Through the biblical rain of 21st May, 2008, a fog of doom had descended at one end of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. From it emerged John Terry. His gait bore the menacing nonchalance of one who had already sussed the future: he scores, he grins and winks as he shakes the hand of Michel Platini, he wields the Champions League trophy amid a blizzard of blue tickertape, he jigs to Madness at the post-match party, fuelled by a soup of booze and smugness.
We all shared his vision of the future as he bowled towards us, carefully adjusting his armband for the ensuing trophy lift. One so cocksure, so prominent, so decisive would never be fazed under the circumstances. The granite-jawed embodiment of that fabled English spirit, Terry might as well have been Saint George on his white steed, cantering up to slay the dragon.
Michael Ballack grinned and bounced in readiness for glory. Frank Lampard shifted his weight impatiently, mirroring the eagerness of his skipper, who stood waiting for the referee’s whistle with his hands on his hips. In the United camp, the only positive animation came from Rio Ferdinand, who held his arms aloft to gee up Edwin van der Sar. Michael Carrick stared down at the centre circle, while Anderson kneeled and rested his face on it. There was no looking away in the stands. We stared down our fate with dignified resignation and tangible consolation – after all, back to back Premier League titles provided plenty of cause for cheer.
Then came that beautiful miss. As Terry planted his left foot in the sodden turf, it gave way and his right foot steered the ball against the outside of the post. Van der Sar, having dived the wrong way and landed eight feet away from the upright, celebrated as if he had caught the ball, while Terry sat head between knees, hands on calves, looking for all the world like a massive, blue foetus. Saint George had slipped on his own lance.
John Terry: Mr Chelsea, Mr England but, at the defining moment of his career, Missed A Penalty.
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