It’s a moment that immediately went down in English football folklore, but a new theory has suggested that the Three Lions would have been better off if David Beckham missed the last-gasp free-kick against Greece.
With England looking to reach the 2002 World Cup in their final group game if qualifying, Sven Goran Eriksson’s side were 2-1 down going into stoppage time at Old Trafford.
Germany had lost to Finland, meaning a goal would send England through and put the Germans into a play-off against Ukraine.
Beckham had struggled with set-pieces against Greece but put those behind him to net a stunning free-kick in the 93rd minute.
It sent England to Japan and South Korea, where they were knocked out by Brazil in the quarter-finals following Ronaldinho’s long-range effort.
But a theory has emerged that suggests the Three Lions would have ended their World Cup pain had Beckham missed the free-kick.
The theory is that England would have replaced Germany in the play-offs, and then made the same route as their arch rivals to the final.
Having been dumped into second in the qualifying group by Beckham’s free-kick, Germany then beat Ukraine in the qualifiers.
They finished top in a group also consisting Ireland, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia at the actual tournament.
The Germans then had a simpler route to the final than England had, taking on Paraguay in the last-16.
A win took Germany into the quarter-finals, where they saw off USA before dispatching surprise semi-finalists South Korea in the last four.
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Germany were then beaten by Brazil in the final, and it’s easy to agree that England would have reached the showpiece stage had they had the same route.
Though, of course, it’s all theoretical with England likely to mess up the group stage in true Three Lions style.
You could also argue that Eriksson’s side should have won their own group as it was, with Sweden topping a pool that also included Argentina and Nigeria.
Topping the group would have seen England take on Senegal before a clash with Turkey.
It would have only been then, at the semi-final stage, that they would have taken on Brazil.
Ultimately, the eventual winners were going to stand in England’s way no matter what happened.
Now if only David Seaman could back-pedal slightly quicker…
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