Whether he meant it or not, Ronaldinho’s goal for Brazil against England at the 2002 World Cup was devastating for Sven Goran Eriksson’s team.
The long-range free-kick has attracted plenty of attention in the 20 years since, with some insisting it was a fluke and others suggesting the then-PSG star wasn’t even trying to shoot. The playmaker’s answer lies somewhere in the middle, and the manner of the goal won’t matter too much to the Brazil players and supporters who would be celebrating World Cup glory just weeks later.
But what of the England team that day? Eriksson’s squad featured plenty considered part of the Three Lions’ ‘Golden Generation’, but this was arguably their best chance of winning a major tournament under the Swede.
Here, Mirror Football looks at what happened to those players after their heartbreak in Shizuoka.
Seaman’s role in the winning Brazil goal saw his status as England’s number one come under scrutiny. He kept hold of it in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup, but another high-profile error – conceding direct from a corner against Macedonia in Euro 2004 qualifying – saw the Arsenal man replaced.
The veteran left north London at the end of the 2002-03 season, moving to Manchester City. However, after just one season there he decided to hang up his gloves at the age of 40.
Since retiring, Seaman has kept a lower profile than some of his former teammates, but he has enjoyed a handful of TV spots as well as a brief coaching stint with Arsenal. He was also the goalkeeping coach for the England Soccer Aid team in this year’s exhibition game.
“I will never accept that it was intentional,” right-back Mills said of Ronaldinho’s goal. The defender had another run-in with the Brazilian later in the game, when he was the victim of the foul which saw Ronaldinho sent off.
Then at Leeds United, Mills stayed with the Yorkshire club until their relegation from the Premier League in 2004. He was only 25 at the time of the 2002 World Cup but injuries prompted an early retirement in 2009, five years after his final international appearance.
The former Charlton youngster has done plenty of media work since hanging up his boots. His son George, meanwhile, is an athlete ranked in the world’s top 50 for the 1500m.
Campbell’s England career was full of big frustrating moments either side of the Brazil game, as well as in Japan. It was he who had a goal harshly disallowed against Argentina in 1998, and another chalked off in Euro 2004 as England fell to Portugal.
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The former Tottenham and Arsenal defender was one of those to fall by the wayside after Eriksson was replaced by Steve McClaren as England manager. He was handed a brief return during the qualifying campaign for Euro 2008, but his last international game was the defeat to Croatia which saw England miss out on the tournament.
Campbell earned his coaching badges after retiring from club football in the early 2010s, and has had managerial experience with Macclesfield Town and Southend United. He left Southend in 2020 after failing to lift the club out of the League One relegation zone, and has yet to take up another job in football.
Campbell was partnered at the back by Ferdinand, and the pair also traveled to the subsequent World Cup in 2006. The Man Utd man was also due to travel to South Africa in 2010, only for injury to force his withdrawal shortly before the tournament.
Ferdinand remained part of the England picture until 2011, but Roy Hodgson’s arrival as management more or less spelled the end for him. By the time he played his last professional game, he had a healthy return of 81 caps for the Three Lions.
Since retiring, the ex-centre back has opted against moving into management. Instead, he has been prominent in the broadcasting world, be it on his own platforms or the likes of BT Sport.
Ashley Cole (Teddy Sheringham, 79 mins)
Cole was one of the real stalwarts of this England team, ending up with more than 100 caps for his country. He also played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but lost out to Leighton Baines and a then-teenage Luke Shaw in 2014, prompting his international retirement from him.
His replacement that day, Teddy Sheringham, was already 36 at the time of the Brazil game. His fruitless late cameo from him ended up being his final game from him at international level, though he continued playing club football into his forties.
Cole only retired for good in 2019 and moved almost instantly into coaching. He is currently at Everton, where he is working under former club and international teammate Frank Lampard.
“The goal was a fluke,” Beckham said of Ronaldinho’s strike. “It was a cross that ended up being a goal.”
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The midfielder captained England for a number of years and scored the group stage winner over Argentina which prompted some fans to dream big. However, the Man Utd man was criticized by some for his role in Rivaldo’s equalizer for Brazil before the Selecao completed the job early in the second half.
Beckham retired in 2013 after spells with Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. Last year, I have signed a multi-million pound deal to become an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The 2002 World Cup was a rare instance of Scholes getting regular game time in the middle of the park. He would later be shunted out to the left to accommodate Lampard and Steven Gerrard, and opted to quit international football in 2004.
Scholes spent his entire club career with Manchester United, winning multiple Premier League titles. He also won the Champions League with the Red Devils in 1999 and 2008, and retired for the first time in 2011 before briefly returning for Alex Ferguson’s final 18 months in management.
The Salford-born midfielder has split his time between punditry and management since hanging up his boots. Most recently, he had a spell as caretaker manager at Salford City during the 2020-21 season.
With Gerrard’s persistent injury issues forcing him to miss the World Cup, Butt ended up partnering Scholes in the middle. The Man Utd man was not the highest-profile name on the long list of academy graduates, but he impressed many in Japan and South Korea.
Butt’s final England game came in 2004, at the age of 29. His move from United to Newcastle coincided with fewer opportunities at international level, while he rounded off his playing career with a season in China.
After retiring, the ex-midfielder spent a number of years on United’s coaching staff, eventually moving on in 2021. He was also part of the ‘Class of 92’ group of ex-players to get involved with Salford City in the 2010s.
Trevor Sinclair (Kieron Dyer, 56)
Sinclair was given the nod as the solution to England’s left-sided problem after an impressive season with West Ham United. He only made his international debut in 2001, but would end up making exactly one third of his 12 senior appearances for his country at the 2002 World Cup.
His final appearance came under Eriksson in 2003, and he effectively retired from club football in 2008 before making a couple of brief non-league returns in his forties. The London-born player now divides his time between coaching and punditry.
The former QPR man made way for Kieron Dyer in the second half, but the Newcastle man was unable to help England find an equaliser. Dyer struggled with injuries in the latter part of his career, and spent time on the coaching staff of former club Ipswich Town after retiring.
Michael Owen (Darius Vassell, 79)
Owen scored England’s goal against Brazil, capitalizing on an error from Lucio. It was one of the 40 goals he scored in his international career – a figure bested by just five men in the history of the England team.
The then-Liverpool forward played his final international game in 2008 and his final club game for Stoke City five years later. These days, he can be seen in the punditry studio for domestic and European games, and also recently appeared on TV show The Masked Singer.
His replacement against Brazil, Darius Vassell, missed a penalty in the Euro 2004 shootout defeat to Portugal in what would be his final international appearance, He retired in 2016, after a number of years without a club, and told The Mirror : “Six goals from 22 caps, many of them coming on as a substitute to stretch the game, isn’t so bad, is it?
A regular strike-partner of Owen for club and country, Heskey scored in the famous 5-1 qualifying win in Germany. His only goal from him at the 2002 World Cup came in the last 16, when he was on target in a 3-0 victory over Denmark.
While he was never the most prolific, Heskey was used by Eriksson and by Fabio Capello in 2010. He ended his international career with just seven goals, but hit more than 100 across his 516-game Premier League career.
Heskey began his career with Leicester City, and since taking his coaching badges he has begun working with the Foxes’ women’s team in a development role. He even had a brief stint as Leicester City WFC’s interim manager last season as they narrowly avoided relegation.