in the group stage.
Four years later, the then skipper netted in the opening game draw against the USA, albeit with the goal being missed by some viewers at home following a gaffe from the ITV coverage which had cut to an advert.
He remained a key part of the squad at both Euro 2012 and the World Cup in 2014 under Roy Hodgson, although was at the centre of criticism for his role in both goals of the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in Brazil.
Bobby Charlton – 5
One of two men on this list to have actually tasted major tournament glory, Bobby Charlton is arguably one of the finest players the country has ever produced, having been the star man at the World Cup in 1966.
The Manchester United legend was part of the 1958 World Cup squad yet never actually got on the pitch, before netting his first major tournament goal at the 1962 edition against Mexico, albeit with Walter Winterbottom’s men losing in the quarter-final against Brazil.
Under Winterbottom’s successor, Alf Ramsey, Charlton’s importance and influence on the Three Lions increased, the midfielder going on to net three times on home soil in ’66, including an iconic, long-range strike in a group stage win over Mexico.
That was followed by a vital brace against Portugal in the semi-final’s, before England’s famous 4-2 win after extra-time over Germany in the final.
Charlton’s fifth and final tournament goal came in the third-place playoff win over the Soviet Union at the 1968 European Championships, while he would also feature heavily at the 1970 World Cup, before calling it quits following a quarter-final defeat to West Germany.
Geoff Hurst – 6
Charlton’s fellow World Cup winner, Geoff Hurst was the unexpected hero of the tournament in ’66, coming in for the injured Jimmy Greaves before catapulting the nation to success.
The West Ham United striker had only made his debut in the February of that year and started on the bench in all three group games, before the absence of the aforementioned Greaves saw him thrust into action in the quarter-final against Argentina, where he duly netted the game’s solitary goal.
After teeing up Charlton for his second in the semi-final win over Portugal in the semi’s, Hurst kept his place for the final, where he would go on to write his name into English footballing folklore with a brilliant hat-trick.
Having headed in the game’s opener, Hurst then scored one of the most infamous goals in World Cup history, his effort in extra-time striking the crossbar and bouncing down, before being headed clear, with the goal eventually given despite German protests.
The win was wrapped up with Hurst’s fourth on the break late on, while he would also go on to score one apiece at both Euro 1968 and the World Cup in 1970, before calling time on his international career in 1972.
Michael Owen – 6
Another who became an instant hit overnight, a teenage Michael Owen became a household name back in 1998, following his breakout displays at the World Cup in France.
The Liverpool youngster netted his first of the tournament as a substitute against Romania, before his breathtaking display against Argentina in the Round of 16, the 18-year-old winning an early penalty that was converted by Alan Shearer, before finishing off a superb solo run in what is an iconic goal, although England ultimately exited the competition on penalties.
23 years ago today:
Michael Owen got the ball vs Argentina and Brian Moore can’t believe what happens next…pic.twitter.com/cQqihWrZ1A
— A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) June 30, 2021
More tournament frustration followed at Euro 2000 as England crashed out the group stage, with Owen netting once against Romania, while he would go on to score twice more at the World Cup in 2002, against both Denmark and Brazil in the knockout stages.
He then became the first Englishman to net at four successive major tournaments at Euro 2004, once again waiting until the knockout rounds to score his first goal of the competition, this time in the eventual defeat to Portugal.
With injury having begun to wreak havoc on his club career, the prolific striker then suffered an ACL injury during England’s third group game at the World Cup in 2006. His last international appearance came in 2008, having bagged 40 goals in 89 caps.
Wayne Rooney – 7
Another teenager to take a major tournament by storm, few players have made quite as big an impact as Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004, despite the then Everton man having been just 18-years-old.
A fearless and relentless Rooney wreaked havoc in the group stage, netting braces against both Croatia and Switzerland to spark real belief that Eriksson’s men could go on to win the tournament.
Here’s 133 seconds of 18-year-old Wayne Rooney taking control of Euro 2004. pic.twitter.com/7eb8snKBwr
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) May 29, 2021
Unfortunately for the Three Lions, an injury picked up by Rooney in the quarter-final’s against Portugal not only ended his tournament, but also seemingly derailed the team, who eventually lost on penalties against the hosts.
