So it is time to remember the few highlights since Bobby and the boys in '66...
FRANCE 1-3 ENGLAND
England did not lose one of their five matches in Spain 32 years ago, won their three first group stage games and yet did not even make the last four.
Their start against eventual semi-finalists France was perfect. Terry Butcher ventured forward for a throw-in and flicked on for Bryan Robson to score what was, at the time, the third-fastest World Cup finals goal after 27 seconds. Gérard Soler levelled on 24 minutes, yet Robson stooped to regain England's lead and Paul Mariner finished off the scoring, as England made a welcome return to the World Cup after a 12-year hiatus.
ENGLAND 3-0 POLAND, 1986
An undistinguished defeat and draw to Portugal and Morocco, as well as Ray Wilkins' red card in the stalemate, meant England had no margin for error in their third match in Monterrey. Wilkins was joined on the sidelines by the injured Bryan Robson, while Mark Hateley and Chris Waddle were also dropped, as Peter Beardsley, Trevor Steven and Steve Hodge gave England a new look up front.
England began nervously and Terry Butcher was forced to make a goal-saving challenge, however Beardsley's genius was invaluable as he and Hodge combined to assist Gary Lineker's second of a memorable hat-trick. Hodge had a goal rightly disallowed only for Lineker to put the result beyond all doubt in the 35th minute, becoming the first Englishman to score a trio since Geoff Hurst at a World Cup.
CAMEROON 2-3 ENGLAND
Seldom have England displayed their powers of recovery at a World Cup. They were told to "win it again" in extra-time at the 1966 final, while the Poland victory in 1986 came amid a backdrop of pessimism.
In the 1990 quarters, England trailed Cameroon's Indomitable Lions having first led through a David Platt header. Emmanuel Kundé and Eugène Ekéké scored within four minutes of each other in the second period as Cameroon threatened to become the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final. England, though, had Gary Lineker.
His brilliant turn procured one penalty, which he converted, and in extra-time he ran onto Paul Gascoigne's teasing through ball to win a second spot-kick when goalkeeper Thomas N'Kono upended him. The Tottenham striker drilled the ball down the middle and sent England through to the last four for the first time since '66. They have not reached that far since.
COLOMBIA 0-2 ENGLAND
Graeme Le Saux's late mistake that allowed Dan Petrescu to claim a Romanian winner just four days earlier meant England and Colombia met in a winner-takes-all final group match. Michael Owen made his first competitive start, a sceptical Glenn Hoddle restored David Beckham to the first XI and England dominated the South Americans. Darren Anderton crashed in a volley but it was Beckham's first international goal - a sublime free-kick - which was the game's money moment.
ARGENTINA 0-1 ENGLAND
An uninspiring opening draw with bogey side Sweden intensified the pressure on England ahead of their re-match with Argentina four years on from their absorbing round-of-16 contest. Batistuta, Simeone, Verón, Zanetti, López, Crespo and Ortega lined up again for the Argentines, billed as favourites in Japan and South Korea, yet they were taken by surprise by an uncharacteristically canny Sven-Göran Eriksson. In a rare instance of inspiration, he dropped Darius Vassell for Nicky Butt, while Trevor Sinclair replaced the injured Owen Hargreaves in the early stages and England produced one of their most assured World Cup finals displays.
Michael Owen was up against a different Argentine defence, but there was a similar fear in their eyes. He rattled a post and won a dubious penalty, ostensibly upended by a long-haired Mauricio Pochettino. David Beckham drilled his spot-kick unconvincingly, but beat the suspect Pablo Cavallero.
Owen ought to have doubled England's advantage after the break, Cavallero palmed away a Paul Scholes volley and Teddy Sheringham would have finished one of the great World Cup team goals had the goalkeeper not positioned himself perfectly moments later. David Seaman denied Pochettino late on, but Beckham got to savour his redemption in Sapporo after his red card in St Etienne.