Thank you for reading the fourth in my series of blog posts on England’s success in major tournaments in my lifetime.
We’ve looked at Italia 90, England 96, and France 98.
Now comes 2002 in Korea and Japan. England had come so close to tasting success in recent tournaments, and with the golden generation’s youngster showing true promise, surely a trophy was on the cards.
Valencia are the Spanish champions.
Every Korean and Japenese football fan’s second team is England, with almost every one of them sporting an England shirt with Beckham’s name and the number seven on the back.
Beckham is England captain, and he had a lovely haircut where he moulded his hair into a mohican.
I’m not ashamed to admit that after my barber styled my hair this way as a joke, I ended up copying it for the entire summer.
I was fourteen, give me a break.
(Though given the chance, I would do it again.)
England Vs Sweden
Our Swedish manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, lead us to a match against his home nation. It was the first time our national team had a foreign manager, and he seemed like a good choice at the time.
Beckham had managed to recover from a broken foot within eight weeks to lead the side out.
I remember The Sun posting a picture of Beckham’s foot on the centre page, instructing everyone to put their hand on it and prey at midday. Such was our reliance on that foot.
Beckham swings a corner in and onto Sol Campbell’s head, who heads it in for the first goal.
Thank the football Gods for Beckham’s healed foot.
Kieron Dyer readies himself as a substitue – a speedy winger, part of the young generation of hope in a squad with an average age of twenty-three.
Nicholas Alexanderson equalises for Sweden, as Danny Mills chests the ball down to the keeper, and the Swedish Everton player intercepts and puts it in the net for a sloppily conceeded goal.
Sixty-three minutes and Beckham is substitued. He hands the armband to Owen and Kieron Dyer comes on – a player that, at the time, played his club football under the management of Bobby Robson.
England come under constant pressure and Owen hits the side of the net.
Cole misses an interception, Larssson takes the ball and shoots – but fails to score.
England Vs Argentina
We face on of the favourites of the competition in the only indoor stadium. England play in red in front of a 90% English crowd. Simeone gets his 106th cap for Argentina, a player that previously played under Sven at Lazio.
Owen Hargreaves’ calf goes and he’s off injured after four minutes – but his replacement substitute, Trevor Sinclair, doesn’t come on until eighteen minutes. A player that flew home then flew back again after being on standby.
Owen beats three defenders marking him to take a shot, but hits the post next to a stationary keeper.
Batistuta has a headed shot straight into Seaman’s hands.
Then Owen is tripped by Pocchetino – the current manager of Spurs, playing in 2002 with his luscious locks – and a penalty is awarded.
The best referee in the world at the time, Pierluigi Collina, points to the spot with his scary eyes.
Beckham shots. He scores! Gooooaaaaal! He grabs his shirt and shows everyone his badge in celebration.
Argentinians lay it on after half-time.
Pocchetino header is scrambled off the line by England.
Wayne Bridge subs on for Ashley Cole – back in the days pre-John Terry affair and eating bugs in the jungle.
When the final whistle goes, there are huge celebrations as we win 1-0, and we only need a point from the remaining group game.
England Vs Nigeria
60% humidity. Brian Hall, an American referee, carries the ball out. Sodje of Crew Alexandra is one of Nigeria’s best players.
Owen has a typical sprint forward, dodging past defenders, and misses the goal.
Scholes hits the post.
Sherringham is subbed on for Heskey, and shortly after skies a sitter.
Final score 0-0.
Sweden win the group, England come second, and Argentina are knocked out.
Round of 16 England Vs Denmark
We face a team who won their group, have a quick team, and many Premier League players.
Gareth Southgate plays his first game of the tournament.
Sven stays in his seat. Aside from celebrating a goal, he always stays in his seat – one of the things that makes him distinct from his opponents.
Golden goal and penalties face us if we draw.
Fans sing “I’m England til I die.”
Beckham corner, lobbed in, off Rio Ferdinand’s head, and past the Sunderland keeper who tries to scramble it away, but fails. Five minutes and it’s a dream start.
Emile Heskey through, keeper reaches it – too slow.
Butt kicks it on and Owen scrambles it in from a typical poacher’s goal. Twenty-two minutes and we’re two up against a strong side.
Mills challenges and it leads to a mass confrontation. Beckham is the peace keeper. Tension is running high.
Heskey scores. Yes, you read that right, Heskey scores. It actually happened once.
Sherringham comes on for his fiftieth cap at thirty-six.
3-0, and we’re in a fairy tale.
Quarter Final England Vs Brazil
The teams are lead out by a Mexican referee who has already shown three red cards this tournament.
Owen pounces on a pass and scores! After twenty-three minutes we’re in front!
I am in the gymnasium at school, along with every other student and member of staff, and we are cheering our bloody heads off.
Seaman has a nasty fall over two players and hurts his back – but he soldiers on. He plays against Brazil for the third time.
Brazil equalise. Two minutes into first half injury time.
It is the second goal England have conceded this World Cup.
Free kick from Ronaldinho floats over Seaman’s head, and it’s in. We’re trailing.
Kieron Dyer comes on for Trevor Sinclair, giving our wing a bit more attacking pace.
Ronaldinho goes in for a challenge on Danny Mills. The referee controversially sees it as a high foot with studs going in, and shows him the red. Pundits claim it’s soft, but he’s off either way.
England are urgent. It’s 11 against 10, and we have nothing to lose.
Beckham sends a corner in to Sol Campbell’s head, who sends it over.
Seaman boots the football forward into the opposition area – and the whistle goes.
It’s over. It’s all over.
Though the camp is positive. Sven says with this younger generation of players coming through, the future looks undoubtedly bright.