England were sent packing in the quarter finals at the 2002 World Cup by Brazil, then at the same stage two years later on penalties by Portugal in the Euros.

So it came to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and what felt like a last-chance saloon for the so called ‘Golden Generation’.

David Beckham, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole. This surely was England’s time? Then-England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson certainly thought so.

Speaking exclusively to UCFB, the Swede revealed: “I thought that we could win it or at least reach the final, I was quite sure of that. I think that was the thoughts of all the players and the staff as well, because we couldn’t really see any better team than us.”

YouTube video

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. England were foiled by Portugal again in the quarter finals, on penalties… again. Rooney was sent off in normal time thanks in part to Manchester United team mate Cristiano Ronaldo, but England battled through to the shoot-out only to be denied again from the spot.

Sven added: "Italy won it but they weren't really a good, good team; Germany were ok; Spain weren't the best at the time; so I thought that we could win it and I still think we should have done better, we should have reached the final at least. It was a golden opportunity".

Revealingly, the likes of Ferdinand, Gerrard and Lampard have since said that their intense club rivalries at the time may have been one of the key reasons for the national sides failings during this time. The trio said that they respected each other but didn’t have the togetherness that other national sides had at the time, or perhaps England have now.

Does Sven agree with that? “No”, he says. “I think it was a happy group and I’m very sad to hear that, because if there was something like that [going on] I would have been told by the players or staff.”

Straight faced, the Swede added: “If you don’t do what you’re expected to do you always find something wrong.”