My favourite World Cup moment: Michael’s Owen’s breakout brilliance against Argentina

The England striker was just 18 when he burst onto the scene at France 98

30 Jun 1998:  Michael Owen of England in action against Jose Chamet of Argentina during the 1998 World Cup match against Argentina played in St Etienne, France.  The match finished in a 2-2 draw after extra-time and in a dramatic twist England once againlost in the penalty shoot-out 4-3. \ Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport
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It can be tough being an England fan at times – and not just because of the decades of near misses, penalty shootout heartaches and downright dismal failures.

Despite being the nation that popularised the beautiful game all around the world, it has always been played more attractively elsewhere.

We have all marvelled at Messi and Maradona, heaped praise on Pele and savoured every moment of Mo Salah. But functionality has often won out over flair for the Three Lions, which makes moments like Michael’s Owen’s breakout brilliance against Argentina in 1998 all the more special.

England were locked in a titanic tussle with Argentina in the last 16 of France 1998 in a game that had it all – great goals, massive drama, a controversial sending off for David Beckham and, yes you guessed it, heroic failure for England after penalties.

The enduring memory of that clash, however, is a teenage Owen tormenting a seasoned Argentine defence, jinking his way through challenges on a marauding run into the box before showing ice-cold composure to rifle a searing shot into the top corner.

A star was born in that instant. The Liverpool livewire seemingly had the world at his feet. He was a footballer that England fans could rest their hopes upon for years to come.

He would go on to enjoy a fantastic career, becoming a prestigious Ballon d’Or winner three years later, scoring a famous double to win an FA Cup for Liverpool, playing for Real Madrid and even winning a Premier League title with Manchester United in an unexpected twist to his sporting story.

However many plaudits he received and goals he plundered in the years to come, Owen was never better than as the fresh-faced forward full of energy and dynamism and devoid of any fear.

It was a World Cup that promised so much for England, only to end in despair. Yet the beacon of hope supplied by Owen remains undiminished.

Chris Maxwell is Assistant News Editor at The National


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