Unlucky England – Part Two

Draw the curtains, queue-up some melancholic Radiohead – here’s the second depressing instalment of Unlucky England…

The Euro 2004 quarter-final against hosts Portugal was tied at 1-1 as David Beckham swung-in an injury-time free-kick… Man-mountain Sol Campbell rose to meet the cross and his booming header smacked off the bar before he reacted quickly to net the rebound. England fans were delirious!

But… the whistle had gone. Ricardo, the Portuguese ‘keeper was on the floor, Terry adjudged to have impeded him. It was a harsh call that caused a flabbergasted John Motson to recall: “This is just like wha-Hoddle-in-Argie!”

He eventually found his words to describe how Glenn Hoddle’s England had had a similar goal disallowed against Argentina at France ’98; Sol Campbell the man denied back then too, after Alan Shearer had knocked the Argentine ‘keeper. Lightning does strike twice.

The 2004 quarter-final finished 2-2 after extra-time. St. David confidently walked-up for the first pen but, in yet another ill-fated moment, Goldenballs scuffed his shot in the patchy divot of a penalty spot, sending the ball high and wide. The Iberians ensured they levelled the ground out before coolly, yet cruelly, despatching of the Three Lions.

An uneven playing field was also to blame for Gary Neville’s own goal away to Croatia in a Euro 2008 qualifier – his back-pass to Paul Robinson hit another divot and the ball bobbled underneath the goalkeeper’s boot before sneaking into an empty net. It set the tone for the ‘wally with a brolly’ era and Robbo never looked the same self-assured player thereafter. He was duly dropped but successors Carson & Green hardly fared any better with their own infamous dodgy displays.

After Wayne Rooney’s dismissal in the quarter-final defeat to Portugal at World Cup 2006, Frank Lampard, rather prophetically, claimed:

“It seems to be the English way to lose in bizarre circumstances but it wears you down.”

Now, fast-forward to Bloemfontein , South Africa , for the World Cup 2010 second round match against Germany … The Chelsea man had had the unfortunate stat of being the player with the highest-number-of-shots-to-lowest-number-of-goals-ratio in World Cup history, without anything to show for his previous 30-plus efforts.

However, Lampard thought he’d finally made one count with a brilliant 25-yard equaliser, which would have taken England into half-time at 2-2 and on the ascendancy. Yet, the only men on the planet not to notice his shot had visibly crossed the line before bouncing back out were the match officials and a deflated England ended 4-1 losers.

German fans claimed it was payback for Geoff Hurst’s debatable third goal in 1966, which was arguably the luckiest decision in footballing history – setting England on course for a World Cup win. Although Hurst, to this day, still states that the whole ball was a ‘clear yard over the line.’

That was four-and-a-half-decades ago and goal-line debates should soon be a thing of the past with Fifa’s u-turn on technology. But, whether it was the right call in ’66 or not, surely England have suffered enough to earn a bit of credit in the bank of luck since then?

Roy Hodgson will be a firm believer in organisation and hard work and there is plenty to be said for the old adage ‘you make your own luck.’ This mentality, coupled with glimpses of youthful hope in Welbeck and The Ox, should lead to optimism for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

However, I will also be keeping my fingers crossed that England get the rub of the green en route to Rio . Hopefully, the patchy Zimbru Stadium pitch will haunt the Moldovans rather than Joe Hart tonight. I’ll leave the final words to Lampard:

“It gets to the point where you want to tell Lady Luck to f*** off and take her bad sister with her.”

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