Euro 2024: Has 'Football's Coming Home' become England's biggest curse?

Euro 2024: Has 'Football's Coming Home' become England's biggest curse?

Updated Jun. 16, 2024 6:14 a.m. ET

The words "It's Coming Home" will be on loop once again this summer — sung, roared, played and heard without pause across England and beyond — until a point comes when the lyrics are finally proven true, or, once again, a more painful reality emerges.

Football hasn't come home, as England hasn't won a major international trophy, since a full 30 years before the pivotal point of 1996, the year when comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel paired with The Lightning Seeds to release "Three Lions," an instant smash that became the undisputed battle cry of the national team.

It is a catchy tune. It sounds just as good whether it is being amplified on the car stereo or growled a cappella from the stands at Euro 2024, where England commences its latest attempt at glory on Sunday, facing Serbia in Gelsenkirchen (Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

But could the song also be England's soccer curse? Just one of a multitude of reasons why the nation that pioneered the sport in its current form hasn't seen its men's side win a darn thing since its sole title at the 1966 World Cup, despite any number of near misses and over-confident predictions?


With Jude Bellingham arguably the world's best player, captain Harry Kane its best pure striker and Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden as lively on the creative attacking side as anyone, anywhere, it is no surprise England is the tournament favorite.

It doesn't usually go like this. Normally, there is a sense of national pessimism and nervousness around England in World Cups and Euros, followed by an increasing surge of exhilaration after anything resembling a good result and a rapid pivot into a feeling that this is the year. Because, well, of course it is.

That's when the lyrics of the song are heard en masse, either the choral build-up of "It's Coming Home" or its punchy conclusion of "Football's Coming Home," both turning into countrywide catchphrases.

It filters and flows, from the throats of fans who have traveled to the event and belt it from the stadium seats, all the way to the pubs and streets of London and Manchester and all the quaint and not-so-quaint towns and villages between.

Before, eventually, it turns out the words that sounded like a promise were actually a lie and that Croatia were too smart (2018 World Cup semifinal) or Brazil too skilled (2002 World Cup quarterfinal) or Germany too clinical (take your pick of heartbreaks) or that England are terrible at penalty kicks, particularly if a shootout is involved.

Germany was the tormentor in 1996, and rubbed it in by singing the song during their balcony celebration at Frankfurt Airport, led in voice by future United States national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. 

Prior to that tournament, Skinner and Baddiel had intended the tune to merely represent the fact that England was hosting Euro 1996, but it came to mean something much more, nostalgic lyrics like "30 years of hurt" leaning into a sense that the team's time had come. That's certainly how the fans took it – and still do.

Can England finally win the UEFA 2024 Euro?

That semifinal defeat ended in a shootout as Germany converted all of its kicks and England missed just one, from defender Gareth Southgate. Southgate is now England's head coach, and has been for the past eight years, during which time the squad has produced a series of fine results.

But there are only so many times a coach can knock on the door before people start questioning why it hasn't been opened. England has never been nearer than at the Euros three years ago, when it burst into an early lead at Wembley Stadium, and sure enough, before long, the song started chorusing down.

"We could hear it," Giorgio Chiellini, Italy's captain on the night and now a FOX Sports analyst for Euro 2024, told me. "I think it does make England nervous, because there is so much anticipation. Even in the first half, they were playing the ball to waste time. We could sense it." 

The sense that it gets other teams motivated has been a popular topic. Croatia certainly found a bulletin board lift in 2018, with Luka Modric claiming the chants were part of what he perceived as overall "disrespect" from England.

[Want great stories delivered right to your inbox? Create or log in to your FOX Sports account, follow leagues, teams and players to receive a personalized newsletter daily.]

Southgate insists the England fans sing "Three Lions" not through arrogance, a claim that's frankly, a little hard to agree with.

"I didn't want to listen to it for 15 years," Southgate said. "It was too painful. You have to know the English to understand our humor. It's certainly not arrogance. The lyrics are making fun of ourselves, really."

The fact remains that being an England fan continues to hurt. There have been joyous moments aplenty, but there is still a sense of waiting for the one true cure.

Germany has won the Euros three times and the World Cup four. Spain has won the World Cup once and the Euros three times. France has two World Cups and two Euros. Italy has four World Cups and two Euros.

England considers itself a soccer nation on a par with any of those, yet still holds just that single triumph from the 1966 World Cup, on home soil, spurred by a brilliant hat trick from Geoff Hurst and the talismanic captaincy of Bobby Moore.

Harry Kane finds the net to give England a 3-0 lead over Bosnia

A couple of years ago, there was almost a new realization among England supporters, the thought that football may never come home again. Until suddenly, this talent-packed team for the ages sparked a whole new feeling of hope. 

Is Bellingham's calm head the antidote to all that historic angst? Can Kane win his first trophy at either club or international level in the most glorious fashion of all? And, whisper it now, is the defense good enough to withstand all the challenges that await it?

So many questions, but you'll have noticed that the lyrics don't pose a query. They make a statement that has always proven to be untrue, at no less than 13 major tournaments since the song was first created.

And now, another tournament upon us, what to say about "Football's Coming Home?"

As always, the next month will show whether it either is or it isn't – and that outcome will decide whether a country erupts into irrepressible national joy, or weeps, having felt foolish to have believed, one more time.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


Get more from UEFA Euro Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more