England humiliation: We’ve been there before.

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Christian Burgess. Picture: Joe Pepler

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We have - if it helps at this moment of national shock - been there before.

England’s humiliating Euro 2016 exit at the hands of tiny Iceland is not the first time we’ve been sent packing from a major competition by a team on minnows.

It’s somewhat ironic, then, that for a nation whose highpoint was provided by the Boys of ‘66, that it’s 66 years tomorrow that we suffered our first and arguably greatest catastrophe.

The setting was the Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on June 29, 1950 and England’s second match in Group 2 of the World Cup.

Having never before appeared in the competition, largely many say because of FA pomposity, England had started will with a 2-0 win over Chile.

The USA - nothing like the force then that they are now in world football and having succumbed 3-1 to Spain in their opener - would surely offer no contest to an England team fielding stars including Pompey’s Jimmy Dickinson as well as Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Alf Ramsey, the man who would manage England to their only major tournament triumph.

But the only thing England won under the searing Brazilian sun that day was the toss of the coin for who kicked off.

They attacked from the start, hitting posts, the bar, missing gilt-edged chances and doing everything except fulfil the ultimate requirement - putting the ball into the back of the net.

The USA barely had a sniff - but they took their chance when it came in the 37th minute when Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian striker who wasn’t even a US citizen, grabbed one of the most improbable goals ever scored in international football.

The crowd of 10,000 swelled as locals listening to the match on radio flocked to the stadium to cheer on the USA.

England huffed and puffed - but they couldn’t blow don the soccer upstarts.

The calamitous result got little coverage in the British Press, with unsubstantiated legend saying many copy-tasters threw away the wire snap, believing 0-1 to be a misprint for 10-1.

It got even less coverage in the land of baseball and gridiron, with few seeing the result and even fewer recognising the enormity of their country’s achievement.

As for England, they were soon on their way have lost to Spain in the final match.

For America, who also failed to qualify from the group, it was a return to years in the soccer wilderness before the game finally established itself Stateside.

As for Gaetjens, his life was to end tragically in 1964. Arrested by Haiti’s notorious secret police the Tonton Macoutes, he was taken to prison and never seen again.

But no-one can ever take away from him and his team mates the extraordinary triumph on that day back in June, 1950.

England: Bert Williams; Alf Ramsey, John Aston; Billy Wright (c), Laurie Hughes, Jimmy Dickinson: Wilf Mannion, Tom Finney, Jimmy Mullen, Stan Mortensen, Roy Bentley.

Manager: Walter Winterbottom

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