Top ten iconic moments in international football: No.10
In this new SportsKeeda series, we look at the ten most iconic moments in football; moments that redefined careers and in some cases, even changed the face of football forever. We start with:
10) David Beckham‘s red card at the 1998 World Cup, in the knock-out stages v Argentina:
When England entered the 1998 World Cup, confidence was high as this was one of the best squads England had in a long time. With the perfect balance of age and youth, the squad boasted talents like Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham and Tony Adams, who were considered some of the best players in the league back then. Among the young faces were future superstars Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell, Michael Owen and a certain David Beckham.
David Beckham was the darling of English football. A lethal free-kick expert and one of the best crossers in the Premier League made him one of the most highly rated footballers in England. Adding to that, his boyish charm and good looks made his a firm fan favourite even among non-Manchester United fans. Despite losing to Romania, England had won the other two games against Columbia and Tunisia in the group stages and were second in Group G.
Meanwhile, Argentina had won all three of their group games to qualify for the knock-out stages topping Group H. This was the first time the two teams were meeting after the infamous 1986 World Cup game. Tensions were high and both teams knew they had to win this no matter what. To both these arch-rivals, this game was as important as the final itself.
The match started off in an expected intense manner as both teams scored off penalties within the first ten minutes. Then came a moment of brilliance by Michael Owen, who scored one of the best goals in World Cup history, beating two defenders with a deft touch, running half the length of the field and slotting a brilliant finish past Argentinian ‘keeper Carlos Roa. But Argentina refused to let up, replying with a goal of their own, with Zanetti scoring after a clever free-kick. All of the goals came in the first half. The nail-biting match was tied at 2-2, with both teams unrelenting. The only thing that could made a difference between the two sides was a moment of genius. Or a moment of madness.
The second half had just kicked off and in the 47th minute, Diego Simeone charged at David Beckham from behind and although apologetic, didn’t allow Beckham to get up as his hand was held over Beckham’s back. Since Beckham was unable to see Simeone, he took this as an act of aggression and retaliated by kicking Simeone’s calf. Although the kick itself barely touched Simeone, he took complete advantage of the situation and complained to the referee about it. Despite the England players’ protests, Beckham was shown the red card and England were left with ten players for the rest of the game. Although they held on and scored a goal which was disallowed, the match was decided on penalties and England couldn’t hold their nerve and lost the shoot-out with a 4-3 scoreline, where David Beckham’s penalty taking skills were sorely missed. Once again, England were knocked out from a major international tournament in a penalty shoot-out.
The English media viciously went after Beckham, solely blaming him for the loss. The Daily Mirror put a photo of Beckham as the bulls-eye on a dartboard. He was booed by fans all over England, with some threatening him and his family. Beckham’s personal and profession life was in complete turmoil. All the English newspapers questioned his commitment and temperament when he played in England colours.
This was a turning point in Beckham’s career, as he became a more mature and complete player after that incident. He churned out consistently good performances for both club and country. He played an important role in Manchester United’s historic 1999 treble-winning season. Slowly but surely, Beckham won his critics over and was given the role of captain of England by then-manager Peter Taylor. He also scored a brilliant free kick against Greece which helped England qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
In a career that had so many ups and downs, Beckham will be most remembered for that single moment of madness that overshadowed even Owen’s wonder goal during the same game. This incident is testament of the fickle nature of super stardom and how even the most popular footballer’s fall from grace can occur because of just one mistake.