During the World Cup we have been looking back at the best moments from ex-Eagles’ careers with their respective national teams. Today, we remember a last-gasp Dutch winner from Edgar Davids during the 1998 edition.
It’s the stuff boyhood dreams of made of – in the last minute of a crucial World Cup match and the game on the line, you pick the ball up outside the box, take aim and find the back of the net to send your country wild.
Edgar Davids got to live out that fantasy during the 1998 World Cup, during a mission for redemption. He had been sent home from Euro 96 and exiled from international football for making disparaging comments about Dutch boss Guus Hiddink, but the coach knew he couldn’t do without the Pitbull’s tenacity in the middle of the park. "It's simply a matter of quality," he said when he announced Davids as the surprise inclusion in his 23-man squad two years later.
The Dutch were touted as one of the favourites to the lift the trophy in France, with that squad containing superstars like Edwin van Der, Dennis Bergkamp, the De Boer twins, Clarence Seedorf, Jaap Stam, Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars. Due to his disobedience, Davids though had only won 12 caps coming into the tournament and was still to make his mark at international level as well as vindicate Hiddink’s decision, but both of those were achieved when the Netherlands needed him most.
After the Dutch had scraped out of a tough group containing neighbours Belgium, Mexico and South Korea, they were paired with Yugoslavia and things began well, as in a pre-cursor to his own last-gasp goal against Argentina later in the competition, Dennis Bergkamp fired home a long ball by Frank de Boer to hand Holland the lead.
Davids and Seedorf controlled the middle of the park during the game, but despite that left-back Slobodan Komljenovic rose at the far post to head in a free-kick, and parity only remained because Predrag Mijatovic blasted a penalty against the crossbar.
As the final seconds ticked away, Hiddink contemplated taking off the dynamic Davids for fresher legs ahead of extra-time, but the Juventus midfielder produced the goods before that could happen.
In stoppage-time, Ronald de Boer found the midfielder 20 yards from goal, who calmly nudged the ball forward into his stride and blasted an unstoppable shot into the bottom left corner. Once the final whistle blew, he instantly charged towards the dugouts and embraced Hiddink – his reconciliation complete.
"I was just doing my job," Davids said post-match. "I was cramping up, so it was all or nothing. I knew I would have had to come off if it had gone to extra-time”. His side would eventually reach the semi-finals before a heartbreaking penalty shootout exit to Brazil and ultimately finishing fourth, but Davids continued to impress in France and was named in the official Team of the Tournament.
From then on he went from strength to strength as he represented Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax, winning everything the club game had to offer before a three-month spell at Palace in 2011. When he looks back on his glittering career, he can easily pinpoint that night in Toulouse as the moment where his iconic career really began to lift off.