David Seaman was by no means in his prime in 2002…
But after winning the double with Arsenal in the 2001-02 season and with experience to spare there was a real buzz about the England outfit in the South Korea and Japan World Cup led by the father figure (probably being literally old enough to be a father to many players being 38-years young).
The iconic ponytail was out in full glory as Seaman and his teammates made it quite comfortably to the Quarter-Final of the competition. Although there were doubts about the Arsenal legend’s ability at this stage of his career, he was putting in a solid shift so far with only one goal shipped to Sweden in the four games played and all signs were good for England to make a real statement in this tournament.
The Quarter-Final continued this trend, and with 23 minutes gone a young Michael Owen made it 1-0 and England fans all around the country really started to believe. Why can’t we go on and win this thing?
Brazil were a menacing side with world class players in every department. Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo and, most significantly in this game, Ronaldinho lined the pitch with quality like diamonds on a Rolex.
But we were beating them, and as people crammed around their TVs with the England flag on their face chanting and celebrating, we started to dream.
The importance of holding on for the team-talk was imperative here with fans hoping that they could grab their half-time beer being able to cite the magic words of ‘we’re beating Brazil’.
Unfortunately though this was not to be, and just as referee F Ramos Rizo drew the whistle to his lips Brazil scored. Ronaldinho played in Rivaldo who slotted the ball past Seaman to set the scores level at the break.
It was what happened soon after the break that broke England hearts, none more so than the man between the sticks.
As Brazil got a free-kick 42 yards from goal on the 50th minute there wouldn’t have been many alarm bells ringing, it seemed simple enough; the ball would be crossed in to the box and it was up to Seaman and his defence to clear. This though was not quite how it played out.
Instead of a cross into the box it was a floater from Ronaldinho which cruised over Seaman and into the back on the England net. Everyone, including the Brazilian himself, could not believe what they had just witnessed. Whether it was a fluky intended cross or moment of genius only the man himself truly knows but that didn’t matter, Brazil won the game 2-1 and went on to win the whole thing.
Ronaldinho did end up getting harshly sent off for a challenge on Danny Mills only eight minutes later ruling him out of the next stage, but as things turned out a performance to be proud of in the final cemented his place as one of Brazil’s all-time greats; I’m sure looking back he won’t mind too much.
For Seaman and his team-mates it was heartbreak, and the veteran felt he had let down his troops with despair clear to see as England crashed out at the quarters… again.
Looking back since, Seaman recalled exactly what was on his mind at the time: “I’m just thinking… I want this to go over.”
And didn’t we all. But these things happen and will always happen to typical old England…
Did Ronaldinho mean it? Cross or Shot? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Pictures courtesy of Getty images