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Wednesday, July 1, 1998 Published at 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK


Press attacks Beckham 'petulance'

The crowd saw one of the most exciting games in the World Cup

David Beckham has been roundly pilloried in the British press being blamed by many for England's World Cup defeat by Argentina.

[ image: Beckham: sent off for
Beckham: sent off for "stupid petulance"
"Beck-home" said The Sun, "10 heroic lions, one stupid boy" proclaimed The Mirror.

Many of the papers developed their coverage as the implications of England's defeat sank in.

Half-an-hour of extra time plus a few minutes of tense penalties had left them with little time to assess the team's failure in their first editions.

At first most reacted instinctively, echoing the feelings of disappointment and injustice felt throughout England, but later editions turned on the Manchester United midfielder.

The UK's biggest selling paper, The Sun, described Beckham's actions as a "moment of madness".

The Daily Mail shared the same view. Its front-page headline was: "Moment of lunacy that cost cup hopes". It claimed, had Beckham stayed on, "Hoddle's men must have had a great chance of winning" - but this was sacrificied to "a petulant act of retaliation".

Another tabloid, the Daily Star, had changed its strapline to "Ooh, aah ... nail bittah" for the big event. It too saw Beckham's red card as the result of a "stupid retaliation". Its final thought: "Beck off!"

Many of the other newspapers sought to portray the narrowest of defeats as a victory of sorts. In doing so, they echoed the verdict of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said the team "showed the English spirit at its very best."

[ image: Seaman consoles Ince afterwards]
Seaman consoles Ince afterwards
The Express was another tabloid to have found one word for the occasion. Its choice: "Heroes".

The Mirror started the night with the headline: "Our 10 lions" adding, almost as an afterthought, "We lose 4-3 on penalties". But it soon joined other papers in blaming Beckham for the defeat.

The Daily Telegraph's main headline read: "England go down fighting" and the accompanying article drew more attention to some of the odder refereeing decisions than the conduct of the England side.

It also praised Michael Owen and offered rare comfort to Beckham. Its correspondent in St Etienne, Ben Fenton, said: "Television replays suggested that Simeone made the most of an innocuous gesture by the England midfielder. Kim Nielsen, the referee, produced the yellow card for Simeone, but then stunned the crowd by waving the red card at Beckham.

[ image: Michael Owen: set to be worth a fortune]
Michael Owen: set to be worth a fortune
"He was the first Englishman to be sent off in a World Cup match since Ray Wilkins against Morocco in Monterey, Mexico, in 1986."

The Sun had one small crumb of comfort for Beckham, but even managed to put that into a critical context. Noting that, according to BusinessAge magazine, he earned 8.1m last year it asks "what is wizard Owen worth?"

It is left to The Daily Mail to utter perhaps the most obvious sentiment: "We're coming home..."

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