The World Cup Alphabet – E is for…



I think 99.9% of us set foot in the G, the most iconic of Australian Stadiums, for whatever it may have been. A part of our sporting DNA, the mecca of Australian Sport. Stadiums the world over seen on television and in the flesh for World Cups have taken on a legend of their own in some regards. All as unique and memorable as the players that played inside of them.


The venue for the original World Cup in 1930 has been synonymous with Australia as well as the history of the tournament. The Estadio Centenario was built to celebrate the centenary of the Uruguayan Constitution and is still used to this day. A massive bowl without roofs and a moat around the edge to keep the locals at bay. The atmosphere is white hot with even Brazil only winning there on 3 occasions over the years.


Australia played there in 2001 doomed to a 3-0 defeat not being able to handle the atmosphere. Four years later we knew what to expect and only lost 1-0 in a first leg before beating Uruguay back on our patch on that famous night.


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Tony Vidmar in tears after the 2001 capitulation.


Another famous stadium is the Maracana in Rio. It holds the world record for the biggest crowd for a football game (199,854) and is a symbol of South American Football. It was also used for the 2014 World Cup Final and 2016 Olympics after major refittings. Since then though it has somehow fallen in to disrepair with the grass on the pitch dying, vandalism by people doing the stadium tours and the power being shut off due to the non payment of bills. This is down to a dispute between Olympics organisers and contractors. A sad time for an icon.


The San Siro in Milan never hosted a final but hosted some epic games in 1990 including the opener when Cameroon upset Argentina. It also hosted the fiery stoush between West Germany and Holland in the second round. An amazing venue with it’s four pillars and unique roofing revered the world over by fans. The famous grounds of Barcelona  (Camp Nou) and Real Madrid (The Bernebau) both held games in 1982. The unique and unloved Stade’ Veledrome in Marseilles held games in in 1998 including England’s opener and a Semi Final. It’s open features copping winds off the Mediterranean and roasting people in their seats before renovations.


Innovation came to later World Cups too. Then were the indoor stadiums in Detroit (1994),  Sapporro (2002) and Gelsenkirchen (2006) but the one probably loved most is the famous Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The love comes for many reasons. A sprawling towering bowl it has seen some of the tournament’s great moments. There’s the famous 4-3 semi final between Italy and West Germany in 1970 and the 1970 final that saw one of the great teams in Brazil. There’s also the Maradona show in 1986 including that win over England, their semi final and final wins.


The place could also jam in many folk whenever the Pope rolled in to town or a band like U2 visited. One of the great iconic sporting structures the world has ever seen.


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The Azteca in 1986. One of the great stadiums in sport (and Pope visits).


While we have the ‘G, Australians will also remember the Fritz Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern. It was the scene of our famous win over Japan and heartbreaking loss to Italy. A unique stadium on top of a tall hill overlooking the city like a haunted house. The walk up the incline on the way to the ground full of anticipation and knowing we would see history of some kind good or bad will live long in the memories of many.




Yes, okay, Christiano Ronaldo will go down as one of the greats of Portuguese and World Football but did he have the charm, power and backstory of ‘The Black Pearl’ Eusebio?


Benfica coach Bela Guttman acted on a tip and flew down to Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) to check out a new striker. He never would have thought he ended up signing one of the greatest strikers to ever play. Eusebio Da Silva Ferriera was only 19 when he moved to Portugal and immediately stunned Europe with a European Cup win in 1962 Two goals to help knock off the giants Real Madrid in a 5-3 win no less.


For Benfica he also scored more than a goal a game in the competitive Portuguese league (319 goals in 313 appearances) and was one of the top strikers in Europe with his ability to run hard, use skill and not have to rely on supply. When Portugal qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1966 it was time for Eusebio to shine on the world stage for his ‘mother’ country after being crowned European player of the year the year before.


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In England in 1966 he was unstoppable. He scored against Bulgaria and then twice against the back-to-back champs Brazil to send them on their way out at the group stage. In the quarter finals Portugal were down 3-0 to that mysteriously efficient North Korean side 3-0 before Eusebio scored four times as the Portugese won 5-3.


