World Cup Moments – 1998: Owen’s Moment of Genius

In the latest in our ‘World Cup Moments’ series, Henry Jackson looks back at the moment an 18-year-old Michael Owen scored one of the World Cup’s greatest goals.

The Tournament

Host’s France secured their first ever World Cup title after dispatching of Brazil 3-0 in the final at Stade de France. The occasion saw arguably the two best players on the planet at the time suffer completely differing fortunes.

Zinedine Zidane’s double instantly earned him legendary status, but Brazilian superstar Ronaldo reportedly had a seizure before the game and was out of sorts from start to finish. Conspiracy theories remain to this day.

England progressed from a group containing Tunisia, Romania and Colombia, having earned six points from their three games. Michael Owen, the 18-year-old prodigy of whom much was expected, came off the bench to equalise in the eventual loss to Romania, but his big moment was just around the corner.

Fellow Liverpool stars Paul Ince and Steve McManaman were also part of the squad, with the former a key player at the heart of the midfield.

Owen Lights up the World

Glenn Hoddle’s side faced one of their great enemies, Argentina, in the second round in Saint-Etienne, with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.

Gabriel Batistuta’s early penalty was cancelled out by Alan Shearer’s ninth-minute spot-kick- won by Owen after being fouled by Roberto Ayala- and seven minutes later the watching world witnessed a moment of footballing genius from one of the youngest players at the tournament.

Owen, found by David Beckham on the halfway line, took the ball down brilliantly, sped beyond Jose Chamot, weaved past Ayala before firing an empathic finish past Carlos Roa in the Argentina goal.

It was a truly breathtaking moment, and one which turned Owen into an icon overnight.

Despite the Liverpool star’s heroics, Javier Zanetti equalised just before the break, David Beckham was sent-off early in the second-half and the Three Lions went on to lose on penalties.

Even in the shootout, Owen showed he had nerves of steel by converting his effort with consummate ease. Ince saw his effort saved by Roa.

It’s easy for us as Liverpool fans to dislike and be critical of Owen now- he left for Real Madrid too early in the eyes of many fans and also joined bitter rivals Manchester United later on in his career- but he was a wonderful servant to Liverpool Football Club, scoring 158 goals in 297 appearances.

His match-winning performance in the 2001 FA Cup Final was unforgettable, as was his hat-trick against Germany in the same year, but his sensational effort 16 years ago at France ’98 remains the finest goal of Owen’s national career.

Other LFC Players Present at the 1998 World Cup

Stig Inge Bjornebye (Norway)- Eliminated in the second round by Italy

Oyvind Leonhardsen (Norway)- Eliminated in the second round by Italy

Brad Friedel (USA)- Eliminated in the group stages

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