Euro Moments: Phil Neville becomes latest England hate figure

Manchester United defender is vilified for giving away a penalty against Romania

Phil Neville is consoled by David Beckham after giving away a crucial penalty against Romania at Euro 2000. Photograph: Getty

Phil Neville is consoled by David Beckham after giving away a crucial penalty against Romania at Euro 2000. Photograph: Getty

 

Euro 2000: England 2 Romania 3

June 20th 2000

Two years on from David Beckham’s kick on Diego Simeone, the resultant red card and England’s exit from the 1998 World Cup in France, the English public were handed a brand new villain to take the blame for the national side’s woes.

And he even played alongside Beckham at Manchester United.

The burning effigies of Beckham in an England shirt had turned, by the summer of 2000, to those of Phil Neville.

As the United full-back put it himself some years later: “My wife came home one day from work and the gates were on fire with an England flag on top of it.

“And then when you take your wife out for a romantic meal, go to the toilet and someone threatens to punch your lights out, you have to go straight home.”

But what could cause such consternation and disgusting behaviour? The answer is a late, tired and needless tackle on Viorel Moldovan.

It was England’s final group game, it was against Romania and, needing only a point to advance to the quarter-finals, the score was locked at 2-2 with the game in the 89th minute.

But then Moldovan picked the ball up on the right wing. Muscling his way past Neville he moved into the England box and towards the end line. He didn’t look to have anywhere to go as Sol Campbell stood in his way to block the cross.

But a moment of madness ensued as a tired Neville dived in from the left, missing the ball and bringing down Moldovan.

It was a stone wall penalty.

Just two years previously Neville had done the same for United when he brought down Arsenal’s Ray Parlour in the closing stages of the FA Cup semi-final replay. That time Peter Schmeichel would save his team mate by denying Dennis Bergkamp from the spot.

But this time Neville wasn’t so lucky. Ionel Ganea calmly slotted by Nigel Martyn and Romainia were through at England’s expense.

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