Ronaldinho explains World Cup goal that left England goalkeeper David Seaman in tears

England’s World Cup exits and the men blamed for them are etched deep into the psyche of our national game.

West Germany, Peter Bonetti and Gerd Muller 1970; Argentina and Diego Maradona 1986; West Germany and Chris Waddle 1990; Argentina and David Beckham 1998. And then came Brazil, Ronaldinho and David Seaman on June 21 2002.

Manager Sven Goran Eriksson and England’s Golden Generation had already exorcised one ghost of their past when Beckham’s penalty beat Argentina in the group stage. In the first knockout round they had eased through against Denmark, winning 3–0 with all the goals coming in the first half.

That set up the quarter final clash with Brazil, including their star studded front line of Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and the original Ronaldo. However, it was England who took the initiative, Michael Owen clinically taking his chance when England hit Brazil on the break.

Then, with England trying to see the first half out in stifling heat Beckham and Paul Scholes both missed tackles, Ronaldinho ran at the defence before passing to Rivaldo who buried the equaliser.

Five minutes into the second half came the fateful moment that will forever link Ronaldinho and Seaman. When Scholes conceded a free kick 42 yards from goal with a foul on Kleberson everyone, including Seaman, expected Ronaldinho to swing in his cross from the right.

Instead, it arched into the box, Seaman’s feet looked like they were set in concrete as he tried to back pedal, and he barely jumped as the ball dipped over his head and into the net. The question is, did Ronaldinho mean it?

Ronaldinho tries his luck from distance
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Mirrorpix)

He says: “No, it wasn’t on purpose. But we studied a lot and we knew that Seaman advanced a bit off his line and I was lucky enough that the ball entered the net the way it did, to the sadness of lots of English and the happiness of lots of Brazilians.

“It was one of my most important goals, but it was certainly the most remarkable because wherever I go people ask me about it. There was also an important goal I scored against Real Madrid but certainly it’s the one that arises most curiosity from people wherever I go.”

Ronaldinho was harshly sent off within 10 minutes of his greatest moment, but England could not find a way to break down the 10 men of Brazil, leaving Seaman to make a tearful apology to teammates who had seen a golden chance disappear and were instead on the next plane home.

Ronaldinho was speaking on behalf of Expedia

Seven years earlier Seaman had been humiliated in the Cup Winners Cup final when he was again beaten from distance, Nayim scoring a very late extra time winner for Real Zaragoza. Not from the half-way line as legend and the chant have it, but certainly from a long way out – because he knew Seaman had a tendency to come off his line.

Seaman was not the last to go down in England legend. At the next tournament In 2006 it was Portugal, Wayne Rooney and the winker Cristiano Ronaldo; In 2010 it was Germany (again!) and Frank Lampard’s ‘ghost goal’ that hastened the introduction of goalie technology; in 2014 it was Group D and Fabio Capello’s boot camp approach, and in 2018 it was Croatia and the masterful Luka Modric.

**Ronaldinho was speaking at the launch of his Expedia Route 10 Freestyle Bus Tour of Paris with Expedia, the official travel partner of the UEFA Champions League.

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