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.
Read on to hear Sportdec CEO Bruce Bale discuss a nearly moment for England, a duo of 1994 kit highlights and what stood Roger Milla out from the crowd.
First World Cup memory
11 June 1990 (England v Ireland, Costa Rica v Scotland). My earliest recollection of the World Cup, three of the home nations playing on the same day, including two against each other. Scotland lost 1-0 to a then less well known Costa Rica (who progressed to the knockout stages behind group winners Brazil) while England and Ireland played out a 1-1 draw, with goals from Gary Lineker and Kevin Sheedy, eventually finishing first and second, knocking out the Netherlands.
Favourite World Cup:
Roger Milla (Cameroon). Recalled to the side at the age of 38 for the 1990 World Cup, having made his debut in 1973 and playing his first of three World Cups in 1982, he went on to make another third appearance in 1994 – my pick not only for his age, but also his goals, and of course the celebration that followed.
Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands v Argentina, 1998). Closely followed by Michael Owen v Argentina (also 1998) and Claudio Canigggia v Brazil (1990), Bergkamp’s control and sublime finish to take Holland into the semi finals was the epitome of what a great goal looks like.
England, 1990. The closest England has come in my lifetime to World Cup glory. Doggedly progressed to the semi final while only winning one game in normal time (1-0 versus Egypt in their final group match), the side led by Sir Bobby Robson embodied the spirit of never giving up, and came within 2 penalty kicks of reaching the final.
England v Cameroon, 1990. Facing the first African side to reach the quarter finals, England again needed extra time (having beaten Belgium with a David Platt goal in the 119th minute in the previous round) to reach the final four. Two Lineker penalties recaptured the lead after Cameroon had come back from a goal down to lead 2-1 and came within 7 minutes of knocking England out. Needless to stay it was worth staying up well past bedtime to see the end!
Nigeria, 1994. One of so many that could have been chosen (USA also had a great kit that year), but both kits worn by the Super Eagles did more than just stand out, as they almost reached the quarter finals (losing to eventual finalists Italy), having topped a group that included Argentina and surprise semi-finalists Bulgaria.
The World Cup’s Finest is to be a regular feature during the Russia World Cup, profiling a different individual each week day.