THE QUARTER-FINALS – England V Portugal

A lightning strike by a resurgent Michael Owen after only three minutes seemed set to open the floodgates for one of England’s greatest performances ever on foreign soil, until tragedy struck. A broken bone in the foot incurred during a harmless-looking tackle saw wonder-boy Wayne Rooney, England’s most potent weapon during this tournament, limping off half-way through the first half. Portugal sensed their chance and started surging forward while Beckham and Co. hung onto their narrow lead. Eight minutes after the ineffectual Figo was replaced by Tottenham’s Helder Postiga, deep into the second half, the dam finally burst. The novice powered a beautifully met header beyond the reach of the bemused James to take the game into extra time. Rui Costa’s blistering drive went in off the crossbar four minutes into the second period, only for Frank Lampard to level the game with a firmly struck shot six minutes later.

England seemed to have it won when Campbell headed home, but Swiss referee Urs Meier waved play on and penalties followed. Beckham, guilty of misses against Turkey and France, stepped up and dispatched the ball high into the night sky. Costa missed for Portugal as the four remaining players on each side converted to tie the score. With the great Eusebio praying on the touchline, Ricardo dived to his left to save from the unfortunate Vassell and then advanced to be the hero of the night by hammering home the decisive penalty past the blameless James. Portugal erupted into euphoric celebrations that were to last all night and England, beaten but not bowed, commenced their weary journey home.