ROMANIA legend Gheorghe Hagi says their famous win over England at Euro 2000 was tinged with sadness – because it meant knocking out his idol Kevin Keegan.
The Three Lions went home after losing their final group game in Charleroi, Belgium to cap a wretched tournament.
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Goals by Alan Shearer and Michael Owen in the first half put England on course for a quarter-final meeting with Italy.
But a late flourish from Romania and a last-minute penalty following a dire challenge by Phil Neville, ended boss Keegan’s dreams.
And they did it without suspended captain Hagi.
He said: “It’s hard to say who was the best player in that England team because they didn’t get near their potential.
“England always had sensational teams and I really liked Alan Shearer.
“In both 1998 (World Cup) and 2000 England could have won the competition but they didn’t reach their potential.
“I’m sorry, especially since Kevin Keegan was one of my idols.
“But a victory over England gives you such prestige and after that everybody respected us.”
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Keegan was under fire after the Euro qualifying.
Shearer’s headed winner against Germany had helped the team recover from defeat to Portugal and set up the showdown with Romania.
But a howler from goalkeeper Nigel Martyn let them back into the match after England were cruising 2-1 at half-time.
And Neville’s nightmare tackle in the 89th minute allowed Ioan Ganea to fire home a penalty.
Hagi, who won 124 caps, added: “That second half was incredible. It was maybe the best European half Romania ever had.”
He will be watching as a proud father when Romania face England in Middlesbrough on Sunday.
His son Ianis, 22, who helped Rangers win a first Scottish title in ten years, lines up in midfield for the visitors.
Hagi Sr said: “I’m proud because Ianis had an excellent season. He is one of the most important players for Rangers.
“But he still has to develop more if he is to reach the highest level.”
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