He might have just joined Aston Villa, but Joe Cole used to be really good. He was really good at not getting a game for Chelsea, he was really good at being played out of position for England, and – for a couple of seconds in Cologne, on June 20, 2006 – he was really good at 30-yard volleys. This was the big crescendo for Sven Goran Eriksson’s “Golden Generation”, captained by David “Golden Balls” Beckham himself. This was rotating goalkeepers, this was heightened expectations, this was endless arguments about Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, this was a 4-4-2 with no left winger. With Gerrard and Lampard both starting the World Cup’s opening two games – wins against Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago – it was three-foot-nothing, right-footed, single-speed Cole who was moved out to the cursed left side. A position that Stewart Downing, Gareth Barry, Emile Heskey and Geordie boy Alan Thompson had all failed to make their own; but that summer it belonged to the diminutive Londoner. Despite the consecutive victories, England still needed a point against Sweden in their final group game to finish above Lars Lagerback’s side and so avoid host nation Germany – a country that experience tells us are probably worth avoiding. Wayne Rooney was back and Owen Hargreaves had impressed enough to earn a starting spot, so Peter Crouch and Gerrard dropped to the bench. (Before I carry on, Steven Gerrard was on the bench.) Rooney and Michael Owen – this really was the golden generation. For 60 seconds. Then £16 million’s worth of Newcastle United striking talent is lying sprawled on the pitch. For club and country, a blow. Anyway, onto the goal. The red-clad Englishmen had taken a while to get going following Owen’s injury, but after a couple of decent openings via Cole and Rooney, the Chelsea man decided he fancied a World Cup memento. A Swedish defender nodded the ball out of his area and looked quite content with himself as he jogged towards the 18-yard line. Not for long. The ball fell to Cole somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic, and he thwacked it – like, properly thwacked it – on the volley and it flew in off the far post. Andres Isaksson got a hand on the strike, but only succeeded in improving the spectacle. Top corner, 1-0 England, piece of piss. As it happened, the Swedes emerged with a 2-2 draw, but that was enough to secure the Three Lions safe passage to a second-round meeting with Ecuador. Of course it all mattered little when – in the quarter-final against Portugal – Rooney stamped on Ricardo Carvalho’s bollocks, Beckham went off injured and England went out on penalties. But in a tournament where only he and Hargreaves emerged with any real credit, Cole had provided a stand-out moment. And what a moment.