Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rich J's Top 5 90s World Cup Moments

I love the World Cup..who doesn't? Well, Sepp Blatter's trying his best to ruin it, but then that's pretty much what he always has done...allegedly, said Rich, unaware that it's not actually still the 90s er...not! Ha!

Anyway, every World Cup brings highs and lows...more of the latter if you're from these lands, but here I shall give you my own personal top 5 moments from the 3 tournaments that took place in the 90s. Take note, these are not just the best goals or most famous incidents, this is my personal selection of memories from Italia 90, USA 94 and France 98 so yes, John Aldridge kicking off against Mexico may have been funny, but it's been played out so often now, it's just no longer that special.


1. 1990 - Costa Rica V Scotland - Geovanny Jara's Backheel

Look everyone, it's Scotland at the World Cup...Yeah I know I've done joke before, but it's still funny! OK, so maybe not to everyone... Anyway, let's revisit the glory days when they used to get to Round 2...wait, what? They never did?  Ooooooooh....
But seriously, back in 1990, it was quite common for Scotland to be at the World Cup and it was only 12 years prior when those north of the border jetted off to Argentina while those 'back home' sat and watched Archie Gemmill tear Holland a new one.

Their opening match of Italia 90 came against a side with no great expectations and so in the sunshine in Genoa, Scotland, in their garish change strip, looked for a positive start. 4 minutes after the interval, that positivity was looking shakey.

Hector Marchena made a diagonal run before playing in the protagonist, defender Geovanny Jara. In the box, close to the penalty spot, it appeared Jara would turn and shoot, but no. Instead, he immediately rolled the ball into the open space directly behind him, allowing the incoming Juan Arnaldo Cayasso to carefully place the ball past the closing Jim Leighton. Costa Rica continued to defend resolutely and held on, Scotland unable to break through for an equaliser.

Ultimately, this early defeat cost them dear as they ended up exiting at the group stage once more as Costa Rica beat the group's whipping boys Sweden while Scotland lost to a single goal against Brazil in what was a much closer contest than the result could ever suggest.

For me, this just epitomised Scotland's World Cup campaigns. A combination of losing games they should have won, conceding a quirky goal and a brave, ultimately futile performance against a better side.

2. 1994 - Yordan Letchkov's header V Germany

One team who are always at the World Cup, and almost always in the final are Germany. Coming into USA 94 as title holders, they started off in their usual fashion...never looking brilliant, but somehow managing to progress. A lacklustre 1-0 victory over Bolivia in the opening match was followed by a stalemate against Spain. In their final group match, they were 3-0 up against South Korea before almost collapsing as Korea pulled 2 goals back, as they had done against Spain.

A jittery second round tie against Belgium saw yet another late scare and another 3-2 scoreline, which meant they would face Bulgaria in the quarters. While Bulgaria will be remembered as one of the best teams at this tournament, Stoichkov going on to share the Golden Boot with Russia's Oleg Salenko, the fact they were in the quarter finals was quite jammy. Opening the tournament with a 3-0 thrashing from Nigeria, they then dished out their own hiding against Greece...but then again, everyone was doing that. They booked their place after defeating a freshly Maradona-less and already qualified Argentina in the final group match and a penalty shoutout win over Mexico in the 2nd round.

Despite the Germans' shaky start, no-one really expected anything other than yet another semi-final appearance for Deutschland and sure enough, a 47th minute Matthäus penalty put them in the lead. Germany's failure to score a second seemed incidental until a fantastic Stoichkov free kick gave the Bulgarians a sniff of history-making. 3 minutes later, a cross makes its way into the German box. Letchkov escapes his marker and dives for the ball, sending it past the helpless Ilgner. Letchkov's celebration would suggest not even he thought it was going to work, but work it did and the nation of Bulgaria (and pretty much every other nation outside Germany) leaped to their feet with him as they looked forward to the first World Cup semi final without Germany since 1950!

3. 1990 - Maradona Cracks Brazil Open 

Like a nut...a Brazil nut...see!

Despite ultimately reaching the final, Argentina were a shadow of the team that had taken the trophy 4 years earlier in Mexico. Adorned in a rather dated looking Adidas kit, they'd lost their opening match to the totally unfancied Cameroon (an obvious Top 5 moment being Massing's attempted murder of Caniggia), beaten USSR thanks to another piece of Maradona handiwork and drawn with Romania, leaving them in 3rd place and scraping into Round 2.

There they faced Brazil, who conversely had won all of their group matches and were favourites for this all South American tie. A rather turgid game saw relatively few chances, when, with only 10 minutes left, Maradona, in a rare flash of his 86 best, rode several tackles on a run to the edge of the box, before threading a beautiful pass through to Caniggia, who made no mistake in ending the Brazilian dream once more.

Argentina would go on to drain the life out of the remainder of the tournament, playing for penalties in the 1/4 and semi finals, before ironically being defeated from the spot in the Final. Maradona may have ended the tournament in tears, but moments like these just confirmed what could have been.

4. 1990 - ITV Opening Titles & The San Siro!

