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Michael Owen’s solo goal vs Argentina

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It seems like an odd thing to say now given his punditry, but there was a point in time when Michael Owen was probably the most exciting footballer on the planet.

Unlike most players, Owen exploded onto the scene fully formed at Liverpool, winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot in his first full season with 18 goals in 36 games. As a result, he went to World Cup 1998 in France as something of an ace up the sleeve of manager Glenn Hoddle, initially as an option off the bench.

After coming on during the opening win against Tunisia, Owen became the youngest player to represent England at a World Cup. By the end of the group stage, he had scored a fine equalising goal and hit the post in stoppage time in the 2-1 defeat to Romania and firmly supplanted Teddy Sheringham in Hoddle’s starting line-up. He was the youngest English scorer at a World Cup now, too.

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Then came the old enemy Argentina in the round of 16 and Owen’s finest hour as a player.

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders, Grizz Khan & Jack Gallagher to look back on France ’98 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

Gabriel Batistuta and Alan Shearer both converted penalties inside a chaotic first 10 minutes and Javier Zanetti scored on the stroke of half-time but it’s Michael Owen’s electric solo run and finish that continues to live long in the memory for England fans.

You might also recall David Beckham doing something a bit silly in the second half but we don’t need to talk about that.

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Owen’s is a perfect counter-attacking goal. Paul Ince does well to win the ball back for England, shrugging Maxi Lopez aside after Sol Campbell’s initial sliding tackle. Watching it back now, England are probably a little fortunate a foul wasn’t given after Tony Adams literally just charges straight into Juan Sebastian Veron off the ball.

You certainly wouldn’t get away with that kind of move on Strictly.

Ince finds Beckham, taking the entire Argentina midfield out of the game with a single pass, who in turn dinks the ball forward for Owen before his future Manchester United teammate Veron can recover to stick a foot in.

The pass itself isn’t great and seems more hopeful than anything, arriving at waist height and without much pace. Regardless, Owen snatches the opportunity, bringing the ball down with the outside of his boot and without breaking stride.

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Jose Chamot offers little resistance as Owen surges past but he does at least manage to throw the England striker slightly off-balance. A cynical Fernandinho-style hack was needed, however.

And because this was the late 90s, he still has the sweeper Roberto Ayala to beat, a typically formidable one-on-one defender but not when’s he backing up with his shoulders square towards the edge of his own area. Owen is leaning slightly because of Chamot’s push so – and this is the most beautiful part – drops a devastating shoulder and shimmies around Ayala like the defender has a blindfold on and his shoelaces tied together.

You can picture Jamie Carragher tearing the Argentine to shreds on Monday Night Football if this goal had been scored now. “If we just pause it…THERE, you can actually see Roberto Ayala is drowning in quicksand.” Honestly, the shimmy alone should have retired him on the spot.

The onrushing Paul Scholes is screaming for the shot at this point but Owen doesn’t need him. His confidence was such that he’d been planning to shoot all along, since picking up the ball just past the halfway line.

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The finish is emphatic, high and hard into the top left corner past Carlos Roa. The celebration even more so, as Owen opens his arms, looks to the sky and shakes with all the kinetic energy leftover, as though it were coursing through him like electricity.

The England substitutes – Paul Merson in particular – completely lose it. They can’t believe what they’ve seen. Teddy Sheringham, secretly furious, claps semi-politely. Steve McManaman has a jumper around his shoulders for some reason. Darren Anderton is there. The whole thing is fantastic.

It was a grainy blur at the time but somehow the memory of Owen scoring against Argentina has turned crystal rather than faded as the years have passed. Like Beckham’s free-kick against Greece you only needed to see it once. Then all the replays just took place in your own head.

We know how it all ended, the shootout defeat every bit as agonising as it was inevitable, but with those five magic touches of the ball in as many seconds Michael Owen had us all in the palm of his hand.

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“He is 18 years and 198 days old,” Jon Champion gushed on commentary. “Just think what he’ll be like when he grows up.”

Sadly, I think, that was the problem. He grew up – we all did – and neither Owen, nor football, was ever quite as good as this again.



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Player ratings La Albiceleste make it through to knockout stages

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Goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina’s place at the top of Group C and their place in the round of the 16 of the FIFA World Cup. Poland also squeezed through despite losing thanks to Mexico only managing to beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.

Argentina started the game brightly, getting Lionel Messi on the ball frequently in and around the penalty area – which is always the game plan for La Albiceleste. The PSG star would have the first notable shot on goal in the 10th minute, bursting into the left hand side of the penalty area before stinging Wojciech Szczęsny’s palms with a fierce strike on goal.

La Albiceleste were able to sustain that pressure with relative ease thereafter as Poland were more than happy to sit in and defend a point that would see them through to the last 16.

Marcos Acuna was next to come close for Argentina around the half-hour mark, drilling a shot just wide of the foot of the right post.

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Julian Alvarez would then force Szczęsny into a great save five minutes later, with the Juventus number one deflecting Alvarez’s effort on goal from the left side of the penalty area out wide.

Moments later we witnessed the worst refereeing decision of the tournament thus far. Argentina were awarded an egregious penalty following a lengthy VAR check after Szczęsny was adjudged to have touched (?) Messi’s face while both were up challenging for a cross into the box.

