Monday, June 07, 2010

My Past World Cup Experiences

7th June 2010, Monday

4 days to the big football bonanza which comes once every 4 years...the World Cup!
Excitement filled me as I contemplated on how to keep myself awake for some wee hours matches for the next few weeks.
Applying is the top option and I have catered a few days (yah not more than 4-5 days) to be taken strategically

Would be backing a few favorites for this tournament but would love a fairy tale dark horse story much like Turkey-South Korea in 2002 and less like Greece in Euro 2004.
Thank goodness for the time zone from South Africa (which is around an hour off the GMT) means we can at least catch 2 matches comfortably at the 7.30pm and 10.30pm slots.

I still remembered football took a huge chunk of my life since 1993 when I was introduced to Manchester United and the Premier League.
However my World Cup journey began way earlier:

Italia 1990: Remembered a famed local Mandarin DJ cum commentator kept stressing the name "Ba Jiao" which is a direct translation of Roberto Baggio of the Azzurri., otherwise it was Carlos Valderama's mop that really drew alot of entertainment back then.
Struggled to stay up to catch Maradona and his Argentine contingent reclaiming the cup from West Germany but went down to an Andreas Brehme's penalty. Dozed off halfway through despite RTM's attempt to keep people interested with one of the Star Wars films.

USA 1994: Fully exposed to the intensity of the World Cup held by the land of the global big brother who treated "soccer" is a sports for the kids.
Andres Escobar's assassination, Maradona's shameful drug charges, Iordan Letchkov's bald patch and Henrik Larsson's blonde locks were some of the highlights.
The magical strike partnership of Romario and Bebeto took the Selecao into the final but it took missed penalties from Baggio and Franco Baresi gave Brazil their 4th World title.

France 1998: Before the tournament, not many people heard of Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane, how that was to change dramatically.
Missed quite a big chunk because of my military commitment but was glad to catch a few swashbuckling games live including Bergkamp & Kluivert s' combination to eliminate Argentina.
Posh David Beckham was expelled for kicking at a playacting Diego Simeone while Croatia backed by a talented squad with the likes of Sukar, Prosinecki and Boban sent them to the semi finals only to be undone by the hosts especially a particular Lilian Thuram.
A mysterious breakdown by Ronaldo saw him making a last minute entree into Mario Zagallo's line-up but by then the damage was done as the hosts, France demolished the South American giant with a 3-0 hiding.

Japan/ South Korea 2002: Perhaps the most exciting World Cup for me personally. Fresh out of college, I had to make meet's ends by plying trade as a car accessory salesman, so could not catch a lot of early games being played at the same East Asian timezone.
I also went on a Genting trip with the missus back then with out university mates and caught a few matches there as well.
A World Cup for the underdogs saw a resilient Guus Hiddink-led South Korean team ousting the likes of Italy and Spain, while beating Portugal in the group stage. Many remembered the games as biased refereeing favoring the co-hosts.
Japan, USA, Senegal and especially Turkey had a great outing while defending champions France dwindled in the absence of Zidane and knocked out without scoring a goal.
Ronaldo helped Brazil blazed into the final (with Rivaldo's Academy Award winning acting skill against Turkey) with his 8 goals inclusive of the brace in the final itself.
I had footballing chums like Foo and a couple of course mates that kept me very much wrapped in the festivity just north of our island.
Had my hand of gambling (legally) but resulted in me shouting my voice coarse in that semi final duel when Germany nicked a 1-0 win over South Korea.
It was a bad experience for me and I swore off betting on football for life.

Germany 2006 : Not the best timing to start a new job while caught in the World Cup fever.
Remembered a lot of cagey games in this tournament and some of the games did not lived up to its billing.
Netherlands self destructed in the round of 16 against Portugal while Argentina could not get past host Germany in the quarterfinals meaning I really had no one to support by the latter stages.
For France to beat hot favorites Brazil in the Qfinals, signaled the 98 champions are returning to form and another 1-0 feat over Portugal saw them meeting Italy in the final.
Zidane who had set his retirement plan after the finals, went out in disgrace by headbutting foul-mouthed Marco Materazzi which was the most vivid scene from that edition of the World Cup

So what would this year in Africa's first World Cup be like?
Would Spain lived up to their billing or would there be a surprise winner?
Plenty of stars were left out or receded due to injuries, so perhaps the platform for a new Schillaci, Hagi, Suker, Diouf or Podolski to shine out.

4 days and counting then

Japanese word of the day: 選手 ~sen-shu~ (Player) Wonder if Messi would really take this year by storm

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