England - Beckham 2001
When David Beckham calls time on his football career, where will we start when it comes to identifying the defining moment of his playing days?
The red card against Argentina during the 1998 World Cup, the flying boot from Sir Alex Ferguson, the goal from the halfway line at Wimbledon? Or the injury-time free kick against Greece in 2001 that secured England’s qualification for the 2002 World Cup finals?
When you consider that England’s World Cup participation was dependent on Beckham’s right foot, it has to be the zenith of his iconic career.
With the clock on 93 minutes, England were trailing 2-1 at Old Trafford to an unfancied Greek team that was still three years from stunning Europe by winning Euro 2004.
England needed an equaliser, otherwise Germany would top Group 9 and qualify automatically, despite being held at home by Finland.
So up stepped Beckham and, with pretty much the last kick of the game, he directed an unstoppable 30-yard free kick past the goalkeeper and into the net at the Stretford End.
With the swing of a boot, England had qualified and Germany were left to face a play-off against Ukraine for the right to join Sven-Goran Eriksson’s players in Japan/South Korea.