Their run would come to an end in the semis against England but he scored in that game and then in the third placed play off to earn the Golden Boot and Portugal’s best ever result in a World Cup. Sadly, this would be the only time we’d see the great man at the World Cup with his country failing to qualify for 1970 and 1974. This didn’t stop him at club level winning 12 league titles, five cups and two European cups with Benfica.


Tragically the affable legend died in 2014 from a sudden heart attack. A player loved by all.




In the early nineties Colombia was a cesspool of violence and drugs rooted deep in the psyche of the nation. Leading in to the 1994 World Cup they had a hell of a national team though. The side had blasted Argentina out of the water 5-0 IN Argentina to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Pele said they’d win the whole thing, many agreed seeing as the tournament was being held in the unknown waters of the USA.


We all know that didn’t happen. Hagi brilliance against the run of play saw Romania beat Colombia in the first game and then came the second game, a match still burned in to the memories of football fans. Against the hosts USA, Colombia again went on the attack and the Americans grimly hung on with Balboa clearing off the line early in the match and his defensive partner Lalas holding sway. On the half hour disaster struck for Colombia.


The US attacked down the right with Harkes crossing in trying to find Stewart. Getting to the ball before Stewart was a lunging defender Andres Escobar who managed to get a foot to the ball to deflect out of the way of Stewart. Unfortunately the ball also beat the keeper and went in to the net as an own goal. Despair for Escobar and his team as they went down 2-1 and out of the tournament after one more game.


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Instead of being limited to blooper videos and highlight docos about their failure Colombia would be in the news again. Ten days after the players returned to Colombia there was a shooting. Escobar, who sat in a local bar in Medellin, was dragged into an argument with three people. One of them, Humberto Castro Munoz, was the driver of a man from Medellin who had allegedly lost money from this game and decided to kill Escobar. The murderers took Andres outside to the parking lot and then Castro shot 12 times and killed the 27-year-old.


The details of the killing didn’t end there. After every shot, Castro screamed “GGGooaalll” like the South American commentators. He was arrested soon after and sentenced to the jail for 43 years in 1995. In 2001, his punishment was reduced to 23 years and it was even more disgraceful when he was released from prison on October 2005 for good behavior, only 11 years since he took the life of an innocent person. The judge’s name wasn’t published because the angry Colombian public might try to hurt him for having released Castro.


The news of the death caused shockwaves around the world, even in non-footballing countries such as Australia. Some of you could perhaps remember Lex Marinos being disgusted when finding out live on ABC TV. Even the Americans with their culture of gun violence were in shock. It was not known if Escobar had been shot because one of the gambling syndicates had put money on Colombia to get out of the group, drug dealers who were involved with such syndicates or the man being a crazed fan.


The whole incident did not make Colombia shake their stereotype with the death but Colombian football fans came out in their droves for the funeral as a showing of solidarity over what happened. 120,000 in all attended the service with placards for Escobar and handmade signs proclaiming they would not bow down to the violence of the criminal element in their country. To this day football fans still dress up Escobar’s grave with flags and scarves. The BBC were also forced to broadcast an apology after former Liverpool defender, pundit and general dickhead Alan Hansen had said “That Argentinian defender needs shooting for a mistake like that”.


Image result for Andres Escobar grave


Andres’s father, Dario Escobar, never recovered from his son’ s death. He founded an organization of football which prevented young children from being in the streets and gave them the opportunity to play football. He was deeply depressed by the judge’s decision to release the murderer in 2005 and said that “unfortunately Colombia doesn’t have justice system”. He passed away on January 2008 at the age of 77.


Andres also has a brother, the coach Santiago “Sachi” Escobar Saldarriaga. Santiago led Atletico Nacional to win the championship in 2005. The sport suffered in Colombia following the tragedy too. While Colombia made it to France 98 they were again eliminated in the first round and then spent years in the football wilderness except for the hosting of the Copa America that was weighed down with security and paranoia. The heroics of their 2014 campaign in Brazil soothed some of the pain felt since 1994. To this day it’s a chilling moment from the World Cup.


Descanse en paz Andres.





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.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    A splendid instalment in your riveting series on the WC, Dennis. Many thanks.

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