Football Language Podcast: 1998 World Cup – England vs Argentina

English Through Football Podcast – 1998 World Cup England vs Argentina: In this podcast we continue with our reviews of some of the great World Cup matches by looking at the England versus Argentina game from 1998. This is another game from the #WorldCupAtHome series from in which we look back at some of the language around this game as well as the rest of the tournament.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the file below while you can also subscribe and listen to all our football-language podcasts. If you’d like to show your support for what we do then think about becoming a patron (through Patreon). There is a transcript for this show which may help you to improve your language skills by reading as you listen, or if you are a teacher of English you can use the transcript to make different kinds of activities for your learners. We also have a quiz and an online gap fill exercise, while there is a vocabulary list at the end of the post. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments then please email us at: (Damian=DF).


Podcast May 2020DF: Hello again everyone, this is Damian from the languagecaster team and you are listening to the Learn English Through Football Podcast. We hope you are all well and still staying safe. I’m here in London where the weather is bright and sunny and hopefully the weather is good where you are too.

Right, on today’s show we continue with our series of podcasts about classic World Cup matches that have appeared on’s website in their #WorldCupAtHome series and on today’s podcast we’ll feature a game from the 1998 World Cup between Argentina and England – this was a last-16 match, one of the knock-out round games. Previous World Cup matches that we have featured include: Spain and the Netherlands from the 2014 World Cup, the Netherlands and Brazil from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the second round match between Brazil and Italy from 1982, the 1994 World Cup match between Nigeria and Italy and another last-16 game between two great rivals: West Germany and the Netherlands from 1990.

First of all in this podcast, we’ll look at some of the background to the 1998 World Cup and and then explain some of the language used to talk about the match between these two huge rivals: Argentina and England. We then finish up with a look back at what happened in the rest of the tournament.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Portuguese)

1998 World Cup: Background

DF: The 16th edition of the World Cup took place in France which was the second time the French had hosted the tournament – the first time was in 1938 when they were beaten by eventual winners Italy in the quarter-final. This time round France defeated defending champions Brazil 3-0 in the final to become the seventh different country to lift the trophy; after Italy, Brazil, Germany, Uruguay, Argentina and England. 

For the first time there were 32 teams taking part and they were divided into eight groups of four with the top two sides qualifying for the knock-out stage. This was also the first World Cup in which three substitutions were allowed and there was also the introduction of the ‘Golden Goal‘ which took effect in the knock-out rounds and simply meant that the first team to score in extra-time would win. Four countries were making their World Cup debuts: Jamaica from the CONCACAF region, Japan from the Asian Confederation, South Africa from CAF and Croatia from UEFA, while teams to miss out included two-time winners Uruguay, the Czech Republic and Sweden who had finished third at the previous World Cup.

The favourites included Brazil who were ranked first in the world and hoping to become the first side to retain the trophy since they themselves did so in 1962. Germany were ranked second in the world and were the current European champions, while teams such as Mexico (4th in the world), England (5th) and Argentina (6th) were also tipped to do well. France had failed to qualify for the previous two World Cups and had performed poorly in the 1996 European Championships so were not among the favourites at the start of the tournament and dark horses included Spain, Croatia, the Netherlands, as well as Nigeria, Denmark and Norway.

Shocks and controversies

DF: Well, Brazil were defeated by Norway in the group stages – the Norwegians came from behind to beat the holders but as they had already qualified as group leaders it did not really matter. Perhaps the biggest shock of the tournament involved Spain who failed to get out of their group after losing to Nigeria 3-2 in their opening game and then only drawing nil-nil with Paraguay.

There was one huge story from the finals and that revolved around Ronaldo (O Fenômeno) – who was one of the best players in the world at the time and had been an important part of Brazil’s run to the final. The 21-year old Inter Milan striker had a fit before the final and it seemed that he would not play and then 45 minutes before the kick off he was back on the team sheet and took his place in the starting XI. The fact that both he and the Seleção played poorly in that final meant that there have been many discussions and theories as to what really happened before the game.  

