I’m getting World Cup fever. Not sure why, England always seem to find a way to disappoint. Here are some personal memories of the World Cups I have enjoyed. I was born in 1962, so I have no memories of England’s win in 1966 and 1970 was the first World Cup I remember.
1970 – My oldest brother had Brazil posters all over his bedroom wall. So Brazil was always our second choice after wanting England to win. I remember tearing pages out of magazines with the players of the England squad and their bio’s. I went through a phase of wanting to be goalkeeper after seeing Gordon Banks save against Pele’s downward header. This didn’t last too long though. I remember coming home from school and seeing a game…I think it might have been against Romania, where they were kicking us all over the field. Of course the worst memory is when England lost in the quarter final to Germany after subbing Bobby Charlton off to rest him…we were 2-0 up at the time and lost 3-2. We watched the final at my Grandma’s house and all cheered for Brazil.
1974 – England didn’t even qualify for this World Cup…Poland beat us in qualifying. But we still watched all the games as normal. It was Dutch and their Total Football that caputured my imagination…and everyone elses. I still can’t figure out how they lost to Germany.
1978 – Yet another year when England didn’t qualify. Scotland grabbed a lot of peoples attention with Ally’s Army and played pretty well. I remember them losing to Holland when they had an early lead. Brazil were awful. They weren’t very good in 1974 but were even worse this time. Holland were spectacular…maybe better than they were in 1974, but lost to a very good Argentina team who enjoyed the advantage of playing in front of their own fans. Oh, and we all loved the throwing up of torn paper when the teams came out of the tunnel.
1982 – I don’t remember too much about England’s performances early on other than Bryan Robson’s goal inside a few seconds in the first game against France who we ended up beating 3-1. They had a strange system this year with 24 teams. The top two teams from each group were then placed in three-team round robing groups for the next stage. England drew with Germany and then needed to beat home team Spain to advance but drew 0-0. But the biggest thing I remember about this World Cup was the Brazilian team, which is my favorite all-time World Cup team. They just played incredible football with such style and grace. Unfortunately, they had two big weaknesses that hurt them…a poor GK and no center forward worthy of the strikers jersey. I still can’t believe how they ended up losing to Italy 3-2 when they only needed a draw to advance to the semi finals. Paulo Rossi didn’t seem to do anything other than score a ton of goals to help Italy win the whole thing.
1986 – A great World Cup in Mexico. England struggled in all their games and barely got out of the first group stages. Denmark looked unbeatable in group play and then got smacked 6-1 by Spain in the knockout stages. But this was the year of Maradonna. He was absolutely incredible. He single handedly won the World Cup for Argentina like no player before or since. He scored two incredible goals to knock England out in the quarter finals. One with his hand and one where he got the ball around the halfway line and just took it all the way to the six yard box and scored.
1990 – Was a pretty boring World Cup I think. England added some excitement by getting to the semi finals, but losing on PK’s to our German rivals. England had some luck to get to the semi’s but were also a decent team this year. We beat Belgium in the round of 16 with a David Platt goal late in extra time and then somehow managed to beat a Cameroon team in extra time that outplayed us in the quarter finals. The final was rather forgettable with Germany and Argentina for the second time in a row…this time the German’s prevailed.
1994 – I had moved to the U.S. by this time and went to my first ever World Cup game. I saw Germany v S. Korea in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It was ridiculously hot at over 100 degreesjj. I remember Klinnsman practicing bicycle kicks during the warm ups and then scoring with one during the game. We were charged $5 for a glass of water and they wouldn’t let you take any water into the stadium with you. Germany led 3-0 and then the heat really got to them and they could barely walk in the last 20 minutes. Korea took it to them and almost came back but the game ended up 3-2. England didn’t even qualify this time. Brazil had finally made the transformation from their free flowing style of football to a more organized and disciplined style. It wasn’t the same Brazil, but good enough for them to win. And it was the first World Cup final to be decided on PK’s.
1998 – France were very impressive playing on home soil and caused an upset with a 3-0 win over Brazil in the final. England had a pretty good team and should have beaten Argentina in the round of 16. They played well in the first half but went to sleep while Argentina scored a great set play right before halftime to tie the game. This was the game where Beckham got red carded early in the second half and we had to play the rest of the game with just 10 men. England should ahve won when Sol Campbell scored a great header in extra time…I still don’t know why it was disallowed. But as usual, England lost on PK’s. I watched the game in a local bar and ended up getting to my soccer practice a little late right after the game.
2002 – This was the first World Cup where I noticed strong teams struggle because their players were just worn out from cumulative seasons of overplaying. France finished the bottom of their group and Portugal didn’t get out of their group when S Korea and the U.S. finished above them. But credit the U.S. Thye came in fresh, in great condition and took advantage by playing well. S Korea really caught the imagination of lots of people. They were incredibly fit and well coached and just overran every opponent until they lost in the semi final to Germany. Brazil won the whole thing, but I didn’t think they they were the Brazil of old.
2006 – Not much to remember about this World Cup other than the incredible head butt by Zidane.