By 90Min
August 31, 2018

No footballer will ever experience the perfect career, with heartbreak an inevitable experience of playing at any level of the game.

But when adversity strikes, fate sometimes presents another chance for redemption.

Here's a look at six players from around the world who confronted their demons.


Stuart Pearce

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Six years after missing from the spot in the 1990 World Cup semi final shootout, Stuart Pearce had the chance to face his demons when England needed penalties to beat Spain at Euro '96.

Refusing to shirk responsibility, Pearce took England's third penalty and smashed it past Spain goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta. If anyone ever wondered the reason behind his 'Psycho' nickname, the aggressive celebration that followed is a perfect explanation.

The left-back, who was left out of the World Cup squad in 1998, had been holding onto that painful anger for a long time and was finally able to let it go.


Michael Bradley

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As captain of Toronto FC and an MLS All-Star in the previous two seasons, Michael Bradley was one of two players who missed a penalty in the 2016 MLS Cup final on home soil at BMO Field, seeing Seattle Sounders lift the trophy instead.

Aided by an extremely talented team, Bradley subsequently returned to his best in 2017 as Toronto swept the regular season to top the standings and win the MLS Supporters' Shield, before revenge on Seattle in a repeat of the all-important MLS Cup final in the same stadium.

12 months after heartbreak, Bradley, once more an MLS All-Star after missing out in 2016, held the trophy aloft at BMO Field after the 2-0 Toronto win.


Ruud van Nistelrooy

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Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a penalty in the closing stages of a Premier League clash with Arsenal in September 2003. Scoring would have seen United win 1-0 and beat the Gunners just six games into what became their 'Invincible' season.

Moments later, Arsenal players aggressively descended on the Dutchman as the final whistle blew and the game has since become known as the 'Battle of Old Trafford'.

By the time Arsenal returned to Old Trafford 13 months later, they were unbeaten in 49 Premier League games. But when Wayne Rooney won a penalty, Van Nistelrooy stepped up again and this time converted. His outpouring of emotion showed how much it meant.


Neymar

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Winning an Olympic gold medal in football was something that Brazil had long craved, picking up bronzes and silvers along the way in more than 60 years of trying, but never the elusive gold.

Neymar was part of the Selecao team that fell short at the last hurdle in London in 2012, coming away with a silver medal. But the national superstar returned to the tournament four years later as captain and a designated overage player with the sole target of striking gold.

Brazil grew into the tournament and Neymar scored four goals en route to winning gold, even netting the decisive penalty in the final shootout against Germany. It was even sweeter that it was on home soil after his World Cup two years earlier had ended in tears on a stretcher.


David Beckham

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David Beckham became public enemy number one as far as the English press were concerned after the 1998 World Cup, singled out for blame for his red card against Argentina in the Round of 16 as the Three Lions crashed out of the tournament.

Despite the vile treatment he was subjected to, Beckham thrived in the face of the abuse and enjoyed arguably the four best seasons of his career in the build up to the next World Cup in 2002, winning numerous trophies with Manchester United, including Champions League glory.

It seemed like fate when England were drawn in the same group as Argentina at the tournament and when Beckham, as captain, scored to win the game, his redemption was complete.


Ronaldo

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Brazilian superstar Ronaldo enjoyed the worst and best nights of his career in two World Cup finals four years apart, exorcising his demons in 2002 after 1998 heartbreak.

The 1998 tournament had been all about O Fenômeno, the most expensive player in history and an explosive young talent, the like of which had rarely been seen before. But a nightmarish final surrounded by conspiracy and four years of injury hell threatened to leave his story unfinished.

Prior to 2002, Ronaldo hadn't been able to play for Brazil for two years and his selection for that summer's World Cup was questionable. Yet he scored eight goals at the tournament, including both of Brazil's in the final, to cement his name in the history books.


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