Stinger: You are listening to (in Dutch)

Last-16: England vs Argentina


DF: The two sides had met on three previous occasions in World Cups with England winning the first two: 3-1 in the 1962 World Cup in Brazil and then a controversial 1-0 win at Wembley in the 1966 World Cup. The third time these two sides met at a World Cup finals was in 1986 in Mexico when Argentina defeated England, again in controversial circumstances, thanks to Diego Maradona – the ‘Hand of God‘ goal followed by one of the greatest ever World Cup goals.

Bryon Butler (BBC Radio commentary): Maradona, turns like a little eel, he comes away from trouble, little squat man … comes inside Butcher, leaves him for dead, outside Fenwick, leaves him for dead, and puts the ball away … and that is why Maradona is the greatest player in the world. He buried the English defence…”

DF: Both these sides had been seeded and were not expected to face each other until much later in the tournament but England lost 2-1 against Romania and finished second in their group to set up this last-16 match in Saint Etienne. Now, I remember watching this game at home in Tokyo and the kick-off was 3:00 in the morning. I also remember being not only exhausted after this particular game but for the whole month of football as I watched games at night and worked during the day. Great days!

The Match

DF: The game started at a high tempo with both sides going close and after only three minutes England’s keeper David Seaman gave away a penalty when he took Argentina captain Diego Simeone down. Gabriel Batistuta drove the ball powerfully past Seaman to put Argentina one up. Almost immediately Michael Owen won a penalty after driving at the Argentinian defence and was then brought down by Ayala. England captain Alan Shearer stepped up to score the equaliser in an exhilirating start to the game. Then ten minutes later Michael Owen scored one of the goals of the tournament when he picked the ball up around midfield and went on a run beating three opponents before slamming his shot past Carlos Roa in the Argentinian goal.

ITV Commentator (Brian Moore): … Beckham now to Owen and here’s another Owen run. He’s going to worry them again. It’s a great run by Michael Owen and he might finish it off. Oh, it’s a wonderful goal! What an amazing moment in Michael Owen’s young career… a fantastic run…

DF: For the next 15 minutes it was all England but they failed to take their chances and slowly Argentina came back into the game thanks mainly to the close skills of Ariel Ortega – dribbles, shimmies, nutmegs and combinations of short and long passes. And just before half-time Argentina scored from a well-worked free-kick that came straight from training ground – Inter Milan’s Zanetti smashing home a shot that caught the England defence napping. What an end to a breathless first half! Four goals, two penalties and end-to-end action.

Almost immediately after the start of the second half England were down to ten players after David Beckham kicked out at Simeone right in front of the Danish referee. He gave a straight red for retaliation and it was going to be an uphill task for England. The complexion of the game changed after the sending off and Argentina carved out some great openings at the start of the second half, while England were reduced to long-range shots in a real ‘backs to the wall‘ performance. And then, with just 10 minutes to go England scored from a set piece only for the referee to rule it out for an infringement, or foul, on the goalkeeper. With England players celebrating the Argentinians quickly re-started and broke on the counter and only a last-ditch tackle from England’s Anderton prevented them from taking the lead – what tension!

The game went in to extra time which meant that a Golden Goal would win it – the first team to score would win just as hosts France had done two days earlier versus Paraguay. England had an appeal for a penalty waived away by the referee but although Argentina pressed and tried to break down a dogged, stubborn England defence, neither side was able to score and so we went to penalties.

Berti and Shearer both scored the first penalties and when Parma striker Crespo had his shot saved by Seaman, England had the advantage but then Paul Ince had his shot saved by Roa. Gallardo placed his calmly, Veron slammed his into the roof of the net, Merson replied for England and Owen rifled one in off the post. Napoli defender Roberto Ayala slotted home his side’s fifth and it was left to Newcastle’s David Batty to score to keep England in the tournament. His shot, however, was saved and England went out of a major competiton for the third time in the 1990s on penalties. Argentina would face the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Jack van Gelder Radio Commentator (in Dutch): Dennis Bergkamp…

What happened next?

