David Beckham scored one of the most memorable goals in English football history as he sent his country to the World Cup on this day in 2001.
The England captain cemented his title as England’s ‘Golden Balls’ with a stunning last-gasp free-kick to earn the Three Lions a draw against Greece at Old Trafford and ensure their place at the 2002 World Cup.
It was a fitting end to a roller-coaster qualifying campaign which had begun with a defeat to Germany in the last ever game at the old Wembley. They gained revenge in the return fixture as – under new boss Sven-Goran Eriksson – they produced a stunning 5-1 win in Munich.
But their qualification fate went down to the final round of matches and they were heading for the play-offs after Greece goals from Angelos Charisteas and Demis Nikolaidis cancelled out Teddy Sheringham’s opener.
But Beckham had hauled the Three Lions through the qualification campaign and again proved he was the man for the big occasion as the Manchester United midfielder, playing at his home stadium, curled in a trademark free-kick from 30 yards in the third minute of added time to spark mass scenes of celebration.
It completed his turnaround from the 1998 World Cup, where he was vilified following his red card against Argentina, and sent him on his way to becoming a national hero.
Beckham would again hit the headlines in the build-up to the tournament in Japan and South Korea, as a metatarsal injury two months out led to doubts over his fitness.
He eventually made it onto the plane, scoring a redemption goal in a 1-0 win over Argentina before the Three Lions bowed out at the quarter-final stage to Brazil.
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