Minister in hot water for talking down England team prospects

A Foreign Office minister found himself in trouble today after he insisted England was unlikely to reach the final of Euro 2012.

Just as the nation was becoming increasingly optimistic following a 3-2 victory over Sweden, Jeremy Browne said "history suggests" the team would not be progressing much further.

The comment came during a session at the foreign affairs committee, which asked about the government's boycott of the tournament during group stages.

"I only observe that the only time that England have ever reached an international tournament final was when it was held in England. So these difficulties did not arise," he said.

He added: "History suggests that we are dealing in hypotheticals here."

The government is boycotting the Ukraine-based games in the tournament in protest over the country's treatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The British ambassador, as I understand it, in Kiev, has attended matches so some people may feel that he should not have done," Mr Browne said.

"Other people may feel that ministers are giving insufficient support to the England football team."

Downing Street said the policy was being kept under review.

“History suggests England only win tournaments with a Labour government," Dick Caborn, former sports minister, said.

"And if the government was fighting as hard for the country as the England team are on the pitch we'd be doing a lot better.

“But as much as we want rid of this pessimistic bunch, let’s hope history is as wrong on this one and all get right behind England for a win tonight.”

The comments came ahead of a crucial match against Ukraine tonight.