Previously on The England Challenge: We won a penalty shoot-out and I nearly feinted with shock.
I had promised a major tournament win. I had gambled on Dion Dublin when all common sense said this was a moronic thing to do. I had got us to the Quarter Final.
All that stands in our way and a final four place alongside Argentina (who beat Japan 2-1), Italy (who beat Belgium 2-0) and Portugal (who beat Brazil 2-1) is the Czech Republic.
Czech Republic, World Cup 2002 Quarter Final, June 2002
After the emotional rollercoaster of the last match I kind of fancied this match. Czech Republic? Pfft. We’ve got Dion.
But looking at their team there is plenty to fear. Jan Koller. Tomas Ujfalusi. Patrik Berger. Plus a baby Petr Cech. Oh, and Pavel Nedved. In his peak.
They might be strong, but I think we’re stronger. We don’t flinch, sticking with our attacking mentality and Schumacher-on-Battiston tackling.
Woodgate was injured in training so Campbell comes back in. Joe Cole drops to the bench so Owen can join a 2 man strike force, and Stevie G is rewarded with his nerves of steel in the shootout with a start ahead of Nicky Butt. David Seaman retains his place despite only saving two shots in the whole of the France game, and he faced twelve shots on target…
Dion of course stays in. Not only has he been magnificant in the game, the real Dion Dublin liked my most recent Tweet. What a hero. Despite this, I had a rule in place before the tournament and I stand by it. If we don’t win the World Cup, Dion’s out for good.
The France game was one of the most insane I’ve seen on a computer game, so I have high hopes for this one…
… and it’s pretty much as boring as it can get. Even Nedved has miscontrolled the ball about eight times, and he’s capable of this.
The rest of the game passes with so little incident I forget I’m playing for a while, until in the 110th minute Gerrard picks the ball up from deep and hits an absolute thunderbastard in to the top corner… but it’s disallowed. Piper was apparently leaning in to Cech.
In the time it takes me to process how exactly an attacking midfielder could impede a goalkeeper in open play when the shot comes from 35 yards out, Czech Republic run down the other end and Jan Koller scores… but that is then disallowed. Bloody hell.
Penalties. Again. I’ve only just got over the last ones.
Up steps Beckham… and he twats it over the bar!
Nedved steps up… and he does a Beckham! Man, these teams really don’t want to score today, huh?
Owen next… and he thumps it over? What is it this, a bet?
Finally, someone scores. I know I’m trying to win a tournament here, but when Ulrich puts one away for Czech Republic I’m just relieved my game isn’t glitched.
Kevin Phillips steps up next and scores with his first touch, Fuck all Fukal then scores for Czech Republic, and Gerrard tucks away for us. 2-2. Big Jan Koller takes the final regular penalty for the Czech lads and rolls it home. 3-2.
As was the case against France, Big Dion needs to score to keep us in the tournament. Oh, Champ Man Gods, I have shown you faith by playing him in every game, even after he only scored 3 goals in a whole league season from centre back for a team that got relegated. Repay my faith, Champ Man Gods.
He takes a long run up, and…
Czech Republic went on to hammer Portugal 4-0 in the semi final, meeting Argentina who overcame Italy. Argentina won 1-0 after extra time in what looked like the most boring match in football history. Since our game with Czech Republic, anyway.
Meh. I don’t care. I promised to win a major tournament for England, and failed early in the knock out stages with a limp performance just like in real life.
Still, every cloud:
The rebuilding process starts with qualifiying for Euro 2004. You can see how that goes here.
You can also catch previous episodes on the following links:
- Episode One (the Germany game)
- Episode Two (the qualifiers)
- Episode Three (build up to World Cup 2002)
- Episode Four (the Group Stages)
- Episode Five (the Second Round)
Check back in every Monday for the latest reviews, including the Euro 2004 build up. We’ll win a tournament eventually. It might end up being 2054, but we’ll get there.
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