Last week, I wrote about the stand-out moments from the first five World Cup finals that I remember, namely those from 1974 through to 1990. Despite the latest of those being twenty-four years ago, I can still recall many of the incidents vividly.
It is the same with FA Cup Finals. I can still reel off the protagonists and scores of each final from the first one I watched live in 1970 all the way through to about 1995, or 1996. With a little memory mining, I could probably list 80% of the goal scorers, too. Beyond the mid-90s, though, would be a struggle. This might be partly because most of the trophies from then onwards have been won by one of around five of the big clubs and, as a result, they all merge into one. It could be that, or more likely the fact that this was the period of my life when I was probably drinking the most.
My memories of recent World Cup finals follows the same pattern. From 1994 though to the last one four years ago in South Africa, there are far less incidents that spring to mind than did for the ones in the twenty years previous. This may well have been that those competitions were just far less exciting and memorable than the earlier tournaments. Or, again, it could be due to the drink. Anyway, see if you can remember more than me – I really struggled without a helping nudge from Google and Wikipedia.
1994, USA – Thanks to Graham Taylor and his “Do I not like that” qualifying campaign, England managed to miss out on the finals completely. It goes without saying that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland missed out too and, consequently, many people became honorary Republic of Ireland fans for the month. (Well, we get pissed on St Patrick’s Day for no apparent reason so why not support a country that have nothing whatsoever to do wit us?) Ray Houghton’s goal against Italy sticks in the mind, though not as much as Diana Ross’s missed ceremonial penalty before the opening game, Diego Maradona being sent home for failing a drugs test or Colombia’s Andres Escobar being shot and killed just after the tournament for scoring an own goal. I like that idea. We should adopt this policy for Thursday Night Football.
1998, France – England were back in the World Cup fold in ’98 and things got off to a controversial start before the tournament began when Paul Gascoigne trashed his La Manga hotel room after being told he hadn’t made the squad to travel to France. Glenn Hoddle’s campaign improved slightly when Michael Owen scored a wonder goal against Argentina only for David Beckham to bring the whole thing crashing down by kicking out at Diego Simeone and getting himself sent off. There was enough going on in that one game to make me completely forget the rest of the tournament.
2002, South Korean and Japan – This was my first experience – and, I guess, most other people’s – experience of a World Cup in the East and the early morning kick-offs that went with it. I recall one of the England group games clashing with a project steering meeting in the London office of the company I worked for at the time. Myself, the MD and the HR Manager flew down to London the night before, had a full English on the way in to the office in the morning and were sat in the boardroom watching the build-up at half-seven. One match and half a dozen cans later, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and jibbed the meeting altogether in favour of flying straight back to Liverpool. I was home by three o’clock. What a great World Cup. Can’t actually remember who won it.
2006, Germany – This was the World Cup that the so-called Golden Generation of English football was supposed to shine and cover the country in glory. In the end, all that they and their “celebrity” wives and girlfriends gave us was a constant stream of tabloid tit-bits. I still get a little bit sick in the mouth when I think about Jamie Carragher’s cousin/brother/dad/some other male relative and john Terry’s mum. On the pitch, Wayne Rooney did a Beckham and got himself sent off, Zinedine Zidane got himself sent off for head-butting an Italia for saying something about John Terry’s mum and Croatia’s Josep Simunic managed to stay on the pitch despite English referee Graham Poll brandishing three yellow cards at him.
2010, South Africa – The pre-tournament tabloid panic was all about how many tourists were going to be mugged, stabbed or shot in the hell-hole that was South Africa and who was going to shag John Terry’s mum. As it happened , the gravest danger to life, limb and eardrum was the infuriatingly intrusive vuvuzela – a cross between an enormous kazoo and an angry beehive. The only consolation was that their constant droning on the tele drowned out Clive Tyldesley’s commentary. On the pitch, the major controversy centered around the actual tournament ball, the Jubulani. Players complained that it didn’t fly in the direction they intended. Finally, something that played to the English team’s strengths and we still couldn’t get past the last 16. Ah yes, the last 16 match when the failure to award Frank Lampard a definite goal meant we lost to Germany. Yes that, and the fact that the Germans scored four goals and totally played us off the park.
See you on Copacabana beach in a mankini – Griff