Owen Hargreaves’ heroics vs Portugal

Owen Hargreaves' heroics vs Portugal

“So Portugal celebrating as soon as once more, England lose a penalty shootout. Tears on the pitch, little question tears proper across the nation. One other World Cup dream involves an finish. Full desolation.”

And so Gary Lineker, voice unusually dreary, drearier than you’ve got ever heard it, narrates the moments instantly following England’s defeat to Portugal on the 2006 World Cup.

The gamers linger on the sector. Hunched. Distraught. Rio Ferdinand cannot cease crying nor use his legs to face up. Steven Gerrard lays nonetheless on his again attempting to recollect methods to breathe. Frank Lampard simply sits and shakes his head in disbelief. Stewart Downing seems to be a bit misplaced, in all probability as a result of he’s Stewart Downing.

Ashley Cole glares into the center distance. It glares again. David Beckham, an empty vessel even amongst different footballers, has nothing significant to say to his teammates. And Gary Neville, eyes moist and crimson, puffs his chest out simply far sufficient to go over and congratulate the Portuguese gamers.

It is time we talked about one of many best performances we have ever seen from an England participant. It was none of them. It is time we talked about Owen Hargreaves.

Let’s be trustworthy, the bar is not notably excessive for standout particular person performances beneath Sven-Goran Eriksson. Solely Wayne Rooney’s one-man demolition jobs in opposition to Switzerland and Croatia at Euro 2004 spring to thoughts.

However over the course of 120 gruelling minutes in Gelsenkirchen, Owen Hargreaves reminded followers that some gamers actually did care about representing the nation, even regardless of all of the bizarre resistance he obtained within the press and from the stands because of being born in Canada to a Welsh mom.

After being named as a shock inclusion within the remaining squad, the Day by day Categorical wrote that the Bayern Munich midfielder would make tour information. The Solar, bizarrely, stated he had ‘the general public persona of a mass assassin’. Henry Winter believed Hargreaves might ‘rely himself fortunate to be on board’.

It was seemingly as a result of media response that Hargreaves was booed by England supporters after changing Joe Cole for the ultimate seven minutes of England’s opening recreation in opposition to Paraguay. Regardless of his success at Bayern, the place he had began and gained a UEFA Champions League in 2001 and was coming off the again of a league and cup double, he was painted as an pointless defensive possibility England did not want.

Hargreaves was not the fourth striker Eriksson ought to have taken alongside Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch and subsequently acquired the blame. By no means thoughts {that a} choice was utterly wasted on 17-year-old Theo Walcott.

None of this phased Hargreaves, who began in central midfield in England’s remaining group recreation in opposition to Sweden, a 2-2 draw, after which performed right-back within the following 1-0 win over Ecuador within the spherical of 16.

In opposition to Portugal, Sven moved Hargreaves again to anchor the midfield behind Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. What adopted was a masterclass.

Off the ball, Hargreaves was in all places, snapping into Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo like he was, in truth, the mass assassin The Solar had described. The Portuguese midfield had no reply for his tenacity, work charge and willpower as he gained possession again for England time and time once more all through the sport, protecting each blade of grass within the course of.

On the ball, he’d break up Ferdinand and John Terry, recycling with quick passes and minimal fuss. When it was on, he’d go extra direct or carry himself from deep to interrupt traces. Regardless of taking part in as a holding midfielder, Hargreaves was at instances the furthest England participant ahead both driving previous his man or straight at him to shut down. Then he’d drop proper the way in which again to mop up one other Portugal assault.

Petit, Maniche, Tiago. All high quality central midfielders. They could not get close to him. Hargreaves seemed faster, fitter and stronger than everybody else on the pitch. Not solely that, it was clear he wished it extra. Each Portugal transfer appeared to finish with the curly-haired, England quantity 16 strutting away with the ball.

After England went down to 10 males following Rooney’s stamp on Ricardo Carvalho, it was Hargreaves’ complete dominance that saved them within the recreation and even wanting as if they may snatch an unlikely winner.

In damage time, he left Miguel and Cristiano Ronaldo for useless with a lung-bursting surge down the wing to create a remaining goalscoring likelihood Terry scooped over. Even in additional time, Hargreaves was nonetheless – someway – making selfless runs past the final man for doomed England counter-attacks. He merely refused to be overwhelmed. No person else in a white shirt was approaching something near a dash.

Portugal had numerical superiority. England had Owen Hargreaves. That was just about it. After which to high all of it, he nonetheless had the legs to step up and rifle in a nerveless penalty as Lampard, Gerrard and Jamie Carragher – introduced on within the 119th minute for the only real function of taking one – all didn’t convert theirs.

Named England’s Participant of the 12 months and England’s Participant of the World Cup, Hargreaves’ worldwide profession was over by 2008 as a consequence of damage.

It is a tragedy as a result of throughout these two gladiatorial hours he confirmed that there was an answer for the everlasting midfield conundrum that was England’s ‘Golden Era’. It had been Owen Hargreaves all alongside.

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