Eighty years, 18 World Cups, a million memories
During France 98, the world witnessed the birth of Michael Owen. Not literally, of course, as that would be hideous.
That summer, his pace and a striker’s instinct Emile Heskey can only dream about made Owen a household name, alongside Bold, Fairy Liquid and Daz Automatic.
His most memorable moment came during England’s quarter-final against Argentina. Receiving the ball just inside the Argentina half, Owen zig-zagged down the field nearly as fast as it took for him to bring out an autobiography once David Batty had scuffed his decisive penalty.
It was a moment that was very nearly spoiled when Paul Scholes almost stole Owen’s glory by nicking the ball from the pint-sized kid just outside the area. But Owen kept his concentration and belted the ball past Carlos Roa and into the top corner. Two-one up, surely nothing could go wrong now! Could it?
Enter David Beckham! The future England captain had shown moments of petulance during the season and was considered a risk coming into the competition; England coach Glenn Hoddle was reported to have held concerns about Beckham’s temper coming into the competition - although Hoddle may have “Never said them things”.
At the beginning of a tight second half with the score at 2-2, the budding underwear model was shoved in the back by Diego Simeone. Lying face down two yards away from the referee, the future MLS ambassador sensibly back-heeled the Argentine, who rather theatrically ended up on the floor himself. Simeone received a yellow card and the future Mr. Posh Spice saw red.
England fought hard and Sol Campbell headed what the nation (and he) thought was the winner, only to be chalked off for a foul. Then, as per the template, the 10 men went out on penalties and Beckham wasn’t too popular in 19 of the 20 Premier League stadiums.
Hugs and kissesTalking of friendliness, the match-up of the summer was unarguably the USA’s head to head with Ronald Reagan’s buddies Iran, and it would be fair to say that the Iranians were a little hyped up for this one. For once though the Americans had very little in attack and the Iranians notched a memorable 2-1 win that they are probably still celebrating today.
English tabloids, well known for their honesty, reported that Arsenal won the World Cup that year thanks to the many Gunners in the French ranks, but it was their real inspiration Zinedine Zidane who headed in two goals against Brazil in the final.
But their magnificent achievement wasn’t all down to the man with the monk hairstyle; it was another type of habit that made all the difference - defensive rock Laurent Blanc’s routine of planting a sloppy kiss on Fabien Barthez’s bald bonce before every game.
Goal of the tournament Michael Owen’s breathtaking individual effort certainly has to be a contender, but for sheer skill and ability look no further than Dennis Bergkamp’s sublime last-minute winner for Holland against Argentina. The non-flying Dutchman brought down a 60 yard pass with ease, turned his marker, and fired the ball past the unfortunate Roa with the outside of his right boot.
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