VOLGOGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - For former England defender Sol Campbell, the sight of players grabbing and shoving each other in the penalty box at the World Cup in Russia brings back painful memories.
On two occasions that haunt England fans, Campbell wheeled away to celebrate what he thought were late winners in major tournaments, only for referees to rule that team mates had committed fouls on both occasions.
“You just don’t know. What if?” Campbell, who travelled to the southern Russian city of Volgograd to see England beat Tunisia 2-1 on Monday, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
“I watch games now and I see people pushing and scoring. And it can be really blatant and the goal is given. That’s the luck of the draw sometimes which is harsh to say, but it is,” the player capped 73 times by his country said.
Against Argentina during the 1998 World Cup, Campbell headed the ball into the net nine minutes from time, but the effort was disallowed for a foul on the South American team’s goalkeeper. Argentina won the match on penalties.
Six years later in a Euro 2004 quarter-final, a late header by Campbell was ruled out when a team mate was adjudged to have fouled Portugal’s goalkeeper, leading to another penalty shootout lost by England.
“Sometimes you wish that you had a little bit of luck,” said Campbell, who still cuts a powerful, athletic figure at 43.
Complaints about fouls in the run-up to goals continue at the 2018 World Cup, despite the introduction of video assisted referees (VAR).
Brazilian football officials have asked FIFA why the system was not used to review whether Brazil defender Miranda was pushed by Steven Zuber when he headed home Switzerland’s equaliser in a group game on Sunday.
England coach Gareth Southgate said he thought his team should have had a penalty when captain Harry Kane was bundled over by a Tunisian defender.
Looking ahead, Campbell said he knows from personal experience that England would face physical opposition when they meet Panama on Sunday.
Campbell came up against the Panamanians while assistant coach for Trinidad & Tobago in the World Cup qualifiers.
“It will be quite English. And hopefully the players won’t be surprised by that. It won’t be a typical South American style of play,” Campbell said.
On England’s opening Group G win against Tunisia, Campbell praised the Three Lions’ early attacking onslaughts but said he was worried that midfielder Jordan Henderson was too often the sole outlet for defenders seeking to play the ball out.
“If you want to keep possession, better teams have one or two guys coming back in different lines to give an angle for the back three,” he said.
But the last-gasp winner by captain Kane — which gave England their first opening-game win at a World Cup since 2006 — would boost confidence in the camp, he said.
“You think you’ve got a draw and then all of a sudden you go and win,” Campbell said. “That’s what you need in these tournaments. You just need something to go your way.”
Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Pritha Sarkar