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Match Number Five — Tuesday 30th June 1998
Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Rue Paul et Pierre Guichard, Saint-Étienne 35,500

Referee: Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)

Linesmen: Halim Abdul Hamid (Malaysia) and Mohamed Al Musawi (Oman)

Argentina had won five of their last six penalty shootouts in the past decade, though they had been beaten on the last occasion, 4-2 by Brazil in a 1995 Copa America quarter-final in Rivera, Uruguay, after a 2-2 draw.  Prior to that, they had progressed to the World Cup Final in 1990, following two successive shootout victories, including against the hosts, Italy, in Naples.  They defeated the European Champions, Denmark in Mar del Plata in 1993, to lift the Artemio Franchi Trophy and then repeated their World Cup feat in the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador, beating Brazil and Colombia on penalties to reach the final, where they beat Mexico in Guayaquil.  England had one solitary shootout success, in the 1996 European Championship quarter-final against Spain at Wembley, by 4-2, following a goalless draw after extra time.  Germany beat them from the spot in the semi-final and their most recent experience of a shootout was in the previous month’s pre-World Cup tournament in Casablanca, when Belgium defeated them 4-3 after a goalless draw.


Carlos Roa (Real Mallorca (Spain) and Argentina) aged 28.

David Seaman (Arsenal and England) aged 34.

Roa had only broken into the Argentine national team, the previous year, but in his first World Cup, he had kept clean sheets in the first three games and then only been beaten by a penalty and Owen’s wonder goal.

Seaman had won the Premiership and F.A. Cup ‘double’ with Arsenal, keeping a clean sheet in both the semi-final and final of the F.A. Cup.  Thanks to Euro ’96, he was far more experienced in penalty shootouts in major tournaments.  This was his 44th England appearance.  In 1996, he had faced 12 penalties at Wembley in the European Championship, saving two (against McAllister of Scotland and Nadal of Spain), with another Spanish kicker, Hierro hitting the bar.  Testimitanu, of Moldova, had also hit the bar from a spot-kick in England’s first World Cup qualifying match, in Chişinău, in the first game after the Germany shootout.  Seaman then faced a penalty after only five and a half minutes of this match.  It was converted by Batistuta, who shot right-footed, low to the left, where although Seaman dived full-length and got both hands to it, the power of it was such that he could only deflect it down, from where it bounced up into the inner side-netting.

Kickers (Argentina):

1)       Sergio Berti (aged 29) – River Plate

2)       Hernan Crespo (aged 22) – Parma (Italy)

3)       Juan Sebastian Veron (aged 23) – Sampdoria (Italy)

4)       Marcelo Gallardo (aged 22) – River Plate

5)       Roberto Ayala (aged 25) – Napoli (Italy)

Berti had replaced Simeone after two minutes of extra time, having only played prior to that for the last eight minutes of the previous game, against Croatia.  He had helped River Plate win the previous year’s Argentinian Apertura League Championship, their third successive title.

Crespo was making his World Cup debut, after replacing Batistuta in the 70th minute.

Veron had completed all four games for Argentina in the tournament.

Gallardo had missed two penalties in consecutive games in the previous year’s Copa America in Bolivia, but then also converted a spot-kick in both games.  One was a last-minute equaliser, which eliminated Ecuador in Cochabamba, whilst the other proved to be just a consolation goal in the quarter-final against Peru, four days later in Sucre.  He went on to help River Plate win their third successive title, the Argentinian Apertura League Championship and had replaced Lopez in the 70th minute, to make his third successive appearance in the tournament.

Ayala had completed all four games for Argentina.  His club, Napoli had been relegated after finishing bottom of the Italian Serie A.

Two of Argentina’s most experienced penalty shootout takers, the captain, Simeone, and top-scorer, Batistuta, who had opened the scoring with his second penalty of the tournament, had been substituted during the game.

Kickers (England):

1) Alan Shearer (aged 27) - Newcastle United

43rd appearance, his 10th minute penalty was his 20th international goal and his 4th of the year for England.

After three successive seasons as the Premiership’s top scorer, he missed the first half of the 1997-98 season with an injury to his ankle ligaments.

Returned to score 11 goals for club and country in all competitions, and scored the goal, which took Newcastle United to the F.A. Cup Final.

