English players only scored five goals at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. While most people will remember that edition for the manner in which The Three Lions exited the tournament, few remember Joe Cole's extraordinary goal in the group stages.
For the uninitiated, England were knocked out in the Round of 16 courtesy of Wayne Rooney's red card after his 'misstep' landed on Ricardo Carvalho's private parts. Sadly, that red card, Cristiano Ronaldo's wink, and the subsequent backlash was the highlight of the summer instead of Cole's world-class effort against Sweden.
The last group stage fixture saw England and Sweden go head-to-head with qualification already sealed. Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago had no chance of catching up. So the last fixture would only decide who topped the group - ultimately necessary to avoid Germany in the Round of 16.
The match was a cagey affair for the first 30 minutes - especially after England lost Michael Owen to a knee injury in the first minute of the game. The striker eventually had to be stretchered off with Peter Crouch coming on.
When Crouch's header across goal in the 34th minute was cleared by the Swedish defence, little did they know that they would be punished just seconds later. Niclas Alexandersson's headed clearance fell kindly to Cole who had all the time in the world to chest the ball down as the Swedish defence pushed up to reset their lines.
Crouch was jogging back to an onside position... Frank Lampard was in an offside position... Owen Hargreaves and Wayne Rooney were free to Cole's right.
He ignored them all.
With the closest Swedish defender still six yards away, Cole chested the ball down but did not let it bounce. Instead, he volleyed it goalward - a sweet strike with impeccable placement. From 30 yards out!
Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson has played over 660 games in his career but even he would probably admit that no other shot he has faced in a near-20-year-career had such a wicked trajectory. All he could do was brush the ball with his fingertips as it hit the inside of the post and then found the back of the net.
Isaksson could have saved that shot - if he had a step ladder to assist him. Such was the sudden dip that saw the ball find its target as Cole ran to the corner of the stadium where the English fans cheered in utter disbelief and elation before he was mobbed by his teammates.
One of the smallest men on the pitch was for a brief moment the tallest when the 6'7" Crouch lifted him off his feet. But that goal did put him head and shoulders above the rest at that World Cup.
He would also provide the assist for Steven Gerrard's second-half goal that gave Cole the Man of the Match award.
Cole was the toast of the football world thanks to one of the goals of the tournament. It is why his goal is on our list of 40 Greatest Goals in World Cup history.Published 11 May 2018, 16:38 IST