The 2010 World Cup Final will be the tenth that I’ve watched. Here are some memories of the last nine to get you into the mood for Spain’s clash with Holland on Sunday evening.
Unfortunately I can’t remember whether I saw the 1970 final or not. I was only five at the time so may not have done. But I have seen it several times in full since, and of course we have all marvelled at that fourth goal.
So the 1974 final is probably the first I watched live. It felt like such a massive occasion. I can remember supporting Holland against hosts West Germany after watching the brilliant performances of Cruyff, Neeskins and co during the tournament.
English referee Jack Taylor was the centre of attention when he awarded the Dutch a penalty inside two minutes, from which they took the lead. That was the first penalty ever to be awarded in a final, and there wasn’t long to wait for the second: just 23 minutes. Germany equalised from it and went on to win 2 – 1 with legendary striker Gerd Muller scoring the final goal.
1978 saw the Dutch play the hosts once again, this time in Buenos Aires. Perhaps the side was not quite as fluent without Cruyff, who had retired from international football, but they were still a fine team. The atmosphere created by the passionate Argentinian supporters and the snowstorm of paper on the pitch were quite something.
Argentina took a first half lead through the tournament’s top scorer Mario Kempes before a late equaliser from Nanninga took the match to extra time. But the home side took control with a second from Kempes and a clincher from Bertoni to run out 3 – 1 winners.
Madrid was the setting for the 1982 final between Italy and West Germany. I watched the match in France and had been supporting them in the tournament. After German goalkeeper Schumacher’s awful assault on Patrick Battiston in the semi-final I turned my allegiance to the Italians.
After a scoreless first half in which Cabrini became the first player to miss a penalty in a final, Italy took control in the second with goals from Rossi, Tadelli and Altobelli before Breitner’s consolation made the finals score 3 – 1. And the result was celebrated in France as well as Italy.
1986 saw a thrilling final in Mexico City between Argentina and West Germany. The Argentines were inspired throughout the tournament by Diego Maradona, who was at the peak of his considerable powers. His two goals against England in the quarter final were memorable for very different reasons and he scored two more in a semi-final win over Belgium.
Argentina were two goals ahead through Brown and Valdano before Rummenigge and Voller levelled the score. But a late winner from Burruchaga gave the Argentinians a second World Cup triumph.
The 1990 final in Rome saw the Germans gain revenge when Andy Brehme’s late penalty gave them a 1 – 0 win over Argentina. The game was, frankly, awful. The thought of extra time was almost too much to bear, and I can remember willing someone to score.
And the next one was not much better. In 1994 Brazil and Italy battled out a goalless draw in Pasadena, California, before Brazil became the first side to win the World Cup in a penalty shootout.
The 1998 final was a much better match. Hosts France took on a Brazilian side rocked by the late withdrawal of star striker Ronaldo after a reported fit. Two headers from Zidane and a third goal from Petit gave France their first World Cup after an emphatic 3 – 0 win. Zidane was the man, a hero in France. I was in Marseilles not long afterwards and there were pictures of the man everywhere.
2002 saw the World Cup move to the Far East and the final was played in Yokohama, Japan. Brazil won the trophy for a fifth time, beating a now united Germany by 2 – 0 with Ronaldo scoring both goals. Strangely I can’t remember too much about this one apart from the goals.
An all European final in Berlin was the climax of the 2006 tournament. The game will be remembered more for Zinedine Zidane’s sending off for head butting Marco Materazzi that for any of the football. I was appalled that such a great player had ended his career with a moment of utter madness.
For the record, the game finished 1 -1, the scorers being, ironically, Zidane and Materazzi. The Italians took the victory in a penalty shoot-out in which they scored all five penalties while David Trezeguet missed for France.
I have some great memories of past matches. And now the 2010 final is almost here.
Where will it stand in comparison to the others I’ve watched? Will it be a forgettable match? Or will it be one to remember for all of the right reasons?
We will find out on Sunday!