After losing to Portugal in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004, England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was left with the job of re-energising a squad that felt as though they had missed out on an opportunity to win their first major tournament since 1966. A 3-0 victory in a friendly against Ukraine went some way to overcoming the disappointment, but the team would be judged on how they started their qualification campaign for the 2006 World Cup Finals on this day in 2004.
The Three Lions had been drawn in a group consisting of Poland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Azerbaijan, but first, they would take on Austria at the Ernst-Happel Stadion in Vienna. Eriksson would make three changes to the side that missed out in Portugal, with Ledley King, Wayne Bridge and Alan Smith coming in for Sol Campbell, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney, who was still nursing the broken foot that he had suffered during the summer.
After starting the match on the front foot, England finally made the breakthrough midway through the first half, but their opener came in bizarre circumstances. Both Martin Stranzl and Alex Manninger panicked inside the penalty area, resulting in the goalkeeper picking up a backpass, and from the resulting free kick, a cleverly-worked routine saw David Beckham find Frank Lampard, who had the simple task of converting the ball into the net from three yards.
Later in the half, Manninger should have received red for handling the ball outside of his penalty area, but due to the officials being behind play after Michael Owen had been sent clear on goal, the former Arsenal stopper avoided being dismissed and it was a decision that would eventually cost England by the full-time whistle.
Early in the second half, Smith had an opportunity to double England's advantage from eight yards out but Manninger reacted well to deny the Manchester United forward, who had been set up by Owen. On the hour mark, though, England got their second through a sublime effort from Steven Gerrard, who curled a delightful shot over the Austrian keeper and into the top corner.
It was a strike that would have been worthy of sealing the game for the Three Lions, but despite their dominance, that is not how it panned out. With 19 minutes to go, the home side pulled a goal back through Roland Kollmann, who curled a left-footed free kick into the top corner from 25 yards, but their second goal two minutes later was England's own doing.
As they came under pressure from Austria's attack, the defence retreated to the edge of their own penalty area, but that only allowed the excellent Andreas Ivanschitz to advance towards goal before drilling a shot on target. His effort should have been dealt with by David James, but the ball squirmed past the stopper, who was left embarrassed by his mistake.
The equaliser left England with their backs against the wall, but it was Eriksson's men who almost stole it during the closing stages when substitute Jermain Defoe struck the outside of the post. By the time that the final whistle arrived, England were downbeat but the point gave them the platform to progress through the remainder of the qualifying campaign dropping just three more points from nine outings, which was enough to see them top the group ahead of Poland.
Austria Manninger, Standfest, Hiden, Pogatetz, Stranzl, Aufhauser (Kiesenebner), Sick, Kuhbauer, Ivanschitz, Haas (Hieblinger), Glieder (Kollmann)
Subs Not Used: Mandl, Dospel, Katzer, Linz
England James, Neville, Terry, King, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Gerrard (Carragher), Lampard, Bridge (Joe Cole), Smith (Defoe), Owen
Subs Not Used: Robinson, Dyer, Wright-Phillips, Vassell