Have you ever wondered what goes through a footballer's mind before he takes a penalty? Is he thinking about where he put his last one, or which is the goalkeeper's best side? In David Beckham's case the images that flashed through his mind were a snap-shot series of the last four years.
Speaking after training yesterday he said: "When I was standing there waiting there were flashbacks in my mind from the last four years. All of that was going through my head but, as soon as I hit that ball, as soon as it went into the net, I went blank. It was the release of everything that had gone on since 1998.
"The flashbacks were of certain situations that have gone on. The first game back at West Ham and seeing the fans' faces. Then seeing them again when I went back and got a few claps and smiles from their fans. That's important to me. I want to be liked by all fans. I know I'm going to get a certain amount of abuse playing for [Manchester] United but it's been totally turned round.
"Looking back I was, maybe, not stupid taking it, but I realised that if I'd missed I'd have been back to square one again. Whether I could have come back from that again I don't know.
"Before we left to come out here Victoria said to me: 'Don't take any penalties'. But I said that if we got one I'd definitely take it. She knew at one point I would have to. I don't think she realised it would come in the Argentina game.
"I couldn't sleep afterwards. I was replaying it in my mind. I thought about what it would have been like if I'd missed it. The difference between being a hero and a villain is so small and if I had missed it, God knows. It doesn't bear thinking about. I don't know if I'd be sat here talking about it if I had missed.
"It was an important moment for me, the nation and the team. I was pretty confident in my ability to score from 12 yards out – hopefully saying that won't come back to haunt me – but I've never felt pressure like that in a game before. I just couldn't breathe. I've seen the video and I took two long breaths before I ran up but as I ran up to hit it I just held my breath and hit it as hard as I could. When I spoke to my mum and dad and Victoria afterwards they said I must have been so nervous and showed so much guts to take it. I haven't really thought of it like that.
"Victoria watched it. I don't think her mum and dad could bear to watch it and my grandad needed to get the doctor in afterwards! He said he nearly had a heart attack during and after the game. I spoke to Brooklyn after the game. The first thing he said was: 'Good goal daddy'. That meant a lot to me.
"Before the game every time it was being previewed the clip they used was of me getting the red card. It will always be there, because people will always remember it. But now I hope the clip they'd use next time would be of me scoring that penalty and celebrating."
Beckham has also been on the phone to Sir Alex Ferguson who offered some sound advice. "He said to make sure I paced myself in the first half. He'd watched the Sweden game and obviously saw how tired I was after 60 minutes. He said: 'Make sure you pace yourself for the first half and then you'll be strong enough to last the whole game.' He was right.
"It was a tough game and it's hard to pace yourself in games like that. The movement of [Juan] Sorin and Kily Gonzalez was really good the whole game so it was difficult to do that. But I had to."
Beckham said he was sure England would win even before he left the dressing-room. "I've never seen the players look as confident as they did. When the manager was talking and getting us ready for the game we all stood up. It was the first time I've ever seen that. I said a few things. I said: 'Go out, relax, enjoy the game and win'."
Beckham said the team had heard the country had gone "bonkers" but were still amazed English troops in Afghanistan had said "they were proud of us" and that "we'd made the country proud like they were doing". The England captain added: "It's a football game."
The hype around the England team is almost as great here. Yesterday, England visited a school close to their training ground and Beckham caused a huge stir when he kissed 10-year-old Yuka Hirota on the hand. "It started a bit of screaming from the rest of the children, which was nice," he said.
He added: "I think it's important we get out of the hotel. Most of us went to a shopping centre [after normal opening hours] which was fun because there were 4,000 people outside. Then we had a meal with another 5,000 outside. It's nice to see and experience what the fans over here think of our players."
Tomorrow, though, England must focus on the football again. "There's a job still to be done," concluded Beckham. "We must forget about Argentina. It will always be in the back of our minds but we have to forget about it and concentrate on Nigeria."
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