Teamwork makes the dream work

Owen Hargreaves’ heroics vs Portugal

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“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 making an attempt to recollect methods to breathe. Frank Lampard simply sits and shakes his head in disbelief. Stewart Downing seems 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 purple, 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 underneath Sven-Goran Eriksson. Solely Wayne Rooney’s one-man demolition jobs towards 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 on account of being born in Canada to a Welsh mom.

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

It was doubtless because of the media response that Hargreaves was booed by England supporters after changing Joe Cole for the ultimate seven minutes of England’s opening sport towards Paraguay. Regardless of his success at Bayern, the place he had began and received 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 choice 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 received the blame. By no means thoughts {that a} choice was fully wasted on 17-year-old Theo Walcott.

None of this phased Hargreaves, who began in central midfield in England’s remaining group sport towards 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 actual fact, the mass assassin The Solar had described. The Portuguese midfield had no reply for his tenacity, work price and dedication as he received possession again for England time and time once more all through the sport, overlaying each blade of grass within the course of.

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

Petit, Maniche, Tiago. All high quality central midfielders. They could not get close to him. Hargreaves appeared faster, fitter and stronger than everybody else on the pitch. Not solely that, it was clear he needed 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 sport and even trying as if they may snatch an unlikely winner.

In harm time, he left Miguel and Cristiano Ronaldo for useless with a lung-bursting surge down the wing to create a remaining goalscoring probability Terry scooped over. Even in further time, Hargreaves was nonetheless – by some means – making selfless runs past the final man for doomed England counter-attacks. He merely refused to be crushed. No one 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 prime 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 function of taking one – all didn’t convert theirs.

Named England’s Participant of the Yr and England’s Participant of the World Cup, Hargreaves’ worldwide profession was over by 2008 attributable to harm.

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 Technology’. It had been Owen Hargreaves all alongside.

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