England face France to commence their Euro 2012 campaign tonight eight years after they began their Euro 2004 tournament against the same opponents.
Back then, Les Bleus were still reigning European champions despite relinquishing their World Cup crown meekly in 2002, while England's supposed "golden generation" was about to reach its zenith.
Titanic duels populated every inch of the pitch. Thierry Henry faced club team-mate Sol Campbell, Wayne Rooney terrorised Lillian Thuram and the midfield face-off spoke for itself: Beckham-Gerrard-Lampard-Scholes against Pires-Vieiera-Makelele-Zidane.
It was Lampard, who would score three goals in his first major international tournament, who opened the scoring on 38 minutes from David Beckham's pinpoint free-kick. Alas for Beckham, this was his sole major contribution in four matches.
After an underwhelming debut season at Real Madrid, he was England's weakest player throughout the campaign. When Rooney charged past Thuram and soon-to-be-club-team-mate Mikael Silvestre only to be felled for a penalty in the 73rd minute, the Three Lions' skipper stepped up to take the penalty.
Beckham had missed a crucial spot-kick badly in qualifying against Turkey, and although he was to hit the target this time, his former Manchester United colleague Fabien Barthez sprung to his right to repel the ball.
The tide hadn't exactly changed though. Not until Emile Heskey barged over Vieiera calamitously outside of the area in the 90th minute for a free-kick. Zidane stepped up to slot the ball past David James with alarming ease from 20 yards. The Manchester City goalkeeper would reveal the following day he had been told the best player in the world was not considered a threat from set-pieces.
Prior to the game, many England fans would have welcomed a draw, but just as they contemplated looking on the bright side, Gerrard made an unfathomable back pass which was intercepted by Henry, marshalled superbly by Campbell and Ledley King, who was then needlessly fouled by the error-strewn James for a penalty.
Zidane stepped up and sent him the wrong way for a surreal French victory, yet he looked peculiarly unanimated in celebrating an unlikely turnaround. It transpired he had vomited twice between the awarding of the penalty and him striking it into the corner of the net. While Beckham choked, Zidane vomited. But the Frenchman had the bottle.
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