It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since England and Portugal squared off in Lisbon in hugely entertaining quarter-final clash in Lisbon. As hosts, Portugal were on a roll at Euro 2004, taking full advantage of the home crowd, while England had recovered from defeat to France in their opening match to comfortably beat Croatia and Switzerland to progress to the last eight.
With England currently battling it out at Euro 2020, and in with a great chance of going all the way and winning the tournament according to the Euros winner odds, there are parallels to be drawn between then and now. Back in ’04, England boasted a so-called ‘golden generation’ of talent, with players like John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham featuring in a star-studded line-up, while a young Wayne Rooney was making a major name for himself on the international stage.
Meanwhile, Portugal had their own young superstar in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was playing in the first of his five European Championships. Aided by the likes of Luis Figo, Deco and Maniche, Portugal were a talented side, and while many English fans fancied their chances of getting past the Portuguese and reaching the semi-finals, there was never likely to be much separating the two teams.
On a sultry evening in Lisbon, England got off to the perfect start. With less than three minutes on the clock, David James’ hopeful punt down the field bamboozled the Portuguese defence, and allowed Michael Owen to pounce and hook the ball expertly past Ricardo and into the net. It was dreamland for England, and suddenly their fans were starting to believe.
The 1-0 lead held strong for the large part of proceedings, until Portugal’s pressure finally told in the 83rd minute. Simão Sabrosa’s cross found the unmarked Hélder Postiga, who had the simple task of guiding the ball past James to send the match hurtling towards extra time. English hearts had been broken, but they needed to steel themselves for the extra 30 minutes which lay ahead.
Portugal had the wind in their sails, and it was they who struck the next blow. Rui Costa picked the ball up outside the box, advanced a few yards, before unleashing a thunderbolt that flew into the top corner via the crossbar. James was left with no chance, and England were staring down the barrel of elimination with just 10 minutes remaining in extra time.
But the drama wasn’t done there. With five minutes to go, Lampard got on the end of Terry’s knockdown to swivel brilliantly and fire the ball past Ricardo to bring the scores level yet again. It was a trademark Lampard finish, and England’s bacon had been saved. Penalties loomed.
First up for England was Beckham, but with the penalty spot scuffed and sandy, his effort ballooned over the bar and into the stands, sending the majority Portuguese crowd into a frenzy. Rui Costa was next to miss, with his spot-kick also sailing over the crossbar. With everyone else having scored after five penalties each, it was down to sudden death.
Ashley Cole and Postiga both held their nerve to score, and Darius Vassell was up next for England. In a baffling move, goalkeeper Ricardo decided to remove his gloves to face Vassell’s spot-kick, and it clearly unsettled the England striker, whose tame penalty was parried away by the bare-handed net-minder. To increase the drama even further, Ricardo was Portugal’s next penalty taker, and he duly dispatched it to become Portugal’s hero and break English hearts.
England will be hoping for smoother proceedings at Euro 2020, and a deep run in the tournament would go a long way towards healing the European Championship heartbreak that has defined the Three Lions’ fortunes over the years.