FIFA World Cup

World Cup 2014: Ian Wright Discusses His Favourite England World Cup Memory

30 Jun 1998:  Michael Owen of England shrugs off Jose Chamot of Argentina on his way to goal during the World Cup second round match at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in St Etienne, France. England lost 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. \ Mandatory Credit:Ross Kinnaird /Allsport
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Dave HornbyFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

For former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright, Michael Owen’s wonder goal against Argentina in France '98 could have been a bittersweet moment.

After the heartache of missing out on his last chance to appear in a World Cup due to a hamstring injury, Wright watched on as Owen emerged and set the stage on fire with a spectacular goal against the South Americans. 

However, in an interview with Ball Street, "Wrighty" reveals that Owen's goal is his favourite-ever England World Cup memory:

I have to say Michael Owen in '98. It was quite a moment. Seeing Michael Owen, training with him, I remember he had just come into the squad, he was new into it. [He] came on against Morocco [in a friendly before the World Cup] and scored. Everyone was very excited for him, but no-one knew he was going to score a goal and blast on to the scene like that [against Argentina].

But Wrighty is left slightly dismayed that Owenwho played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stokenever really achieved the dizzying heights that the youngster's promise warranted:

I'm disappointed with Owen because he went off the international radar and football with a whimper. He blasted on to the scene and should have blasted off the scene as well.

The "blast" that Wrighty talks about saw the then-18-year-old Owen collect the ball just inside the Argentina half and set off on a sensational run.

The pacey forward brushed off the challenge of one defender, shimmied inside another, continued into the box and unleashed an unstoppable right-footed shot into the top corner of the goal.

The wonder goal put England 2-1 up against bitter rivals Argentina in the second round of the tournament in France and, for a short while, gave hope to the England fans. However, the dream was short-lived.

The Three Lions eventually lost the tie on penalties after Paul Ince and David Batty missed from the spot following David Beckham's sending off for an impetuous kick on Argentina captain Diego Simeone.

During his club career, Owen scored 212 goals in 459 appearances and lifted the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup, per Transfermarkt. He also went on to score 40 goals in 89 games for his nation and was crowned European Player of the Year.

However, a string of injuries from 2005 onwards robbed him of the explosive pace which was so devastating against Argentina.

Wright battles Albertini during France '98 qualification
Wright battles Albertini during France '98 qualificationRoss Kinnaird/Getty Images

Despite the happy memories brought about by reliving Owen's goal, France 1998 was not a pleasant time for former Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham and Celtic star Wright.

The striker was named in the squad for the tournament on the back of an impressive display in Rome, which helped England confirm their place at the finals, but he suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury which forced him to pull out of the squad. He explains:

I lost out in 1998 because I tore my hamstring against Morocco in the warm-up game after Glenn Hoddle told me that I was going. So I was in that squad and amongst that squad leading up to it for maybe two to three weeks. I was right there until two weeks before we had to go.

The injury dashed Wrighty's chances of featuring at the World Cup in France and meant that he did not play for England at a major tournament despite his 33 caps and nine goals over an eight-year international career, per Transfermarkt. Wrighty went on to explain:

I've missed out on all of them. We didn't qualify in '94, '96 I got left out and '92 in the Euros Graham Taylor left me out. In '98 when I said 'right, this is my swansong, this is me finishing, at least I get to go to the World Cup,' I tore my hamstring in the last final warm-up game. It was a tragedy. I was devastated.

Townsend limps off the pitch whilst in action for Spurs
Townsend limps off the pitch whilst in action for SpursPaul Gilham/Getty Images

Despite the blow, the Arsenal legend looks back on the time with a surprising acceptance and even gave Tottenham winger Andros Townsend some encouragement based on his own experience.

Townsend looked to have secured his seat on the plane to Brazil after a goalscoring man-of-the-match performance against Montenegro in October 2013, but injury and a loss of form saw the attacking midfielder fall down the England pecking order. The former Gunner said:

But it's [suffering injury before a tournament] one of those things that happen. The same thing happened to Andros Townsend. These things happen, you've just got to get on with it and come back stronger.

Wrighty has told us his favourite World Cup memory. Now tell us yours using the comments below. Also check out Ball Street for more World Cup videos.


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