Captain and completed all four games in the tournament, scoring twice.

Scored 4 penalties for England, all in major tournaments, including twice converting the first kick of a shootout, but missed one in previous year’s World Cup qualifying match in Poland.

2) Paul Ince (aged 30) - Liverpool

43rd appearance, 2 goals, both against San Marino in 1993.

Scored 8 league goals in the 1997-98 season.

Started all four games in the tournament, but was substituted in the last two group games.

Did not take part in England’s shootout against Germany in 1996.

3) Paul Merson (aged 30) - Middlesbrough

19th appearance, 2 goals.

Scored 16 goals for club and country as Middlesbrough reached the Coca-Cola Cup Final and finished as Football League runners-up to Ipswich Town.

Made his World Cup debut as a 78th minute substitute for Paul Scholes.

Converted England’s fourth penalty in the previous month’s shootout, against Belgium.

4) Michael Owen (aged 18) - Liverpool

8th appearance, 3 goals, his 16th minute strike was his second in three games and his 26th of the season.

PFA Young Player of the Year and Premiership joint-top scorer with 18 goals.

Scored 23 goals for Liverpool, including 3 penalties.

Completed last two games, after coming on as substitute against Romania to become England’s youngest ever World Cup scorer.

Converted England’s second penalty in the previous month’s shootout, against Belgium.

5) David Batty (aged 29) – Newcastle United

31st appearance, no goals.

Scored twice in the 1997-98 season as Newcastle United reached the F.A. Cup Final.

A 96th minute substitute for Darren Anderton after completing the first two games of the tournament and the last eight minutes of the previous game, against Colombia.

Shearer‘s first international penalty, against the Netherlands in 1996, was side-footed with his right foot, low into the bottom left corner, beyond the Dutch ‘keeper’s dive.  He had converted England’s first penalty against Spain, four days later, shooting right-footed, rising up to the left corner, just brushing the Spanish ‘keeper’s fingertips on his left hand.  Against Germany, in the semi-final, he had side-footed, with his right foot, into the top right corner as the German ‘keeper dived the wrong way.  He had missed a penalty against Poland, in Chorzów, in 1997, after side-footing it against the bottom of the left-hand post, with his right foot, though the Polish ‘keeper had taken two steps off his line and dived the right way, and Shearer’s 10th minute penalty against Argentina, at the same end of the stadium as the shootout was to take place, was also side-footed, with his right foot, into the top left corner, above and beyond Roa’s dive.

Merson's penalty against Belgium was side-footed, at medium height to the left, with his right foot, but the speed was too quick for the Belgian 'keeper's dive.

Owen's penalty against Belgium was side-footed into the top left corner, with his right foot.  The goalkeeper was quick off his line but could not reach it, as it was too high for him.

Extra Time

Following David Beckham’s sending off after only a minute of the second half, England had to reorganise and performed a courageous rearguard display to keep Argentina at bay with ten men.  By extra time, they were exhausted from the effort and neither side made any significant chances during the extra half-hour.

The Shootout (Argentina first)

1-0  Berti shot left-footed, low to the right, beyond Seaman’s dive and into the inner side-netting.

1-1 Shearer shot right-footed, to the left of centre, into the roof of the net, beyond the outstretched arm of the diving Roa, who had taken two steps off his line, before the kick was taken.

Crespo side-footed, with his right foot, at medium height, to the right, and Seaman took a big step off his line and beat it away comfortably, with both hands.

Ince side-footed, with his right foot, at medium height, to the right, and Roa, who had been stood in front of the line, took another step forward before the kick was taken and barely had to dive, to beat it away with both hands.

2-1 Veron shot right-footed, to the left of centre, into the roof of the net, beyond the outstretched arm of the diving Seaman, who again took a big step forward in his attempt to save.

2-2 Merson side-footed, with his right foot, high to the left of centre, where Roa’s outstretched left hand could only push it into the inner side-netting.  The goalkeeper had been booked before the kick, for protesting that the ball was not properly on the spot and then stood with his right foot in front of the line, before taking two steps and commencing his dive before the kick was taken.

3-2 Gallardo side-footed, with his right foot, into the bottom left corner, and leapt off the ground to get more power into the shot. Seaman took a step off the line and then another big step before the ball was kicked, but the ball still eluded his full-length dive.

