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’s entry from Endre Nesset, Director of Sports at Gaming Innovation Group, delves into the history of numerous World Cup’s of yesteryear, with notable inclusions being made by Mustapha Hadji, Jay Jay Okocha, Maxi Rodriguez and stylish Italians.
First World Cup memory
10 June 1998 (Morocco v Norway). After only having the memory of Gareth Southgate from Euro 96, I had been collecting Panini stickers and reading up in magazines for months to prepare for the 1998 World Cup in France. I will never forget the sexy step-overs from Mustapha Hadji, and poor Dan Eggen (Norwegian centre-back) must still be dizzy wherever he is today. Overall Norway was lucky to equalize twice, and got a good start to the tournament that later was gonna give us the most memorable moment in Norwegian sport history, when we turned the game from being 0-1 down to winning 2-1 in the last ten minutes against Brazil.
Favourite World Cup
Zinedine Zidane. There are so many. I already mentioned Mustapha Hadji from Morocco. Mexico’s Blanco and his signature move the Cuauhtemiña is another, and so is Erik Mykland. I grew up with Michael Laudrup and Gabriel Batistuta on the wall as a kid, so they also deserve to be mentioned. It is however impossible to not mention my favourite player of all time, Zinedine Zidane. He was simply the best player at his time, and his 2006 performance in the world cup knockout rounds speaks for itself. This list became quite long. Add Paraguay’s goalie Jose Luis Chilavert and we have a pretty cool five-a-side team for next years SBC tournament at Stamford Bridge.
Nigeria, 1998. My first World Cup, and this was the first team that really “wowed” me. I didn’t know many of the players at the time, but looking back at it now it all makes sense. Celestine Babayaro, Taribo West, Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh and Victor Ikpeba all led by the man that was so good they had to name him twice – Jay Jay Okocha!
Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina v Mexico, 2006). I remember this game very well, as it was early days in my betting career and I had a position on unders. After two early goals and massive chances both ways we somehow miraculously got there for one of the most undeserved winners in history with 1-1 at final whistle. Looking at the Argentina lineup with Riquelme, Aimar, Saviola, Crespo, Tevez and Messi you should think they had some goals in them, but they needed a thunder strike volley from Maxi Rodriguez to secure the win, before they went on to lose against Germany as usual in the semis. That first touch with his chest is out of this world.
Spain v Holland, 2014. Diego Costa had just been cleared to play for Spain and he was supposed to complete one of the greatest teams ever, but Holland wanted it differently. Daley Blind and Stefan de Vrij looked like world class wing backs, and magic moments from Van Persie and Robben made sure Holland won 5-1. Spain never recovered and was sent home in shame after going home in the group stage.
Italy, 2002. You can’t go wrong with Italian fashion, and their plain 2002 World Cup shirts became a instant personal favourite. I actually still have a shirt at home, but it seems to have shrunken over the years, as it no longer fits. Unfortunately for both Italy and the kit, they faced a tougher challenge than expected against South Korea (and the refs) in the first knockout round and got knocked out after overtime.
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].