The World Cup Alphabet – F is for…

Image result for Gustavo Berocan Veiga World Cup Alphabet

…FINALS

 

No game quite stops (and then let’s down) a world audience quite like the World Cup Final.

 

Since 1930 there have been 19 finals of the World Cup in 20 tournaments. Brazil V Uruguay in front of 120,000 or so at the Maracana did decide the winner but it was part of a round robin to decide the winner to doesn’t really count as memorable as it was.

 

World Cup Finals are events that swamp powergrids at half time when the kettle is put on and dwell in the memory good or bad for player and fan alike. There’s even been a political film made surrounding the 1982 Cup Final called, unsurprisingly, “Cup Final” involving the Israel v Lebanon conflict where an Israeli and his Palestine captor bond over football.

 

Four of the 19 finals have been held in South America. 10 of the 19 in Europe. 2 in Central America, 1 in the US along with 1 in Japan and 1 in South Africa. Wembley has held a final. As has the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The Stadio Olympico in Rome. Rio’s Maracana. The Rose Bowl that could show it could pack it out for more than College Football. All famous stadia with another string to add to their bows.

 

Of the 38 finalists there have been 12 different finalists and eight different winners in all. Germany (West or Reunified) have made the final eight times, Brazil six times along with Italy. Uruguay and Spain have been there and one every time. Teams have also made the final but never won. The Dutch three times, Czechs twice and unfortunate Hungarians twice. Sweden as hosts also almost went all the way in 1958 if not for Pele and Brazil.

 

A total of 78 goals have been scored in the 19 finals at a staggering average of over four goals per game. While the games were initially always high scoring affairs the last truly great final was in 1986 when Argentina won 3-2. This was after the Germans had come back from 2-0 down to equalise late in the game but would ultimately wilt to one last piece of wizardry from Maradona.

 

Since then games have been all cloak and dagger. Defensive. Dour. The physical demand of playing games four days apart finally starts to effect performances as well as having the psyche of not wanting to make a mistake that would live on in infamy. The 1990 Final was a horrible mess, 1994 the first 0-0 draw. 1998 saw France cream Brazil but Brazil weren’t being Brazil. 2002 was great for its redemption story for Ronaldo but 2006 saw the end of Zidane with his famous headbutt as Italy prevailed in a spiteful clash.

 

2010 warmed the hearts with Nelson Mandela doing a lap of honour before the game in what would be his last public appearance and Spain won for the first time but again the game lacked action. As did the last final in 2014, an extra time goal needed to split Germany and Argentina. There have been penalty shootouts twice in the history of the final. 1994 when Robbie Baggio skied his shot and then in 2006 when David Trezuguet’s costly miss gave the Italians their fourth title.

 

There have been 62 bookings in World Cup Finals and 5 send offs. Martin Peters in 1966 was the first ever to get booked after the system was introduced. The first player sent off was the Argentine Pedro Monzon in 1990. A teammate followed some 15 minutes later. In 2010 an amazing eight bookings were dished out to the Dutch players along with a red card as they tried to hack their way to an inaugural victory.

 

In total, 422 players have played in a World Cup Final with a number in two or three. 72 have scored in a final. Much like many putting on a Green Jacket at Augusta or riding the winner at Flemington on a certain Tuesday it’s a rare club to be a World Cup Winner. An event every four years with only one team and 23 players victorious. No wonder they play it safe. Let’s we have more 1986 rather than 1994 in July.

 

…FOUR TIMES. FOUR GOALS?

 

When Tim Cahill goes to Russia next month (providing the Caltex campaign is still going) he will join an elite group if he gets on the pitch. To make one World Cup is special, to make two memorable. Three shows what a player you have been. But four as an outfield player? Keepers have made plenty but their contribution physically is not as great more often than not. No offence keepers and especially Patrick Battison who had his face rearranged by an errant West German hip bone in 1982.

 

Over a dozen have played in four world cups and not been keepers. Greats like Maradona, Pele, Mattheus, Charlton, Scifo, Maldini, Ronaldo, Cafu, Henry, Klose et al have all played a part but to score in four different World Cups? If Cahill manages to score (and by the power of Caltex let’s pray he does) then he joins only three other players to score in four world cups.

 

There’s Pele of course. You may have heard of him for more than impotence ads. There’s also Miroslav Klose, the holder of the record for most goals scored at the tournament. Then there’s also Uwe Seeler, a countryman of Klose, who did the feat. For a country that doesn’t have any real footnotes in the history of the sport with the exception of beating up on American Samoa it would be something to have Cahill do this feat.

 

…FREE KICKS

 

Billy Bragg has said many things that had an impact with me in my bitter wannabe commy existence. Yet, his comment, “There is no real substitute for a ball struck squarely” has resonated most of all. Perhaps because The Bard of Barking was also the admirer of a great free kick.

 

Australia hasn’t really had that joy at a world cup of a fantastic kick curling around a wall and desperate keeper bursting the back of the net. We’ve been on the end of one though when Dario Srna for Croatia in ‘that game in Stuttgart’ hit a free kick so powerful it bounced off the back of the net like it had hit a brick wall.

 

There is something about a special free kick. The way the ball is hit either flat on the valve to avoid causing spin or curling it in to a place ‘where the spiders live’. When hope is lost someone can come up and score a world beater. While unlucky with penalties, free kicks have saved England’s bacon at times. Beckham’s goal against Greece to send the team to Japan/Korea 2002 was one of these. As was David Platt’s against Cameroon in 1990 to avoid penalties. A moment where that split second from ball being hit to ball going in sends the masses in to raptures.

 

Ronaldinho in 2002 caught the English napping though. His audacious free kick wasn’t full of power and fury, just mere opportunism as he chipped David Seaman in goal. Hristo Stoichkov in 1994 hit a thunderbastard of a shot to help knock the champs Germany off in a shock result in 1994. Leo Messi showed he could do anything with his masterful strike against Nigeria. The list is endless.

 

Then there’s the cheeky, well worked free kicks like Sweden against Spain in 1994 and Four years later when the Argies outsmarted England. Something planned in a training ground being worked to perfection.

 

A wonderful part of the game. A part of the game than can be altered, messed with, bent to the will of the free kick taker. Let’s hope there’s moments like that in Russia.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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