England Euro 2016 qualification: Does a 100% record in qualifying mean anything for the tournament?

 
Joe Hall
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England national football team
Can Roy Hodgson's (R) men finish their qualifying campaign with an unblemished record? (Source: Getty)

England can arrive at next year's European Championships as the only team with a 100 per cent record in qualifying if they beat Estonia and Lithuania in their remaining two games.

But how often does such a successful qualifying campaign translate into tournament success?

As the only European national team to have eight wins from eight games during the latest qualifying period - scoring 26 goals and conceding just three - Roy Hodgson's team is just two wins away from becoming the first England side and only sixth team ever to record a spotless European Championships qualifying run.

Having scored more goals than every team but Poland in qualifying, the Three Lions have cause for quiet confidence when they cross the channel for Euro 2016 in France - even if San Marino and Lithuania haven't offered much resistance.

Read more: Three Lions are poised for Euro tilt, insists Theo

Yet of the five teams to have previously qualified for the tournament unblemished, only one has gone on to win it - Spain in 2012.

Team with 100pc qualifying record Competition Finish
France Euro 1992 Group stage
Czech Republic Euro 2000 Group stage
France Euro 2004 Quarter-finals
Germany Euro 2012 Semi-finals
Spain Euro 2012 Winner

Teams to have reached the World Cup with a perfect record have similarly struggled to translate that to tournament success - with Vincent Del Bosque's great Spain side the once again the only exception since the qualifying process expanded beyond the three teams per group for early tournaments.

Team with 100pc qualifying record Competition Finish
West Germany 1962 World Cup Quarter-finals
Soviet Union 1962 World Cup Quarter-finals
West Germany 1982 World Cup Runners-up
Poland* 1982 World Cup Semi-finals
Netherlands 2010 World Cup Runners-up
Spain 2010 World Cup Winner

Of course, a perfect qualifying record is a pretty good indicator of a team packed with quality players. But a shield of invincibility in qualifying usually turns faulty at the main event as often different teams face much tougher tests, under increased pressure.

In fact, England's relationship between an impressive qualifying campaign and a successful tournament is especially fractured.

Under Fabio Capello England won nine of their 10 games on the way to the 2010 World Cup where four pathetic performances were topped by a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the first knock-out stage.

Tournament Points-per-game in qualifying Goals-per-game in qualifying Tournament finish
2010 World Cup 2.7 3.4 Round of 16
Euro 2004 2.5 1.8 Quarter-finals
2006 World Cup 2.5 1.7 Quarter-finals
1998 World Cup 2.4 1.9 Round of 16

With two easy-looking encounters remaining, England could even make this qualifying campaign the highest-scoring in their history.

Wayne Rooney and co have already made it the most goal-heavy European Championship qualification run with 26 goals scored, and are just eight away from the record 34 netted in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

For all the hand-wringing about England's lack of attacking adventure that usually greets their exit from tournaments, the team's prowess in front of goal has increased in recent years with the last five major tournament qualifying campaigns the team's highest scoring in history.

*Poland qualified from a group of just three teams in 1982.

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