Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Just three more days to go.....

Its already Tuesday now and like most people I am waiting for the moment the 'greatest show on earth' kicks off. So, I look at this as a last chance for me to feel a bit nostalgic and recall some truly memorable moments from the tournament's great history.

1986
This was a cup most fondly remembered for the exploits of one single man named Diego Maradona but most soccer lovers will never forget the day when the game's two other greats Zico and Platini went head-to-head, when the European champions and the Latin American giants met on a hot afternoon at Guadalajara. The Brazil-France quarter-final had it all. Both sides attacked and fought tooth and nail. Both goal-keepers were kept busy, the cross-bar was hit on more than one occassion and at the breather it was 1-1 but Brazil clearly looking more dangerous. The defining moment of the match came in the 2nd half when French goal-keeper Joel Bats brought down Brazillian Branco inside the box and the ref. gave the penalty. I was watching the match as an 8 year old and I still remember the sight of Branco being brought down and Zico immediately rushing to hug him while he was getting up. The war seemed to have been won . But it was a day when things would be different. Yes, one of the great dead-ball experts of the game Zico missed the most crucial penalty and Joel Bats became an instant hero. The game went into penalties and it was now the turn of the other great dead-ball expert and Zico's opposite number Platini to mess up a penalty. Thankfully, it was to be the day of Joel Bats and France. He saves twice and Platini's miss did not prove costly. France had won the day and an epic battle.
Maradona's exploits need no narration. The famous hand-of-god goal followed by the dream 2nd goal against England and then another dream goal against Belgium were all hair-raising stuff. But the most unforgettable and significant 'Maradona' moment came in that great final. A typical West German fightback made the score 2-2 and all of a sudden their resurgent opponents threatened to take the cup away from Argerntina. With Lothar Matheus breathing down his neck like a shadow all Maradona had time to do was a "one touch" pass. He exacltly did that and that one-touch put Buruchaaga through. The sight of the ball passing through Schumacher (in a bright yellow jersey) into the net is an all time great "kodak" moment in World Cup history.

1990
A drab and boring world cup most remembered for the dearth of goals and one penalty shoot-out after other. The most cruel way to exit a tournament for which you wait for four years saw many tragic heroes being born, many of whom will be remembered throughout their lives for that one missed penalty. Ask Roberto Donadoni and Aldo Serena. In the tense semi-final at Naples, as Aldo Serena hit the ball straight to Argentine goal-keeper Goycochea, it triggered a national mourning. Italy crashed out in front of its home crowd. A day later Chris Waddle and Stuart Pierce would go through the same agony as another soccer crazy nation England fell at the semi-finals and that too to arch-rivals West Germany.
1994
Maradona's unceremonious exit, lots of goals scored, a drab final and Roberto Baggio are what you remember most of US '94. I just wish there was at least a goal scored in the final which promised so much. Brazil V Italy, Romario V Baggio. All came down to penalty kicks.
Undoubtedly, the most significant moment and the moment which I cherish the most was Baggio's equalizer against Nigeria. Two minutes more and Baggio would have been dubbed as the biggest flop of the world cup and the most over-rated player in the game. Down 0-1, with 10 men, facing elimination, it was 2 minutes and Roberto Baggio. He beat time and the Nigerian defence and Italy scarped through.
1998
Argentina V England at St Etienne. Owen's wonderful solo goal, Beckham red-carded and once again those dreaded penalties proving a curse for England - Gareth Batty being the tragic hero this time.
Dennis Bergkamp's winning goal against Argentina was a classic and with two wonderfully headed goals in the final Zinedine Zidane took the first step towards greatness.
(Let me not get into the Ronaldo mystery on the day of the final)
2002
Another dull and boring world cup, mostly remembered for South Korea's dream run into the semis and Ronadinho's free-kick sailing over David Seaman's head into the net.

4 comments:

Sinfully Pinstripe said...

Diego, diego! God had a name once.

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