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Match Number Four — Friday 29th May 1998
Complexe Sportif Mohamed V, Maarif Ancien, Casablanca 25,000

Referee: Abderraham El-Arjoune (Morocco)


It had been 12 years since Belgium's only previous penalty shootout, a 5-4 victory against Spain, in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, in Puebla, following a 1-1 draw, after extra time.  They had yet to miss a kick.  England had won their first penalty shootout, two years earlier, in the European Championship quarter-final against Spain, but had followed it four days later, with their second semi-final defeat on penalties, once again losing to a German team, which would go on to win the tournament.


Philippe Vande Walle (Eendracht Aalst and Belgium), aged 36.

Nigel Martyn (Leeds United and England), aged 31.

Van der Walle was making only his 3rd international appearance for Belgium.

Martyn was winning his 7th appearance and had faced only one penalty for England before, with Salas converting for Chile at Wembley.

Kickers (Belgium):

1)    Eric van Meir (aged 30) - Lierse

2)    Vital Borkelmans (aged 34) - Bruges

3)    Mbo Mpenza (aged 21) - Standard Liege

4)    Enzo Scifo (aged 32) - Anderlecht

5)    Phillippe Vande Walle (aged 36) - Eendracht Aalst

Van Meir had scored in the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Borkelmans had helped Bruges win the Belgian League Championship.

Mpenza had been a half-time substitute for Goossens, after appearing for the last two minutes in their first game of the tournament, against France, two days earlier, the only one of the five kickers to make a second appearance.

Scifo was the captain and had scored Belgium's second successful penalty against Spain in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, but had hit the bar when faced with the same Spanish goalkeeper at the 1990 World Cup.

Vande Walle was Belgium's goalkeeper.

Kickers (England):

1) Robert Lee (aged 32) - Newcastle United

17th appearance, 2 goals.

Scored 4 goals in the 1997-98 season and captained Newcastle United to the F.A. Cup Final.

2) Michael Owen (aged 18) - Liverpool

5th appearance and became England's youngest scorer of the 20th century, two days earlier, with the only goal of the first game of the tournament, against Morocco, his 24th 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.

Came on as a half-time substitute for Phil Neville, having appeared as a 26th minute replacement in the first game.

3) David Beckham (aged 23) - Manchester United

15th appearance, but no goals.

Scored 13 goals for Manchester United as they finished as Premiership runners-up to Arsenal.

Came on as a 50th minute substitute for Paul Gascoigne.

4) Paul Merson (aged 30) - Middlesbrough

18th 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.

5) Les Ferdinand (aged 31) - Tottenham Hotspur

17th appearance, 5 goals, but none since 1996.

Scored 5 goals for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1997-98 season.

Played the last 11 minutes of the first game, as well as completing the second.

His kick was his last touch of the ball as an England international.

The Game

With the World Cup less than three weeks away and with both sides having played two days earlier, it was never going to be a truly competitive game, especially with the north-African sun bearing down on them.  Neither side was at full strength.  The tournament was mainly an exercise to see as many squad players as possible over the course of the two games, a chance for border-line individuals to stake a last-minute claim for a place in the final 22 for France.  At the final whistle, players swapped shirts, not realising that drawn games had to be settled by a penalty shootout.  There was very little at stake, though an England win would have given them a better chance of winning the tournament.

The Shootout (Belgium first)

1-0 van Meir side-footed into the bottom left corner, with his right foot as Martyn dived to the opposite side.

Lee shot, with the side of his right foot, to the right of centre, but Vande Walle patted it away with his right hand, whilst still on his knees.

2-0 Borkelmans blasted it, with his left foot, to the right of centre, but Martyn again dived the wrong way.

2-1 Owen side-footed into the top left corner, with his right foot. Vande Walle was quick off his line but could not reach it, as it was too high for him.

3-1 Mpenza side-footed into the bottom right corner, with his right foot, beyond Martyn's dive.

3-2 Beckham side-footed into the bottom left corner. with his right foot, as Vande Walle dived the other way.

Scifo side-footed, with his right foot, to the left of centre, but Martyn dived full-length to turn it away with his right hand.

3-3 Merson side-footed, at medium height to the left, with his right foot, but the speed was too quick for Vande Walle's dive.

4-3 Vande Walle blasted it, with his right foot straight down the middle, as Martyn dived to the right.

Ferdinand side-footed, with his right foot, to the right, but Vande Walle, at full stretch, pushed it onto the inside of the post, where it rebounded across the goal, just short of the line.

If Ferdinand had scored, who would have taken England's sixth penalty?

The biggest surprise of the shootout was that Coventry City's Dion Dublin, a 75th minute substitute for the first-time captain, Sol Campbell, was not amongst the five penalty takers.  Though it was only his 3rd appearance, he had scored from 7 penalties that season, more than any other player in the side.  He was also the Premiership's joint-top scorer and had netted 23 times in all competitions.  Furthermore, it was his kick which took Aston Villa into the F.A. Cup Final at Wembley, two years later.  Of the other players left on the field, only Butt and Le Saux had scored that season.  Paul Gascoigne, who had twice scored in shootouts for England during the European Championship, two years earlier, had limped off in the 50th minute, and was destined never to play for his country again.

Why did England lose?

With so little riding on the outcome, there was never going to be any lost sleep over the penalties and subsequently very little pressure on the players.  For example, none of the goalkeepers were too quickly off their line, as they usually were in more important shootouts.  The biggest issue was always going to be the performance of certain players.  Nigel Martyn probably played himself into the World Cup squad with his clean sheet, as well as saving from the experienced Scifo.  Les Ferdinand, however, did not have his best game and his missed penalty was thought to have put the seal on his exclusion from the final 22, with Dion Dublin waiting to pounce.  Yet, it was Ferdinand who was given the nod, though he never actually wore the England shirt again.

The Belgian 'keeper, Vande Walle took the acclaim by scoring himself and then saving Ferdinand's effort, but it was all merely a sideshow and quickly forgotten.  He earned himself a place in Belgium's third game of the World Cup, whilst the penalty-takers for both countries (Staelens and Shearer) returned for the main event.  Belgium stayed unbeaten, but went out at the group stage.  England promised much, but once again, suffered the all-too-familiar heartache of defeat in a penalty shootout.