Hot-headed star player sent off for petulance? Check. Emergence of young superstar that will ultimately never fulfil his potential? Check. Last-minute winner disallowed? Check. Heart-breaking loss on penalties? Checkmate. Yes, today in 1998 England played a match that saw them live up to every cliche in the book marked ‘how to put your fans through the mixer’ (copyright of Tim ‘Henmania’ Henman) when Argentina knocked them out of the World Cup.
There’s a few images that immediately encapsulate England’s various failures of the last few years from McClaren’s brolley to Gazza’s tears and this game managed to give us three or four.
The second round tie in St. Etienne exploded into life with two penalties in the opening ten minutes, as Gabriel Batistuta gave Argentina an early lead before Alan Shearer equalised from the spot, following a spot of histrionics from a fresh-faced Michael Owen that any of his opponents that night would’ve been proud of.
Five minutes later the boy wonder scored one of the all-time great England goals as he latched onto a David Beckham pass on the half-way line, outpaced the Argentine defence and slotted home. A FIFA poll in 2002 voted it the second best goal in World Cup history behind a certain twinkle-handed Argentine in 1986.
In case this wasn’t enough first-half action Argentina drew level in injury time, when Javier Zanetti scored from a smart training ground manoeuvre and the two old enemies went in all-square at the break.
The second half got underway, and before you could say ‘Belgrano’ we had another era-defining moment, as Beckham petulantly kicked out at Diego Simone following a foul by the player who prove to be his metatarsal-cracking nemesis four year years later. Simone’s reaction was dramatic to say the least and the swarm of Argentinean’s waving imaginary cards at ref Kim Nielsen summed up the dirty and negative side to the Albicelestes’ game.
Despite this, Becks get some stick for it. “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy” screamed the Daily Mirror the next day and Goldenballs had to put up with effigies of himself at the start of the next season. However, it would’ve all been different if Sol Campbell’s headed goal hadn’t been disallowed in the dying minutes of the game.
As they had done for nearly all the second half, 10-man England battled their way through extra-time and were left to face the dreaded penalty shoot-out. This time it was the turn of David Batty and Paul Ince to fail from 12 yards, as Carlos Roa, the keeper who quit the game on the eve of the millennium as he believed the world was going to end, saved the gritty midfield pairs’ spot kicks and England waved Au Revoir to France ’98. Quite a game though.
See all the goals, cards, dodgy decisions, penalties and gutted English fans below and as we’ve got SIX weeks until the new season starts you’d better come back tomorrow for you fix of football.