The same outcome occurred two years later, with the Manchester United man rushed back to fitness after a metatarsal injury, only to then pick up a red card for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho as they exited in the last eight.
In South Africa in 2010 it was another tale of injury, while at Euro 2012 suspension saw him miss the opening two group games, although he would net the winner against Ukraine to send England through to the knockout stages.
He would go on to bag a goal apiece at both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euro’s, yet both campaigns were huge disappointments, with Euro 2004 as good as it ever got at major tournaments for the nation’s top scorer.
Alan Shearer – 9
The Premier League’s all-time top scorer, Alan Shearer was a prolific force for England at major tournaments, becoming a cult hero following his Golden Boot heroics at Euro ’96.
The then Blackburn Rovers striker had gone into the tournament having not scored in almost two years, with his early record England sitting at a less than impressive five goals in 23 appearances.
At his second major tournament – after featuring just once at Euro ’92 – Shearer seemed to thrive, breaking his duck in the opening game against Switzerland, before taking his tally to four goals by the end of the group stages with goals against both Scotland and a brace against Holland.
What a summer it was in 1996 🦁🦁🦁
Relive a fantastic day at Wembley as @England thrashed the Netherlands at Euro 96 🏴🇳🇱
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 6, 2019
He would secure his position as the competition’s top scorer in the semi-final with an early header against Germany, although the hosts would bow out on penalties after Gareth Southgate’s decisive penalty miss.
At the World Cup in 1998, Shearer scored the first of the tournament for Glenn Hoddle’s side against Tunisia in the opening game, before firing home from the penalty spot early on in the eventual 2-2 draw with Argentina in the last-16, with England crashing out on penalties.
His final major tournament appearance came at Euro 2000 where he added two more to his tally, including a winner against Germany, although his international career came to an end with the conclusion of the tournament.
Harry Kane – 9
Despite his impressive placing on this list, it’s easy to forget the difficult start to life Harry Kane made at a major tournament, as failed to find the back of the net in a limp showing at Euro 2016.
With a change in manager seeing Gareth Southgate take the reigns – and with Kane no longer on corner duty – the Tottenham striker put past disappointments behind him to thrive at the 2018 World Cup, finishing as the competition’s top scorer with six goals.
The England skipper netted twice in the opening game against Tunisia beforehe netted a hat-trick against minnows Panama, with his sixth goal coming from the penalty spot in the last-16 triumph over Colombia, albeit with the Three Lions suffering defeat in the semi-finals against Croatia.
Having started brightly before fading in Russia, Kane has almost had the reverse at Euro 2020, shaking off a slow start in the group stages only to find his rhythm in the knockout stages, netting against Germany in last-16 before registering a brace against Ukraine in the quarters.
HALF-TIME: ENGLAND 1-0 UKRAINE
— FourFourTwo (@FourFourTwo) July 3, 2021
With the semi-final to come against Denmark at Wembley, the 27-year-old now has the chance to not only fire his nation to just a second major tournament final, but also overtake the only man ahead of him to become the country’s highest goalscorer in major tournament history.
Gary Lineker – 10
Leading the way is unsurprisingly Gary Lineker, the former striker turned presenter having been the prolific presence at both the World Cup in 1986 and 1990.
In Mexico in ’86, under the leadership of the legendary Bobby Robson, England failed to score in their opening two group games, before Lineker wrote himself into the history books by becoming just the second Englishman to score a hat-trick at a World Cup against Poland.
That 3-0 win took the Three Lions through, with the then Everton striker bagging two against Paraguay in the last-16, before adding his sixth of the tournament in the eventual Maradona-inspired defeat to Argentina, albeit with Lineker finishing as Golden Boot winner nonetheless.
After a goalless display at Euro ’88 – albeit with the forward stricken by illness – he rediscovered his goalscoring touch at the World Cup in 1990, scoring four times as England reached the semi-final, where they were ultimately defeated on penalties against West Germany despite Lineker’s equaliser.
Euro ’92 provided the forward the chance to match Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record of 49 international goals, although he was substituted in what proved to be his final ever England appearance during the competition against Sweden, leaving him stranded on 48 goals in 80 caps.