The resulting spot kick was then brilliant saved by the Poland goalkeeper, who dove to his left to tip Messi’s effort wide. Justice well and truly served.

Immediately after the second half whistle, Argentina finally got their goal. Brighton star Alexis Mac Allister would be the man to get it, latching onto a low cross from right-back Nahuel Molina to drill past Szczęsny and into the bottom right corner of the net.

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That goal would finally wake Poland up as an attacking entity and, in the 49th minute, they almost grabbed an equaliser through Kamil Glik. The veteran defender rose highest to head a set piece from the right flank just wide.

After a few tactical tweaks, Lionel Scaloni’s men firmly regained control of the game. In the 67th minute they deservedly doubled their lead through Julian Alvarez. The young forward held off two Polish defenders before firing high into the net.

It was so nearly three in the 72nd minute when Messi played a wonderful through ball into the path of Alvarez again. The forward, however, could only find the side-netting with his subsequent strike on goal.

In the 85th minute, Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to nearly knock Poland out of the competition. After latching onto a loose back pass, the Inter man stormed into the penalty area but shanked his shot on goal wide of the post.

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Jakub Kiwior then saved Poland from an early exit with a stunning clearance off the line in the 93rd minute. The towering defender got back well to head clear a dinked Nicolas Tagliafico finish to keep his nation in the tournament.

GK – Wojciech Szczęsny – 8/10 – Saved his second penalty of the group stages and looked generally unbeatable in the first half. He was finally beaten in the second, but by God what a performance regardless.

RB – Matty Cash – 3/10 – Didn’t get forward as Poland would’ve liked.

CB – Kamil Glik – 4/10 – The sort of game that suits him at this point in his career and yet he still wasn’t particularly good.

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CB – Jakub Kiwior – 7/10 – Got caught out with Molina’s cut-back cross which led to the opener. Made amends with a fantastic clearance off the line in added time.

LB – Bartosz Bereszynski – 3/10 – Struggled to defend his side.

CM – Piotr Zielinski – 3/10 – Needed to be better on the ball than he was in this one.

CM – Krystian Bielik – 4/10 – Defended quite well but generally looked hopless in possession.

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CM – Gregorz Krychowiak – 2/10 – Got stuck in when he could get near the ball…which wasn’t often because he can’t run anymore.

AM – Przemyslaw Frankowski – 1/10 – He did literally nothing and was subbed off at half-time.

ST – Robert Lewandowski – 2/10 – So, so isolated.

ST – Karol Swiderski – N/A – Did he play? He didn’t, did he? Surely not.

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SUB – Michal Skoras – 4/10.

SUB – Jakub Kaminski – 3/10.

SUB – Damian Szymanski – N/A.

SUB – Artur Jedrzejczyk – N/A.

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SUB – Krzysztof Piatek – N/A.

GK – Emi Martinez – 5/10 – He had zero to do.

RB – Nahuel Molina – 7/10 – His brilliant low cross from the right flank led to the opening goal.

CB – Cristian Romero – 5/10 – Dealt with the little threat Lewa posed well.

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CB – Nicolas Otamendi – 5/10 – An easy night at the office for Otamendi.

LB – Marcos Acuna – 6/10 – Drilled a shot just wide in the first half and got forward well.

CM – Alexis Mac Allister – 8/10 – Scored his first ever international goal at the best possible time.

CM – Enzo Fernandez – 7/10 – Another impressive performance from the young man.

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CM – Rodrigo De Paul – 4/10 – Sloppy on the ball again. Surely he shouldn’t start for this team.

RW – Angel Di Maria – 5/10 – Saw a lot of the ball but didn’t do a whole lot with it.

CF – Lionel Messi – 4/10 – Missed a penalty. He’s not very good at penalties.

LW – Julian Alvarez – 5/10 – Scored a great goal in the second half. Well deserved start for the Man City striker.

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SUB – Leandro Paredes – 6/10 – Did a decent job in midfield when he came on.

SUB – Nicolas Tagliafico – N/A.

SUB – Lautaro Martinez – 5/10 – Missed a decent chance in the 85th minute.

SUB – German Pezzella – N/A.

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SUB – Thiago Almada – N/A.

Man of the Match: Alexis Mac Allister

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Ben White leaves England World Cup squad due to ‘personal reasons’

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Arsenal star Ben White has left England’s World Cup training camp and isn’t expected to return for the remainder of the tournament.

The defender didn’t make an appearance in any of the Three Lions group stage games, and has now left the squad due to ‘personal reasons’.

In a statement released by England, the Three Lions confirmed the news: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

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Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”

White has enjoyed a fantastic domestic season with Arsenal, becoming the club’s first choice right-back – and one of the best right-backs in the Premier League – as the Gunners have gone from top four challengers to table-toppers.

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Poland vs Argentina: Confirmed lineups

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Poland vs Argentina

France, who have already secured a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup 2022, play Tunisia on Wednesday in their final Group D matchup.

In the meantime, the African nation is last in the standings and must defeat the current champions to advance to the knockout stages.

Line-up

Poland XI (4-4-1-1): Szczesny; Bereszynski, Glik, Kiwior, Cash; Frankowski, Bielik, Krychowiak, Zielinski; Swiderski; Lewandowski

Argentina XI (4-3-3): Martínez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuña; De Paul, Enzo Fernández, Mac Allister; Messi, Álvarez, Di María

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