Everyone loves a redemption arc and there was none sweeter than David Beckham’s after his red card in 1998 and the unjustified hate he got afterwards. He followed up the dismissal and national heartbreak with domestic and European success for Man United when they won a historic treble. And then in 2001, he scored the goal that sent England into the World Cup in 2002. Oh, and let’s not forget that metatarsal break that nearly cost him a place in the finals but he made it. All was forgiven. But there was one more ghost to exorcise: Argentina. Dom Smith outlined the match for The Set Pieces:
England were the side pushing for a lead before the break. And everyone looked like they needed a break; it was scorching. Everyone bar Owen. He received the ball on the left of the area, jinked inside and went down after the tiniest clip from Mauricio Pochettino.
“In fairness, when you look at him [Pochettino] in those days, he had this great big mop of curly hair”, Philip remembers. “If he’d have walked past me while he was walking into Southampton for the first time, I wouldn’t have recognised him.”
If the Argentina defender have walked past Owen he might have been alright. But that slight jab at the diminutive attacker’s leg was enough for Pierluigi Collina to point to the spot. Owen had earned it and now it was Beckham’s moment. Could he hit the back of the net with Simeone watching on just yards behind him?
He may have never struck a ball cleaner in his entire career. Beckham slammed the spot-kick down the centre of the goal and it was advantage England. Half-time. Pause. Go again.
And so they did. No more goals but an important clean sheet and 3 points.