DF: What an amazing goal that was by Dennis Bergkamp. His last-minute winner knocked out Argentina and sent the Netherlands through to the semi-final where they fell short against the holders Brazil on penalties. Brazil had already beaten Chile and Denmark in the earlier knock-out stages before they faced France in the final at the Stade de France in Paris. The French had coasted through their group, scoring nine times in their three wins, but then had to work really hard in all of their knock-out matches. In the last 16 they defeated Paraguay with a Golden Goal by defender Lauren Blanc – the first time in World Cup history that this type of goal had decided a game, while they beat Italy on penalties after a scoreless draw in the quarter-final and then came from behind with a brace from another defender, Lilian Thuram, to beat Croatia 2-1 in the semi-final.

In the final the French side scored two unanswered goals in the first half – two headers from Zinedine Zidane – and Brazil never really looked as if they would get back into the game in the second half. Indeed, France, despite going down to ten in the second half, scored a third right at the death through Emmanuel Petit’s breakaway strike. France had won their first ever World Cup title becoming the sixth host nation to do so and the country celebrated wildly. The French fans would be celebrating again two years later as Les Bleus went on to win their second ever European Championship – great days for French football indeed.


That’s it for this World Cup memory – don’t forget we’ve also looked back at games from the 1982, 1986, 1994, 1990, 2010 and 2014 World Cups and we’ll be looking back at some more World Cup memories over the following weeks. We also have a new World Cup resource page where we have some World Cup quizzes, where you can test your knowledge about the World Cup, while we also have some podcasts about World Cup stars from down through the ages, as well as some gap-fill activities and lots and lots of vocabulary support. Just come along to our site here at

You can also contact us here at languagecaster via our various social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can come and ask a question on our forums, make a suggestion, drop us a line or say hello at OK, take care everyone – stay safe and we’ll see you soon. Bye bye.

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and if you have any suggestions, contact us at


  • To lift the trophy: To win the tournament/the cup
  • Golden goal: In extra time in a knock-out game the team that scored the first goal would win the game. This rul was only used in two World Cups – 1998 and 2002.
  • were making their World Cup debuts: The first time that these countries appeared at a World Cup tournament
  • to miss out: To not take part, these teams failed to qualify
  • to retain the trophy: To win the competition twice in a row
  • Brazil’s run to the final: How Brazil qualified for the final; how they progressed through the knock-out stages
  • had a fit: Ronaldo started shaking uncontrollably; a convulsion
  • Seleção: The nickname for the Brazilian team
  • controversial: Strong disagreement on a topic
  • had been seeded: Teams were ranked so they were not scheduled to play against each other until later in the tournament
  • to set up this last-16 match: To ensure this game took place
  • a high tempo: Played at a fast pace
  • gave away a penalty: To concede a penalty; Seaman committed the foul
  • took Argentina captain Diego Simeone down: He fouled Simeone
  • drove the ball: Hit the ball really hard; an unstoppable shot
  • exhilarating: Really exciting
  • smashing home a shot: Scoring with a really hard shot
  • end-to-end action: The two teams attacked each other in a relentless manner
  • retaliation: When a player hits back at another player
  • an uphill task: A really difficult job
  • The complexion of the game changed: The style of the game changed
  • backs to the wall‘ performance: It was difficult for the team but they fought hard even though they were not favourites to win.
  • an infringement: A foul
  • waived away by the referee: The referee said no; the ref turned down the appeal
  • rifled one in off the post: He hit the ball really hard and it hit the inside of the post and went in – he still scored.
  • they fell short: Didn’t quite manage to do something
  • coasted through: Easily won without trying to hard; an easy time
  • two unanswered goals: They scored twice and the Brazilians did not score
  • at the death: In the final minutes of the game
  • Les Bleus: The nickname for the French national side
Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and if you have any suggestions, contact us at

Related Links

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and if you have any suggestions, contact us at

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