Is England's Euro 2024 team better than the Golden Generation?

  • England among favourites to win Euro 2024
  • Comparisons still drawn with Golden Generation of 2000s
  • Analysis of two eras and deciding who was better
Image by Zac Alalouff
Image by Zac Alalouff /

England head to this summer's European Championships among the tournament favourites, and for pretty good reason, you have to say.

The Three Lions not only boast among the world's best players, but Gareth Southgate's close-knit contingent have the battle scars from previous shortfalls that should make them stronger. It's trophy or bust for Southgate at this point, essentially.

The stars of today have drawn a lot of comparisons with England's 'Golden Generation' of yesteryear, led for the most part by iconic manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and featuring stars such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Are Southgate's squad better than Eriksson's England, though?

Record (all games)

First things first, let's define when England's Golden Generation ran from.

That crop of Beckham et al really rose to prominence in the aftermath of Euro 2000, so we'll say that's the starting point. A fitting end would be England's 3-2 loss to Croatia which prevented them from reaching Euro 2008.

All in all, that team played together 89 times and won 49 games. For most teams, that's an impressive record, but not when you consider the riches of talent the Three Lions had at their disposal in that time and when you consider they suffered shock losses to the likes of Northern Ireland in that time.

Southgate's reign began in October 2016 following the departure of predecessor Sam Allardyce, whose one-game spell was brought to an abrupt end. After Monday's win against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Southgate's England side have tallied a mighty return of 58 wins in 84 games, and - as we will come to in a moment - they had more impressive victories to scream and shout about.

Note that games which were decided by penalty shootouts officially go down as draws. Hey, don't blame me, I don't make the rules.


Games played




Win %

Current team (2016 - 2024)






Golden Generation (2000 - 2007)






Tournament record

EURO 2020: England v Germany
England's win against Germany at Euro 2020 was a landmark moment for the Three Lions / Anadolu/GettyImages

Alright, this is the record that we all really care about.

Simply put, the Golden Generation dare not have the right to hold a candle to today's England. It's an embarrassment. Roy Keane would be flabbergasted.

What's more damning for the Golden Generation? The fact their best finish at a major tournament would rank as the current team's worst, or that they straight up did not even qualify for Euro 2008 when most of their key players were at the peak of their powers?

For all of the knocks on Southgate and the criticisms you can lay at his door, he has at least turned England into an international force to be reckoned with. The stars aren't just feared, but the team as a collective is.


Tournaments eligible for

Tournaments qualified for

Best finish

Worst finish

Current team (2016 - 2024)





Golden Generation (2000 - 2007)




Literally did not qualify for Euro 2008, what was that about?

*not including Euro 2024

Expectation vs reality

Peter Crouch, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard
Oh, we had such high hopes / Stewart Kendall/Allstar/GettyImages

A primary part of where the notion of the Golden Generation falls apart is this lack of even coming close to success, let alone actually winning anything.

To not even get to the semi-final stage of a major tournament is pathetic for a team with such obvious quality, particularly while Premier League teams were beginning to take control of Europe.

The expectations heading into Southgate's era were pretty low. Some even went to the lengths of anointing him as 'Group Stage Gareth' ahead of the 2018 World Cup. And yet he's overseen the most iconic period of English football since 1966.

That could change with a poor display at Euro 2024, but until now, England anew have delivered what's been expected of them and more.

Star power and wider impact

Marcus Rashford, Gareth Southgate
Marcus Rashford and Southgate have been the faces of revolution / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Another chink in the Golden Generation's armour comes from the lack of relatability to their best players.

Alright, a bit of that may be down to a lack of social media in those days, but those players were short of charisma off the pitch and, unlike at club level, on it. They were superstars on a surface level and nothing more.

Southgate has been responsible for ensuring the England men's national team nowadays stands for more than just football. They are a vehicle for positive change in a country that has desperately needed it in recent years, a force for good on and off the pitch.

The spirit and camaraderie woven throughout the squad, however, may only have come about because of the errors of the past. So if you were being generous, that's the best assist the Golden Generation came up with - they were the worse of the two eras.

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