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.
Today we head across the pond to the USA, recently announced as joint hosts (alongside Canada and Mexico), of the 2026 World Cup, where Keith Whyte, Executive Director at the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), gives The World Cup’s Finest an American flavour. Watch the euphoria of a last minute Landon Donovan winner eight years ago, embrace the love for the charismatic Ronaldinho and discover a penchant for the Netherlands.
First World Cup memory
17 June – 17 July 1994 (World Cup, USA). While like many US kids I played soccer up though high school, I didn’t really begin to follow the game until I studied abroad at Leiden University in the Netherlands in 1991. I was hooked and when I returned to the States continued to follow the world game. The first World Cup I really tuned into was 1994. I remember watching Roberto Baggio skying a penalty far over the bar. And of course, Americas first soccer celebrity, defender Alexi Lalas with his flaming red hair and beard, and the horribly cheesy USMNT uniforms in the 1994 WC
Favourite World Cup:
Landon Donovan (USA v Algeria, 2010). Landon’s goal was dramatic for so many reasons. USA was just a minute away from crashing out of the group stage in the 2010 World Cup. The game was tied 0-0 in the 90th minute. Donovan received a 40 yard thrown clearance from the keeper in stride as he sprinted from our own half. He swept the ball ahead and kept going, as another pass found our forward in the box. His shot was saved, but the Algerian goalie coughed up a rebound. Landon arrived to hammer it into the net, having run almost 70 yards to finish the play he started.
Ronaldinho. One of my favourite players to watch in the World Cup was Ronaldinho. So much pressure is placed on the team that it seems many of the players lose their samba-style to the crushing weight of expectations. But not Ronaldinho – he played as he always did with flair, joy and the trademark goofy grin. But he was a lot more than just juggling, his powerful free kick goal against England was one of the best long range shots I’ve seen.
USA, each participating year. My favourite team is USA of course, and it is unforgivable that we did not quality this year especially out of our relatively weak group. Hats off to Costa Rica and Panama, and I was impressed by the passion of the Mexico team. My second team is the Netherlands from attending university there.
Netherlands v Spain, 2014. One of the few times in recent memory when the Dutch team was greater than the sum of their parts, was their 5-1 demolition of a very strong Spanish team in in 2014.
Netherlands, 1974 and 2010. I collect a national team or club jersey from every country I’ve visited. While I have a prized Japan blue primary jersey with flames on the sleeves to celebrate 20 years since they debuted in the World Cup, the best kit has to be one of the Dutch orange & black primary jerseys, either 1974 or 2010.
The World Cup’s Finest is to be a regular feature during the Russia World Cup, profiling a different individual each week day.