3-3 Owen side-footed, with his right foot, hit the left post, just below the angle between post and bar, but it deflected into the roof of the net, as Roa again took a step off his line before the kick was taken, before diving the wrong way.

4-3 Ayala side-footed, with his right foot, low to the right, where it bounced on the six-yard line and on the goal-line, bobbling up into the corner of the net. Seaman took a step off the line before it was kicked, but seemed to expect it to go to the opposite side and was subsequently wrong-footed, so his eventual dive was well short of the ball.

Batty side-footed, with his right foot, at medium height, to the left of centre, where Roa blocked it with both hands, after jumping up and down on the line and then taking three steps before the kick was taken.

If Batty had scored, who would have taken England’s sixth penalty?

The sending off not only deprived England of one of their best dead-ball kickers (Beckham had converted England’s third penalty in the previous month’s shootout), but it also forced Hoddle to change to a more defensive approach for the rest of the game, in the light of Argentina’s numerical advantage. Consequently, when it came to choosing the penalty takers, there were barely five contenders who could remotely be described as being attack-minded. The remaining four outfield players (Adams, Campbell, Neville and Southgate) were all defenders. Southgate was unlikely to be considered after his trauma of two years earlier and the fact that he had still never scored from a spot-kick. Only Adams had previously scored for England, he had just captained Arsenal to the Premiership and F.A. Cup ‘double’, scoring three goals and he had scored in a successful European Cup-Winners Cup semi-final shootout for Arsenal in 1995, though he had not taken part in either of the Euro ’96 shootouts. Campbell had scored an F.A. Cup goal for Tottenham Hotspur that season and had had a header disallowed against Argentina. Seaman had taken a shootout penalty for Arsenal in the 1993 F.A. Charity Shield at Wembley, but his weak effort had been saved.

Gary Neville had not scored for Manchester United for over a year, but, according to his autobiography, published in 2011, he was lined up to take England's next kick, in the event of Batty scoring (thanks to Mike Coxon for spotting that).

Why did England lose?

Carlos Roa’s blatant gamesmanship played a large part in England’s eventual demise. Although the referee penalised him for protesting that the ball was not on the spot before Merson’s kick, he did not notice that Roa was stepping off his line before every single England kick was taken.  It would have taken a brave official to halt the celebrations to order the deciding kick to be retaken, but Roa had taken an incredible three steps before Batty’s foot had connected with the ball.  In fact, he was in danger of missing the ball completely, because he dived so early and did not even have to put his arms out as the ball was already heading towards his chest.  Roa was fortunate that in Ince and Batty, he was facing players who were inexperienced penalty takers.  Ince had not taken part in England’s Euro ’96 shootout against Germany and had also opted out of Internazionale’s kicks, when losing to Schalke in the 1997 UEFA Cup Final.  He had been one of England’s best players against Argentina, though, and by taking England’s second penalty, he must have been confident.  However, he could not have envisaged that the goalkeeper would have been standing in front of the line, even as Ince was beginning his run-up.  Having been awarded the yellow card, Roa then managed to position himself with just one foot in front of the line, helping him to get a hand to Merson’s kick, but England’s three strikers hit the ball too well to give him a chance of saving and Owen even sent him the wrong way.  Why Batty was given the fifth kick is a mystery.  He had never taken a penalty in his first-class career and his few goals were from open play, so to take what is always a deciding kick was a massive risk, as big a risk as Gareth Southgate’s kick, two years earlier, at Wembley.  It has to be said that Seaman was also stepping off his line before Argentina’s kicks were taken and his strategy seemed to be to take as big a stride as possible to narrow the angle in the hope that he could reach the ball if the kicker was not accurate enough.  Crespo was the only one to fall into this trap.  Ayala’s kick was arguably worse, but he got away with his ‘daisy-cutter’, because Seaman could not work out which side he was going to put it, until it was too late.

It was to be hoped that a new generation of players and a foreign coach, with a more scientific and positive approach to penalty shootouts might bring England some luck, when they were next called upon to decide a game in this way.  Alas, the old frailties were to re-surface yet again, with a vengeance, in the middle of the next decade.