Oh the crushing, devastating heartbreak. It still hurts like hell to this day.
Seeing England's hopes dashed by the lottery of penalties is a far too common occurrence. It's become the normal, expected outcome in international tournaments. Either that, or losing to nations with a population of under 400,000 people.
But in regards to the events that took place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004, various individual moments against Portugal have had people reminiscing about what could have been. What if David Beckham got tighter on Simão for that cross? What if Urs Meier didn't award the SOFTEST FREE KICK YOU'VE EVER...
As you can see, the wounds still haven't healed.
But, above all those other nuances, what if Wayne Rooney wasn't forced out through injury less than half an hour in? He was England's Golden Boy™, in the form of his life, and looking unstoppable throughout the group stages. What if, indeed...
Losing a player in the peak of his powers during any stage of a football match, or season, can have a damaging effect on so many aspects of the team. Morale within the side takes a hit, because even if you're in a position where the squad is all pushing towards the same goal, mentally it has an adverse effect.
That works both ways, too. With Portugal heading into their quarter-final clash with England knowing full well the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, seeing Rooney (who'd scored four goals during the group stages) forced off after 27 minutes would have given them a serious boost in confidence.
Not to mention that Portugal were trailing 1-0 at the time. And also not to mention that the player who came on to replace him was...Darius Vassell. No disrespect to the then-Aston Villa forward, but ask any member of the Portuguese population who they'd rather have faced up front for that clash, and the decision would have been unanimous.
Tactically, matters were altered as well. Vassell would use his pace in wide areas where he was most effective, but Rooney preferred to play within the parameters of the penalty box, sometimes dropping deep to link with play and allowing Michael Owen to occupy the central defenders. Portugal's defenders had an easier ride after that, which could well have been fundamental in their success.
The Immediate Impact
England had found themselves in front after just three minutes, with Owen showing his predatory instincts to pounce on some slack Portuguese defending and score straight from David James' hoof up field. Hopes of the Three Lions kicking on and taking a stranglehold of proceedings were fading though as the hosts pressed hard for an immediate equaliser.
I miss the Wayne Rooney of 2004. 4 goals before he limped off vs Portugal in the QF’s. What a player. pic.twitter.com/kGwd60ZKH4— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) June 10, 2016
Rooney's injury in the 27th minute had come at the peak of Portugal's dominance. When Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes are misplacing passes then you know you're under the cosh, so their top scorer being forced off only added to the pain. If he hadn't...well, the story could have been very different.
Owen was almost given free reign of the Estádio da Luz, with the Portugal defence constantly concerned by Rooney's presence, even with them controlling the ball. Considering how the first goal went in, any kind of break from England would've had the Portuguese defence on the ropes.
However, Portugal couldn't be denied their late equaliser for the sheer volume of pressure they put on the English backline, but seeing Vassell denied of any service and rarely touching the ball after coming on was a frustrating sight. Rooney, on the other hand, was frightening the opposition even without touching the ball, and those seeds of doubt sown into the Portuguese minds meant England would have always been a threat on the break.
What's more, saying the match finished 2-2 anyway, it was Vassell's penalty miss that eventually knocked England out. Would Rooney, in the form of his life, have missed that? Quite possibly not.
The Ripple Effect
Let's run with this: Rooney stays on, England qualify. Lay however much doubt and disdain you want onto that hypothesis, but that's what we're going with.
Happy 71st birthday to Sven-Goran Erikkson! ?— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) February 5, 2019
Some Sven memories with @england...
Germany 1-5 England ?
David Beckham's free-kick against Greece ?
The World Cup in Japan & South Korea ????
THAT disallowed Sol Campbell goal at Euro 2004 ? pic.twitter.com/8V9yKhz6Qw
That would mean a semi-final clash with the Netherlands, who as seen in their clash with Portugal, were disappointingly out of sorts. It was fairly comfortable throughout for the hosts, who only handed the Dutch a lifeline with Jorge Andrade's 63rd minute own goal. They won 2-1 on the day, so let's say a fit England were slightly superior to Portugal and they too would have beaten the Dutch.
Now we've got a fit and firing Rooney facing the prospect of surprise package Greece in the final. While it would have been very English to lose that game, again, let's pretend they didn't. Let's pretend that England won Euro 2004.
Sven-Göran Eriksson becomes an England legend. The top shagger is the sexiest man in the country. Women and men alike adore him, and Swedish meatballs officially overtake chicken tikka masala as the national dish of the country. Rooney, still an Everton player, is signed by Real Madrid on his flight back to the UK, and doesn't grace the Old Trafford turf until four years later when they bring him in for a world-record fee.
England are also forever etched into European football history for being the b******s who prevented Greece from winning the most unlikely of tournaments amid such immensely talented sides during that time. Shove your fairytale where the sun doesn't shine.
England as a whole would have profited rather considerably (and unsurprisingly). Sven's profile as a manager would have received an almighty boost, and maybe once and for all he could be considered the man who broke the Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard curse. There probably isn't even a discussion about it at all - it never becomes a thing.
David James, while shaky for every cross put into the England penalty area ever, would be a European champion, alongside Kieron Dyer and Ian Walker. The latter two beings the source of countless pub quiz questions for years to come. Ian Walker...Euro 2004 winner. Wow.
It's also fair to say the pubs across England would've received an almighty financial boost, with the economy likely to be drowning in money following what one can only expect to be the biggest party England has seen for many a year.
English fans would become the unbearable scorn of the football world (you know, to a bigger extent). Even 54 years on from their World Cup the rest of the sport is left to hear about it on a regular basis, so now they've won something in the 21st century, everyone's ears are bleeding. The rest of Europe (and the UK) would have loathed the thought.
Greece, now ranked 54th in the FIFA world rankings, would have lost the only honour their nation ever secured in football competitions. Angelos Charisteas' young nephew would never have had his moment in the limelight, neither.
Everyone across Europe would probably like the English even less, you'd imagine. Everyone loves beating the English, so the fact they nobody could do it would've angered plenty.
Rooney's status as an England legend would have received an almighty boost, with many claiming their all-time record goalscorer isn't worthy of the praise he earns considering he never lifted any silverware with the Three Lions.
But, let's be honest, would England have beaten the Netherlands anyway? And, even if they did, would they have survived the pressure of a major final and crumbled humiliating to Greece on the occasion? In all honesty, you'd reckon so.
How painful, too, if you swap out Cristiano Ronaldo for David Beckham in that final. Those tears wouldn't have been a laughing matter anymore. That would've really hurt to see.
Source : 90min