The World Cup Calendar, July 1st. Rooney Stamps His Authority

Wayne Rooney is a terrific role model today, captain of his club and his country, wife and three kids, just ticking all the boxes. He hasn’t always had the respect of the nation though. He was a troublesome player early in his career, and after years of David Beckham being the poster boy for England fan’s hatred after his red card in ’98, Rooney took over this mantle on July 1st, 2006. This game really epitomises England in the World Cup knockout stages: a controversial decision, a disappointing display in the final third, and, of course, penalty shoot out shame. Lets dissect that game, shall we?

England had been doing just enough to get by so far in the tournament, qualifying top of their group with seven points, before beating Ecuador in the Last 16. Portugal topped their relatively easy group with maximum points, before beating the Netherlands in that red card heavy tie. It was perhaps no surprise that the first half was something of a damp squib. Both teams seemed intent on playing it safe, not wanting to risk too much and risk conceding. Portugal had the only real chance of the half, with Tiago coming close to taking the lead. Fernando Meira flicked a header from a free kick into the danger area. England failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to Tiago who seemed surprised to find himself in possession in front of goal. Rio Ferdinand managed to put a tackle in, dispossessing Tiago and sending the ball back to goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

The second half was a much more eventful occasion. Shortly after the break Steven Gerrard delivered a corner into the box. The ball soared over every defender and found the onrushing Frank Lampard. Lampard was allowed time to watch the ball drop in front of him and he struck it on the volley. It wasn’t a vintage volley though as the ball sailed over the crossbar.

England were starting to enjoy the game with a bit more freedom. On the hour mark Aaron Lennon proved to be a bright spark, dancing through the Portuguese defence, laying the ball off to Rooney in the box. Rooney mis-hit the ball terribly, his shot proving to be a decent sideways pass to Joe Cole. After his wonder goal against Sweden in the groups, fans could be forgiven for expecting Cole to net from eight yards out. Instead, he slid in, firing his shot horribly high over the ball and out for a goal kick.

England were a team in the ascendancy, but that all changed 62 minutes into the game. Wayne Rooney appeared to be fouled, with both Ricardo Carvalho and Petit kicking at Rooney’s heels and tugging his jersey. Somehow, the referee ignored the fouls, with Rooney getting more and more fed up after his poor game. In a moment of stupidity, petulance and ruthlessness, Rooney lashed out. Ricardo Carvalho was on the ground behind him, leaving Rooney to stamp on his groin. It was a disgusting act from “the hope of England” and one which he was duly punished for. Cristiano Ronaldo may have been Rooney’s club teammate, but there was no friendship on the international stage, with Ronaldo charging over to demand the referee send the England forward off. Rooney pushed Ronaldo away and a brawl ensued. The referee was stood in front of the entire incident and duly showed red to the Manchester United striker. It was undoubtedly a red card for a vicious assault, but the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo walking away after the incident, winking for all the world to see, left a sour note on the incident.

Portugal were a side transformed after Rooney’s red card, and forced Paul Robinson into a terrific save with ten minutes to go. Miguel bombed down the wing, cutting his pass back to Luis Figo on the edge of the box. Figo hit it first time, dinking it goalbound. It wasn’t a hard shot, but Cristiano Ronaldo ran across the keepers line of vision, trying to get his head on the ball. Robinson had to hold off making the save until he was sure that Ronaldo had missed the ball. He dived backwards in the nick of time to palm the ball to safety.

The game went to extra time and some remarkable defending by Miguel kept the score level. Steven Gerrard cut into the box, lifting a perfect cross to the back post, leaving Ricardo all at sea in the Portuguese nets. 6″7 Peter Crouch was tasked with nodding Gerrard’s cross into the empty net. But 5″9 right back Miguel managed to win the aerial battle, bulleting his header away from danger to keep the score at 0-0. This proved to be the only remarkable moment of E.T, and the game went to a penalty shoot out. The good news for England was that it wasn’t Germany they were facing. The bad news: they were still England.

When you have an important penalty to take, there’s few players in the world that you would feel more comfortable with than Frank Lampard. Lampard was tasked with tying up the scores after Simao netted his penalty. Lampard hit his low into the bottom corner, but saw his effort saved by Ricardo. England were handed a lifeline when Hugo Viana watched his shot bounce wide off the post. Life got even better for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team when Owen Hargreaves slotted home his penalty under the ‘keeper. Despite losing their star striker an hour into the match, England really thought they’d it won when Petit hammered his penalty wide of the goal, but to their horror, Steven Gerrard hit his penalty into the arms of Ricardo. Helder Postinga netted his penalty comfortably. Then came the turn of Jamie Carragher. England heartbreak followed shortly… Carragher stepped up and hammered a terrific penalty past a static Ricardo to level the shootout. Regrettably for England, there was a reason for Ricardo’s lack of effort. It was because the referee hadn’t blown the whistle. Consequently, Carragher was made to retake the penalty and fired low to his left, into the arms of Ricardo. If this was a soap opera, you couldn’t have written the script: total winker Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to take the decisive penalty. He confidently fired it up into the net and ran off in celebration.

It was a tough loss to take for England, they were the better side for much of the game, even with ten men, and yet they were foiled by the old enemy: the penalty shootout. Quite frankly, ill discipline cost England. Rooney was fouled, but to stamp on a man’s groin is unforgivable. Jamie Carragher dispatched a brilliant penalty, but to not wait for the referees whistle was infuriating for the fans. Portugal deserve credit where credit is due. They weren’t playing excellent football, but they frustrated England and forced mistakes. Ricardo played the game of his life in goal, making countless saves in-game and saving three penalties in the shootout. Portugal lost 1-0 to France in the semi-finals in a game which was just a stage too far for the Iberians. It is a shame that the Rooney red card overshadowed the Ricardo show in the British media, but to a certain demographic of football fans, Ricardo became a cult hero.

Tomorrow’s game: July 2nd. Uruguay v Ghana. 2010.