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.
Leading The World Cup’s finest into the final three is Jonathon Hurst, Kambi’s Head of Live Football, who reveals a soft spot for the 1998 hosts, a penchant for many of the great goals scored over the years and why his first World Game attended was a very memorable one indeed.
Favourite World Cup
Ronaldo. In 2002 it was not a vintage tournament in terms of quality, but Brazil swept everyone aside with ease, and Ronaldo was untouchable. His haircut may have been questionable, but there were no such doubts about his position as the best striker in the world following a tournament where he helped himself to eight goals, including two in the final victory over Germany.
David Beckham (England v Argentina, 2002). It may seem crazy to pick a penalty, but David Beckham’s against Argentina in 2002 was so symbolic in nature having waited four long years for his redemption after the sending off in ’98. Other notable mentions must go to Dennis Bergkamp for his technique (also against Argentina in ’98), Joe Cole’s volley from 35 yards out against Sweden in 2006, and Tim Cahill against the Netherlands in 2014 – I like to think the bar is still shaking from that one.
France, 1998. Perhaps it’s because it was the first World Cup in which I was fully immersed, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the French side that won on home soil in ’98. Many of the players went onto, or were already, plying their trade in the Premier League and they were supported by the mercurial Zinedine Zidane, who just made it all tick. I’d like to think that Zizou is remembered more for his final winning goals in ’98 than his headbutt in the final 8 years later. A special mention must go out to the Romanian team of 1998 for their memorable bleached blonde haircuts!
Netherlands v Spain, 2014. I was lucky enough to have been in Salvador for the Dutch destruction of Spain in 2014. It was the first World Cup match I’d ever attended and to see Spain, the reigning holders, beaten 5-1 was incredible. From the moment Robin Van Persie scored the outrageous header to start the rout, the whole stadium was united in support for the Netherlands. The Spanish were left shell-shocked and ultimately made an early departure from the tournament.
Brazil, 1998. The current Nigeria kit has many admirers, but I’m going further back to the ’98 World Cup and the ‘Joga Bonito’ Brazil kit. It was the breakout tournament for Ronaldo and that yellow jersey with green trim and blue shorts teamed with his R9 boots elevated him to iconic status. It’s just a shame that his tournament was overshadowed by the drama and mystery around his non-performance in the final.
First World Cup memory
17 July, 1994 (World Cup Final). Being sent to bed at half time of the ’94 final and waking up the next morning hearing about the Baggio penalty miss from my older brother. In my defence, I was only five years old!
The World Cup’s Finest is to be a regular feature during the Russia World Cup, profiling a different individual each week day.