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What the World Cup means to me

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I am on countdown. I simply love the World Cup.  I like football a lot, but I am not crazy mad about it.  But the World Cup really gives me goosebumps and I love the atmosphere it creates. There is nothing else like it.  I know there are lots of ladies out there that are preparing to be widowed for a month, but I am not one of them. I am excited and nervous. And I already have my World Cup Wall Chart ready. Really I do. And a sweepstake for work.

Outside of the World Cup I struggle to find other nations leagues or internationals watchable. But during the World Cup I will watch as many matches as I can.  Maybe that’s just weird. But it’s true.

My first full submersion into a World Cup was Mexico 1986. And I still maintain to this day that this was one of the best tournaments ever, certainly my favourite by far.  Probably the nostalgia, but it really lit my football fire.  I was also utterly in love with Gary Lineker. (Something I have definitely grown out of, I may add).  Obviously ’86 will forever be known as Maradonna’s ‘Hand Of God’ cheating bastard handball goal, but for me, it was an introduction to a wonderful sporting tournament that I still love today.

I was 14 and regularly cutting out pics of Lineker to add to my diary, following their preparation and first group matches.  I was literally tearful when they lost their first match, sniggered at Ray Wilkins chucking the ball at the goalie, and didn’t really care when Bryan Robson was injured as I didn’t fancy him. But then they played Poland – winning 3-0, courtesy of my hero with his bandaged hand (think he sprained it getting out of the hotel pool.)

I loved all the new names I learned that year (with the exception of the Argentinian Midget) – Laudrup, Platini, Josimar, Bats, Zico

The France v Brazil games was amazing – my first real penalty shoot out, heart in mouth.

We then beat Paraguay – my boy scoring another two – Golden Booted Beau that he was. Then it was the infamous match Argentina, which we all know what happened. And I will add that the other goal, was truly the most amazing goal. I can admit that much. JUST.

1990 saw us in Italia – of course that was the year of Gazza’s tears and Lineker pointing his ‘keep your eye on him’. It was a goal drought of a tournament – an anti-climax after the last one.  And of course an advancement on my penalty shoot-out education with the mulleted Waddle and the pitifully sad English Bulldog Pearce.

We had a poor group stage – starting a trend maybe? – and qualified with one win. Beat Belgium and Cameroon to meet Germany in the penalty nightmare semi-final.

Who who can forget Roger Milla with his wiggle, Cameroon were engaging!  The Voller and Rijkaard ‘gobbing’ incident (it actually dripped off his wet look mullett *eeeew*)  And on my birthday that year Ireland beat Romania on penalties – that was a celebration to behold!

We came fourth that year, playing for third place, we lost to Italy and Biaggio scored against us – a name that would be bigger in the 94 World Cup. (although we did win the fair play trophy that year!)

I can’t talk about the ’94 World Cup. Because of Orange and a linesman, we didn’t go. I did kinda adopt Jackie and the Irish lads, but my heart wasn’t in it. Moments I do remember from USA94 are still vivid. It seemed to be a tournament of scandal as well – Maradonna’s failed drug test, Escobar’s own goal and then murder days later.  The final between Brazil and Italy was goaless and decided again on penalties – where Baggio sobbed into his pony-tail.

I did love 1998 again – in Paris – (don’t think Ulrika Jonnssen has good memories). Golden goal was introduced, our Scottish neighbours decided to come along with us, and scored in their opening match against Brazil! I think we heard the cheers down here.  We finished second in our group, had a fabulous goal from Michael Owen, but again the tournament for us was marred with Becks and his petulant kick at Simeone. France were on fire, Ronaldo was being touted at the new wonderkid on the block and Zidane played a blinder.

The latter ones are not steeped with nostalgia for me yet, maybe they will – but not yet.  I am looking forward to England bucking the trend of late this year…. but I just wish that they looked like they knew each other when they played at the moment…. lets just see what happens….

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