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.
Ionut Chepeneag, Social Media Manager at KamaGames, begins a new week of delving into the World Cup history books, offering a slight Romanian tinge to proceedings. Who was the greatest Romanian footballer of all time? Which colourful South American keeper was admired by millions? And which rout for a host nation paid sweepstake dividends? Find out below.
First World Cup memory
17 June – 17 July (World Cup, USA). My first World Cup memory goes back to 1994. I was 10 years old and I remember staying with my grandparents from time to time. During World Cup USA ’94, I was in their home for two weeks of my summer holiday. I was so mesmerised by the quality of the football I saw being played by (most of) the teams and seeing players such as Stoichkov, Batistuta, Balbo, Klinsmann, Brolin, Hagi, Baggio, Romario, and many, others started my love and passion for the game.
I remember staying up late the night of the final between Brazil and Italy and because it was so late and I couldn’t watch the TV because my grandparents were sleeping, I had to listen to the game on the radio. Imagine having to listening to a penalty shoot-out on the radio, can you imagine anything more painful!?
Favourite World Cup
Gheorghe Hagi (Romania vs Colombia, 1994). Such a stunner! The 2nd goal scored by Romania against Colombia in ’94 was Hagi’s magnificent long range shot from approximately 35 metres, which left Colombia’s goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba daydreaming. This goal is easily on the first place in my top 10 World Cup goals without being biased. Or maybe I am? What do you think?
Romania, 1994. For most of the football fans this was, without a doubt, the best performance from Romania in any tournament. The group was a pretty tough one, winning against Colombia (3-1), USA (1-0) and losing pretty harshly against Switzerland 1-4, but 6 points were enough to win the group. The next round was against Argentina with an incredibly strong world class team, which, in front of 21 million fans, we beat 3:2. A victory against a team like Argentina was already seen as a success.
As they say, all good things come to an end, which was the game against Sweden, and one of the saddest moments of my life as a football supporter. It was 1-1 after 90 minutes and because there was no golden goal rule back in ’94, our goal from the 101th minute didn’t send us directly in the semi-finals. Kennet Anderson managed to equalize in only 4 minutes after Raducioiu’s second goal of the game. 2-2 after extra time and penalties were about to decide the winner. We lost after missing two out of five penalties. It didn’t matter that much, we all knew that this was our Golden Generation and their performance was incredible. They made us all proud!
Brazil v Germany, 2014. It was the first World Cup I watched in Ireland after relocating here. The guys in my new company were running a sweepstake for the World Cup and I got Germany. We were watching most of the games in our canteen on the projector and I remember watching this one and not being able to believe my eyes. Seeing Germany beating Brazil 7-1 was nothing short of crazy.
Gheorghe Hagi. Was the greatest Romanian football player of all time, and one of the best attacking midfielders from Europe during the 1980s and ‘90s. I remember watching all of his games with the national team and the most of the important club games too. I’ve always respected him as a player and as captain of the national team. He was one of my childhood heroes and later on I actually had the opportunity to work with him on a couple of projects dedicated to the development of junior players from Romania.
Mexico (Jorge Campos, 1994 and 1998). This guy was always one of my favourite players from USA ‘94 and France ’98, and that’s mainly because of his playing kit and his professional attitude as a football player. He was a true legend and a person admired by millions of people. Whenever I had the chance, I was always trying to watch Mexico’s games and cheer for Campos.
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].