Football

The most memorable matches in World Cup history: From Maracanazo to Mineirazo

For David Beckham, the worst part of his notorious red card against Argentina at France 98 was having to watch some of his England team-mates buckle under the pressure of taking a penalty in the shootout.

“It was then that I fully realised what I had done,” he told The Sun. “I kept thinking to myself that if I had been out there, I would have been one of the penalty-takers.

“The rest of them had done so much without me and I had let them down desperately.” With just one petulant kick at Diego Simeone as he lay prone on the pitch in Saint-Etienne.

In truth, the contact was minor but, as Simeone admitted afterwards, he was never going to pass up a chance to get an opponent sent off.

“I think anyone would have taken advantage of that situation in just the same way,” the midfielder told The Observer. “Sometimes you get sent off, sometimes you don’t. Unfortunately for the English team that time they lost a player.”

Remarkably, Glenn Hoddle’s side had nearly won a truly mesmerising last-16 match without Beckham. They arguably should have done, with Sol Campbell having a goal harshly disallowed with just 10 minutes of normal time remaining for Alan Shearer allegedly impeding the Argentina goalkeeper.

It really was a game that had everything, including two penalties inside the opening nine minutes, both converted by legendary No.9s in Gabriel Batistuta and Shearer.

A teenage Michael Owen then announced himself to the wider world with one of the greatest solo strikes in World Cup history, slicing through the Argentine defence before finishing with unerring calm and precision for one so young.

However, Javier Zanetti levelled just before the break after an ingenious set-piece routine before the second half, and indeed the entire fixture, became all about Beckham.

Indeed, the Manchester United star was vilified by the English press and public, with one irate compatriot even hanging an effigy of Beckham outside a London pub, while The Mirror printed a special dartboard with the midfielder’s face on it.

Credit to Beckham, though, he demonstrated remarkable resolve in not only dealing with the bitter backlash, but also going on to become a national hero by carrying his country to World Cup 2002, thanks in no small part to his iconic free-kick against Greece in England’s final qualifier.

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