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Talking ’bout My Generation: 1998 World Cup England Team

The supporters

It dawned on me today that it’s been twenty years since World Cup ’98. Apart from the realization that I’m getting better at maths it brought back memories of what I consider to be the best match I’ve ever watched – the quarter finals where England took on Argentina and lost thus ending the dream of England taking home the cup. Everyone has their own opinion about what they consider to be the best match they’ve ever seen, and my choice where England got knocked out of the tournament might be considered a strange one – but boy where do I begin???

England captain Shearer, Beckham, Anderton and Scholes… Just some of the greats!

Everyone who knows me knows I’m hardly what you would call sports mad. I don’t know the first thing about football and if you need someone to tell you what the offside rule is, I better not be your phone -a-friend! But the England vs Argentina quarter final game was the very first time that I’d sat down with my family and watched an entire match. The first time I’d watched England play a major game. The first time I realized why it was called the beautiful game; the pride fans feel when they watch their country play, the glory, agony, ecstasy, and everything in between that every football fan experiences. It’s so much more than just kicking a ball around or taking home a trophy. It’s about sportsmanship, pride and honour – all this from someone who still doesn’t consider herself a football fan!

England goalkeeper, David Seaman

I don’t have a sporting bone in my body so I’ll probably never be a fully fledged fan like most of my family. But from that match on, I developed a new-found sense of respect for the game. I may not necessarily support anyone at club level but I’m most definitely an England supporter through and through.

I still remember my family gathering around the living room after dinner to watch the match. My brother was in his England shirt, and my mum who’s even less of a sports fan than me was pretty much jumping up and down with excitement. To this day, I still don’t know if I was watching a football match or a soap episode: team captain Alan Shearer elbowing opponents in the face with a smirk (come on Alan, you know you did!) Sol Campbell ‘s disallowed goal; Darren Anderton running around the pitch like his life depended on it even though  he looked as though he was going to drop. But most shocking of all was David Beckham’s red card after lashing out at Diego Simeone – an incident that many fans feel prevented Glenn Hoddles’ boys from progressing further in the tournament. David got a real thrashing in the press and  I still remember the next day’s headlines: “10 brave lions. 1 stupid boy.” Posh Spice pleaded with the nation to go easy on David, saying that he didn’t deserve to be the most hated man in England. I may be in the minority but I actually agree with her as I think David’s subsequent treatment was very unfair. But hey – that’s just my non-expert opinion!

Honestly, I had no idea football could be so dramatic! And that’s before we even get to that penalty shoot-out. I didn’t realize it at the time but I think most of the nation knew it was over when it went to penalties. Let’s face it – England don’t do too well when it comes to penalties. We would have to wait until 2018 for the ‘curse’ to be broken (thanks Pickford!) But I think I that’s why I loved this match so much – that passion from the England team. That energy, that hunger to win. And to be honest I don’t think I’ve seen it since.

Paul Ince’s disappointment at missing the penalty

What amazes me now is where the last  twenty years have gone – World Cup ’98 was only yesterday surely! Even though the names Vardy,  Kane, Alli, and Sterling are on everyone’s lips, for me I still keep thinking Shearer, Owen, Ince, and Seaman. My parents had Charlton, Moore, Best (yes, I know he’s Irish but he was still one of the top players back in the day!) and Stiles but for me the 1998 England squad plus Gazza – who never should have been excluded – are the players of my generation. Sadly I can’t get my head around the fact that all those players have now retired. Aside from the fact that I realize how many years have gone by, I also realize that I’m old!  But at least that Southgate is still hanging about! Who would have thought back in 1998 that we would see Gareth Southgate leading the future England squad into the semis – the first since 1990? In twenty years time, the kids of today will be looking at the 2018 England squad as the football legends of their generation the same way the 1998 squad are of mine.

The 1998 World Cup was won by the host nation, France. Football may not have come home that year but I know I was a different person by the end of that game. As a Brit now living in America, I still feel that sense of pride in my country and in my national football team. People often talk about which stars would feature in their ultimate band, but if we’re going to talk about the ultimate England squad, then it would be the 1998 line up without any changes. Although at the very least I would have Gaza’s as a sub! I hope the squad tomorrow play with the same passion, fire, and determination as ‘my’ team.

Glenn Hoddle, distraught after the game

Come on, England – you’re almost home!

 

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Sport

 

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Video

World Cup ’98: England Does Us Proud!

World Cup 2014 is still under way but unfortunately England’s early exit from the tournament has dulled our enthusiasm for a sporting event we’d spent the last four years looking forward to. To be honest despite my disappointment, I can’t say I’m too surprised – I’ve never seen a team play with so little passion and enthusiasm. I may not be a football expert or a professional footballer but from what I saw, I don’t think the England team gave it their all. ‘Could have done better’ is an understatement. This, I believe, is the second time that England has been knocked out after two matches, and for me, 2014 will be the year that our national team flopped spectacularly. What did they think this was – the Eurovision Song Contest? No room for nul points here!

 

I think back to World Cup ’98 in France. It was the very first World Cup tournament I followed closely (thanks to my then eight year old brother) and that’s just one of the reasons why it’s so memorable for me. The other reason is because I still remember how the England team played in their match against Argentina – the match in which die-hard England fans were hoping that England would avenge Maradona’s 1986 hand of God goal. And those England players really did take to the pitch as though they were going to war and totally played their football socks off. Yes, some underhand tactics were used (cough, cough, Mr. Shearer!) there was fury when Sol Campbell’s goal was disallowed (seriously, Ref, what was that all about?) and who could forget the tears, tantrums and frustration as Goldenballs himself, David Beckham, was given a red card. But I remember how  the England squad played and gave it everything they got. No one could ever forget the two goals scored by Michael Owen and the team’s captain Alan Shearer. And even though he didn’t score, Darren Anderton was commended for his performance and I can see why – poor Darren looked ready to drop but he went after that ball as though his life depended on it.

At home, we were all on the edge of our seats, screaming wildly at the telly – even Mum who normally has no time for footy. My little brother – who was in his England shirt – was the quietest even though he’s the most fanatical about football, but his little face was etched with worry one minute and brimming with exhilaration the next. We thought that this time, England might just have a chance.

But alas it was not to be as England went home without the cup yet again. It was a tie between the two teams, so it went into extra time, followed by penalties, which Argentina eventually won. But the difference back then was that we could be proud of our team for putting up an almighty fight and for playing as a team – I feel there was a real sense of brotherhood which didn’t sense with our current squad. I really believe they did our country proud. And even though, I never became what you could call a football fanatic, I definitely fell in love with our national team – and all because of one match. Who thought football could be so dramatic?

The night didn’t end so well. Little brother stomped up the stairs; opened the door to his room; switched on the light; slammed the door shut; turned off the light and went to bed – probably while still in his England shirt.

If only he knew that worse was yet to come… and how the team back then could have taught our current team a thing or two.

Do us proud in 2018, England!

 

 

 
 

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