Euro 2004: Portugal 2 England 2 AET (Portugal win 6-5 on penalties)
June 24th, 2004
Of all the heartbreaking failures England have suffered at major international tournaments since 1966, the quarter-final defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals will be one of the most jarring.
The squad which Sven Goran Eriksson took to Portugal was arguably the strongest of any at the tournament, yet England's campaign ended in an all too predictable manner.
England's side for the quarter-final against the hosts was an intimidating one on paper. Despite Rio Ferdinand's absence due to his suspension for missing a drugs test, Eriksson could still field a back four of Gary Neville, John Terry, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole.
Ahead of them was a midfield of David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard, with Michael Owen and the new talisman Wayne Rooney up front. It was the Golden Generation at its peak - but yet again they failed to fire.
In fairness to England, the Portugal side they came up against in Lisbon was a very good one. 2004 had been a halcyon year for Portugese football, with Jose Mourinho’s Porto side lifting the European Cup just weeks before the nation was set to host the Euros.
Yet they were rocked early on at the Estádio da Luz as Michael Owen opened the scoring with a cute finish after just three minutes.
But then came the turning point. 27 minutes into the first half Rooney took a knock to his foot and limped off. The curse of the metatarsal had struck again and England were without their beating heart.
Yet England took their lead deeper and deeper into the game until with seven minutes remaining Portugal equalised. Despite having a side blessed with the attacking talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Rui Costa it was left to Helder Postiga - he of Tottenham Hostpur infamy - to drag the hosts back into it with a header past David James.
A tired England were soon on the ropes in extra-time, and with 10 minutes remaining Costa produced a moment of genius as he brushed off a few tackles before firing a rocket past David James and in off the crossbar.
But there would be another twist. Five minutes from time Terry rose highest to meet Beckham’s corner and nod it down to Lampard who swivelled and stabbed the ball past Ricardo. England had a lifeline, but everybody knew what was lurking around the corner.
And so, to penalties -and England's slow, suffocating death. Beckham started the party by launching his spot kick into orbit before blaming the sandy penalty spot. Costa missed to give England parity but with the scores level at 5-5 Darius Vassell saw his effort saved by Ricardo.
The Portugese ‘keeper then got up and slotted the decisive penalty to send Philip Scolari’s side through to the semis and spark delirious celebrations in the capital.
England were out on penalties again and the Golden Generation had lost another chance to shine.