World Cup second round
Penalties again doom the English, as Argentina squeaks through
There could be no more cruel way for England's World Cup hopes to come to an end. Despite surviving for 75 minutes with a one man disadvantage, England fell 4-3 to Argentina on penalties after 120 minutes of play produced no victor. For the third time in a decade, the side has been bounced from a major tournament on penalty shots. It happened on home turf two years ago in Euro'96, and it happened in 1990, ending England's last World Cup. Reports TIME's Chris Taylor, with the English fans in Saint-Etienne: "There are a lot of tears, a lot of pain, a lot of anger."
It was a close, hard-fought match from the beginning. The first half began with tit-for-tat penalties, with English keeper David Seaman booked in the fifth minute for an attempted save where he got Argentine captain Diego Simeone, but not the ball. There was certain contact, but the penalty was a judgement call. Gabriel Batistuta converted for his fifth goal of the tournament. Four minutes later, when Michael Owen went down near Roberto Ayala at the other end, another penalty was given, only the second foul of the match. It was England's star striker Alan Shearer who equalized. Less than ten minutes in, and each side was on the board.
With a hectic pace through the first half, the teams again traded goals. England went ahead in the 16th minute with an amazing solo goal by Michael Owen. Sprinting onto the ball just past the centreline, Owen simply outran one defender before freezing Roberto Ayala (not a poor defender) near the edge of the box. A powerful, rising shot put the ball past Roa and in the left side of the net. Buoyed by their lead, England played a dynamic first half as the two sides punched and counter-punched. Finally, on a free kick in injury time of the first half, Argentina's Javier Zanetti equalized with a pretty shot on a clever set-piece.
The rest of the match -- including 30 minutes of extra-time -- was less thrilling. Young English midfielder David Beckham made a foolish mistake just after the half, retaliating to a foul from Simeone with a sharp kick from his position on the ground, and was sent off. England assumed a more defensive posture and mustered far fewer threats from that moment on. Argentina, for its part, played very poorly in the last 30 yards, sending through-balls to team-mates who weren't there and lacking creativity on the finish.
What made the difference? Was it
England's fifth and final penalty shot, when Argentine goalkeeper Carlos
Roa guessed right and David Batty guessed wrong? Or was it the missed penalty
of Paul Ince, also rejected by Roa? Was it in the 81st minute, when the
referee disallowed Sol Campbell's leaping header because Alan Shearer's
elbow got too near Roa's face? Was it the sending-off of David Beckham?
Yes -- each moment an effect on the outcome. But in the end, the English
have to believe, the difference was fate.