Rewind to 2001 and the football world was a different place.
The biggest stars in the game still projected a superstar status, but very few had the level of global appeal of David Beckham. The Manchester United star and England captain was, and still is, a fashion icon as well as an extremely good footballer. So much of an icon off the pitch was David, that sometimes his ability on it gets diluted.
But Beckham had outstanding technical ability. One of the best crossers of the ball the modern game has ever seen. One of the best strikers of a football England has ever produced. His skill was the result of hours on the training field, practising his crossing, his corners and his free-kicks over and over again. His character, too, as a leader and as a fighter, made him the player that he was.
With his side, his nation, needing a goal in the dying moments of World Cup qualifying in October 2001, it looked as though their captain wasn’t going to take them to Japan and South Korea. Trailing 2-1 at home to Greece, free-kick after free-kick was missed by Beckham, with each one the pressure growing. So when it got to the 93rd minute, imagine the tension inside of Old Trafford and inside of living rooms all over England…
A trademark free-kick was dispatched and Beckham’s status as a national hero was upped several notches by this iconic moment. The boots, the hair, the style, the talent, the world loved Beckham and crowds of adoring fans waited for him in Japan and South Korea when England arrived there in 2002 – but if it wasn’t for this moment, they wouldn’t have even qualified.