In The World Cup’s Finest we ask various individuals to delve into their own personal history of football’s quadrennial showpiece extravaganza, selecting a number of favourites as well as revealing what is their very first World Cup memory.
Relive the 1998-2010 World Cup era with Pinnacle’s Content and Social Media Manager Benjamin Cronin, who goes on a journey from his first World Cup memory at France 1998, via Brazilian dominance in 2002 and onto a Giovanni Van Bronckhorst screamer and Luis Suarez antics in South Africa 2010.
First World Cup memory
10 June – 12 July (World Cup, France). France 1998 was the first World Cup where I actually knew what was going on. While the English media made it hard for people to remember anything but David Beckham’s red card against Argentina, it’s Michael Owen’s wonder goal and the “real” Ronaldo’s dominance (and disappearance) that has always stuck with me.
Favourite World Cup:
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Netherlands v Uruguay, 2010). I think you can tell a lot about someone by the type of goal they choose when posed this kind of question. Although I have a lot of admiration for Argentina’s 24-pass goal vs. Serbia and Montenegro in 2006, Bergkamp’s control and finish against Argentina in 1998 and Maradona’s graceful dribble against England in 1986, you just can’t beat a thunderbolt screamer. I feel like Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s 35-yard effort against Uruguay in 2010 doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. It was the cleanest connection I think I’ve ever seen on a strike, as close to the top corner as you can get and it resulted in a hefty dose of karma for Uruguay and Luis Suarez in particular (see below).
Zinedine Zidane. There aren’t many players (if any at all) who moved around the soccer pitch with as much grace as Zinedine Zidane. Throughout his career, I watched in awe as Zidane controlled games with as much ease as he controlled the ball. His effortless skill, ability to pick a pass and eye for goal made him the complete package and he proved time and time again he could do it on the big stage. France’s success in 1998 was built on a solid defence but Zidane was undoubtedly the key man (not least because of his two goals in the final). It’s no coincidence that France struggled in 2002 without Zidane (he was injured for the first two games) but by 2006 he was back to his best. We’ll all remember the Frenchman’s headbutt in the final against Italy but his performance against Brazil in the quarterfinal was arguably the greatest individual performance at a World Cup. A moment of madness meant his country finished as runners-up but Zidane ended the tournament as the joint- second highest goal scorer and won the Golden Ball (best player at the tournament).
Brazil, 2002. The question of the best team in World Cup history sparked plenty of debate throughout Pinnacle’s offices in the build-up to this year’s tournament in Russia. We even ran The Pinnacle World Cup on Twitter to find out what the consensus was. Funnily enough, my favourite team actually won – the Brazil team from 2002. Despite a poor qualification campaign, Brazil won the 2002 World Cup with relative ease. The return of Ronaldo (he notched an impressive eight goals in the tournament) helped Brazil become only the third team in history to win every game at a World Cup (and the first in the extended format). They had a front line of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. What more do I need to say?
Uruguay v Ghana, 2010. Everyone has seen the highlight reels and most of us probably own a VHS or DVD of “The Greatest World Cup Games of All Time” and although there are plenty to choose from, I wanted to pick one that I vividly remember. It was by no means a game of high quality soccer and I’m not a fan of Luis Suarez’s gamesmanship but purely based on the drama I’ve gone for Uruguay vs. Ghana in 2010. After 120 minutes of tense quarterfinal action and almost unbearable vuvuzela-blowing, the match was level at 1-1 and destined to go to penalties. Ghana created one final chance that Suarez did well to initially block on the line but he decided to save the rebound effort with his hands and was sent off (Jorge Fucile was just in front of Suarez and also tried the same thing but missed). Of course, Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty that followed and Ghana lost the penalty shoot-out 4-2.
Cameroon, 2002. I think the 1980’s through to the late 90’s was a great period for international kits (and that’s why we’ve seen a lot of teams this year favouring a retro style design). I do really like Germany’s away strip for this year’s tournament, but I’ll have to pick Cameroon’s 2002 home kit for reasons beyond aesthetics. I remember being shocked at seeing Cameroon in a sleeveless basketball jersey-like top prior to the 2002 World Cup. When they lined up for their first game, the kit looked similar to the sleeveless one but actually had black sleeves (after being banned from wearing a sleeveless kit by FIFA, it was Cameroon’s creative way of protesting against the decision).
The World Cup’s Finest is to be a regular feature during the Russia World Cup, profiling a different individual each week day, if you would like to be involved please email [email protected].