At last, the truth about the goal that broke England

Brazil's Ronaldinho speaks out for the first time about the extraordinary shot that put England out of the World Cup
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The Independent Football

Did he mean it or didn't he? Was the goal that sent England out of last year's World Cup a breathtaking example of Brazilian trickery, or a cruel fluke? The debate that has raged among football fans for nearly a year is finally settled today, exclusively in The Independent on Sunday, by the scorer himself.

"It was definitely a shot," says Ronaldinho, the buck-toothed wonder-kid whose free kick looped over the head of the England goalkeeper, David Seaman, at the tournament in Japan last year. "Although, if I'm being totally honest, I was aiming for the other side of the net."

This was not just any old goal - the spectacular winner made Ronaldinho a true world star and tarnished the career of the veteran goalkeeper who let it in. Seaman's many achievements in football have been eclipsed by the sight of him stranded on the line, flat-footed and pony-tail flapping, a symbol of the gulf between English sporting hype and the seemingly inevitable heartbreak.

Arguing about whether it was a lucky miskick or a devastating strike provided an entertaining diversion from the truth that England were just not good enough. Not surprisingly, Ronaldinho has always kept his own counsel. But now the 23-year-old appears to be on the verge of a move from Paris Saint-Germain in France to Manchester United, and is in the mood to tell all.

"It was a real roller-coaster of a game," he says, recalling the World Cup quarter final in which he created the equalising goal for Brazil, scored the winner and was sent off, "and one that I won't forget in a hurry." So was that goal a fluke? "No, no, you can't say that, because I was aware of the keeper's position and went for the shot at goal. The fact that it did not go in exactly as I planned is secondary to the fact that I was having a go.

"What basically happened is that I hit my shot too hard and, as it travelled through the air, it swerved more and ended up looping Seaman. There was nothing he could do about it and I suppose there was an element of luck involved, but a goal is a goal."

Ronaldinho is also wanted by Juventus and Internationale of Italy, and whichever team gets his signature will pay at least £10m more than it might have done before he helped Brazil to win the World Cup last year. "Had I not scored that goal I doubt whether any of the big clubs would be showing such a keen interest in me now," he says.