In a football review of 2000 – 2004, it’s hard to look past England’s miserable record at major competitions as a starting point.
The nation went into the 2000 European Championships full of high hopes which were immediately stalled by an opening match defeat to Portugal. Five days later and victory over Germany had the country believing again, but all hopes were quickly dashed when a trailing Phil Neville leg earned Romania a penalty to knock Kevin Keegan’s side out at the first hurdle. France went on to win, adding to their World Cup triumph two years previously.
Keegan retired and the FA brought in the national team’s first ever foreign manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson. The Swede led England through qualification for the 2002 World Cup which included the team’s second finest hour; a 5-1 demolition of the Germans in Munich. Again hopes were high going into the tournament, but England were knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Brazil.
Eriksson’s men were also eliminated in the last-eight stage of Euro 2004, where this time a penalty shootout defeat to Portugal – soon to become a recurring theme – was the downfall. Surprise package Greece went on to win the tournament, and in doing so became the first team to ever knock-out the holders and the hosts in the same championships.
Back at home, Manchester United continued their dominance of the Premiership by adding the 2000 and 2001 titles to their trophy cabinet. Having already won the league in 1999, Alex Ferguson became the first manager to win three successive English league campaigns.
Liverpool, meanwhile, managed a unique cup treble, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup. Eager to not be outdone, Arsenal also added their name to the record books, going the whole of the 2003/04 season without losing a single league game – the first time this feat had been achieved in the modern era.
In the same season, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea in a move which would later see the West Londoners gatecrash Manchester United and Arsenal’s Premier League domination.
In Europe, Real Madrid added to their Champions League dominance by winning two more titles, while Porto – under the guidance of outspoken soon-to-be-Chelsea manager José Mourinho – were the surprise winners in 2004.
In tennis, the first half of the decade saw one era of domination end and another begin. In 2000, American Pete Sampras won his seventh Wimbledon title in eight years before adding the 2002 US Open to end his impressive CV of 14 Grand Slam titles.
Pistol Pete’s retirement paved the way for a young player named Roger Federer. The Swiss right-hander began his blitzing of every title in his sights with the 2003 Wimbledon title.
As for Great Britain’s court stars, one man held the key and Tim Henman had the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders. Henman had already reached the semi-finals in 1998 and 1999, but ran into an unbeatable Sampras on both occasions. Tiger Tim reached the semi-finals again in 2001 and 2002, but lost to wildcard Goran Ivanišević and Lleyton Hewitt – both eventual winners in those years.
The women’s game also saw a distinct shift in power with the emergence of the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, who dominated both the women’s singles and doubles for much of the decade.
The athletics world kicked off the decade in spectacular fashion with the Sydney Olympics, only the second time the Games had been held in the southern hemisphere.
Australian runner Catherine Freeman began proceedings with the lighting of the torch and ended the Games by becoming the first athlete of Aborigine descent to become Olympic champion, taking gold in the 400m.
America’s media darling Marion Jones also stormed the track, winning an unprecedented three gold and two bronze medals. Jones would later relinquish this achievement after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
Four years later, the Games returned to their spiritual home of Athens. The Great Britain team put on a good show for the audience back home, bringing home 30 medals in total.
Notable achievements include Kelly Holmes who won gold in the 800m and 1500m and Matthew Pinsent who became Olympic rowing champion for the fourth time in a row – a record only topped by former team-mate Steve Redgrave.
The Games also saw the emergence of Bolton-born boxer Amir Khan, who won silver in Athens before going on to become WBO World Light-Welterweight champion.
The Games weren’t without disappointment and scandal though. World record holder Paula Radcliffe spectacularly crashed out of the Marathon while Greek sprinters Konstantinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou withdraw from the games after allegedly staging a motorcycle accident in order to avoid a drugs test.