I have watched many football games and some have been pure joy and etched in my memory forever. Despite the passage of time, the images are still vivid as if the games were played yesterday.
The 1982 world cup was the first world cup I watched live on TV and the game between Brazil and Italy was a game for the ages. Italy needed a win to progress while a draw will be enough for Brazil. It was a talented Brazilian team with Zico, Falcao and the late Socrates. But the Brazilians did not reckon with the supreme poacher Paolo Rossi. In fact most of the world didn’t as he was just back from a two-year ban and had not scored a goal thus far. Rossi went on to grab a hat trick in a thrilling 3 – 2 Italian win.
It was in 1982 I fell in love with the Italian game; patient, pragmatic and decisive when it matters. After dispatching Brazil, Italy beat Poland 2 – 0 enroute to the final where Germany was waiting. Cabrini missed a first half penalty, the first miss in a final game. It was inevitably Rossi that fired the Italians in front in the 57th minute. Tardelli made it 2 – 0 and celebrated in a memorable fashion; he ran across the field with pure joy and disbelief on his face that one can still remember it. Altobelli made it safe at 3 – 0 before the Germans grabbed a consolation in the 83rd minute through Breitner.
Another game I vividly remember was the Champions League final between Milan and Barcelona. The Catalans were favorites but crashed spectacularly to Milan who were without Van Basten and Baresi. The game was over in less than an hour as Milan cruised to a 4 – 0 lead with 2 goals from Massaro, and one each from Savicevic and Desailly. Despite winning the champions league again in 2003 and 2007, Milan have since lost their allure while Barcelona had to wait until 2006 to win the champions league again.
A more recent and balanced game was the world cup final between Spain and Holland. Played in Johannesburg, it was the first world cup on African soil and we were guaranteed a first time winner as neither two have won the cup in the past. The Dutch were in their third final while the Spaniards were in their first. The Dutch adopted a robust style hoping to disrupt the slickly Spaniards and almost succeeded. The only goal of the game came in extra time in the 116th minute. A pass from Fabregas found Iniesta in space in the box who then blasted in the most important goal of his career. The Spaniards were world champions for the first time.
The next world cup is in Brazil and we are guaranteed a spectacle. The Brazilians are favorites on home soil though Spain, Argentina, Germany and Holland will have something to say.