Ah Italia 90! My first proper World Cup. Home from school on a friday, I sat down to watch the opening match and my mind was about to be blown!

Firstly, Rod Argent's awesome theme tune, Tutti Al Mundo burst onto my screen and I was in love. Cod opera, stirring synth strings and orchestra stabs accompanied bouncing footballs on a map of Italy, all in lovely red, white and green computer graphics. Hello the 90s!

Once the theme tune was over, I was barely recovered when this hoved into view.

This was in the pre-internet days when photos of foreign stadia were like gold dust and the only hint I'd had of what this would look like was my Merlin World Cup 90 sticker album, which only showed it mid construction. The behemoth that is the San Siro remains to this day the ground that has most bowled me over and set off an unhealthy obsession with football grounds that has remained with me ever since. Just look at it! Giant girders, endless spirals, pure brutalist / modernist architecture at its finest. Even now, 23 years later, it still makes me gaze in awe.

Typically, Blogger can't find the youtube clip that exists of the opening titles so it's here instead!

5. 1998 Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!

This is my favourite memory from 1998, not because of the goal itself (I wanted Argentina to win), but for the Dutch commentary that accompanies it. Obviously, this is a retrospective memory as I wasn't watching this in Holland at the time, but who cares? It's still the 2nd best piece of commentary ever, after the excellence of Bryon Butler for Maradona's 'goal of the Century'.

I'll say nothing more about this...just sit back and enjoy the perfect combination of a sublime goal and raw emotion.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World Soccer, (Sega) 1987

My mate Martin and his older brother Darren loved video games and video game consoles. The spare room in their house was like an Aladdin's Cave of computer-based entertainment, and I loved paying them a visit every weekend just to wallow in the splendour of it all.

Their shelves were packed with title after title - good, bad and downright peculiar - and yet strangely only one in particular has stuck in my mind after more than 25 years: World Soccer for the Sega Master System.

There's no reason why it remains so memorable with me other than the fact that the cartridge case was often displayed front-on rather than showing only the spine.

That minimalist cover with the grid and a cartoon-style leg obviously had enduring qualities in the way no manufacturer would dare emulate nowadays. I don't even remember playing the game either, although it's entirely possible that I did. Certainly the evidence that YouTube provides has stirred one or two long-dormant memories in the back of my mind.

So what about the game itself? Essentially this was arcade fare - bright, zingy colours, low resolution and squeaky synthesised music, but par for the course back in 1987. On boot-up, a cheery title screen preceded the playing options which offered the choice of either a regular game of football or a penalty shoot-out competition.

Choosing the former prompted a further screen in which you chose the nationality of your own team and that of your opponent. There were eight countries to choose from covering a wide range of credibility, depending on your viewpoint. Alongside the international heavyweights of Brazil, France, Italy, Argentina and West Germany were the USA and Japan (neither of whom had made any real impact on the World Cup at that point) and Great Britain, a team that didn't actually exist in football terms.

No matter. By selecting the two countries desired, you were treated to a Casio-keyboard rendition of the anthems for both - a nice touch, and one that certainly showed the attention to detail that the team strips lacked. West Germany in yellow shirts?

With the teams picked, it was on with the action as the two sets of six small players ran onto the pitch. The roar of the crowd was as confusing as it was loud. If you've ever held a rolled up newspaper to your ear and listened to a toilet flushing, you'll probably get fairly close to the sound that greeted the teams' arrival.

Once the game was under way, the players scurried around in an appealing fashion, chasing a nicely animated ball that give a simple depiction of rotation and movement. Unfortunately the bounce of the ball was so minimal that you'd have been forgiven for thinking it was filled with concrete. On the positive side, however, it was unlikely you'd have kicked the ball into touch, no matter how hard you'd kicked it.

Unlike the games of today, there weren't many special moves that the players could make other than dribbling, passing, shooting and slide tackling, but there was the possibility of executing an overhead kick in front of goal if you'd timed it right and if you were optimistic enough to think you could score from it.

If you did score, however, the crowd went wild!

(Sorry - 'a bunch of kaleidoscopic ants behind the goal did the lambada.' Well, it amounted to the same thing, really.)

You'd also get to see a digital scoreboard showing the current tallies for both sides, and just as well because the score didn't appear permanently on-screen during the match. The provision of double figures to display both teams' scores was rather redundant too, as the close interplay on the pitch was hardly likely to see one team score ten or more.

Upon completion of a game, there was a lovely little sequence showing a member of the winning team joyfully holding the World Cup trophy aloft while one of the losing team walked up to offer a gentlemanly handshake.

Drawn games were decided by a penalty shoot-out competition, but if you couldn't engineer the score to suit your needs, you could also play the penalties in isolation via the main menu screen. The same setup applied - pick two teams, enjoy the national anthems for as long as you could stand them, then try to plant the ball past the opposition goalkeeper more times than they did it to you.

In this instance we saw the players in all their full-size glory as you controlled either the kick taker or the goalkeeper. Again there was some nice (if basic) animation sequences in which the kicker was seen either sinking to his knees when his shot didn't go in or elatedly doing star jumps when they did.

And that was about it, really. All in all, World Soccer offered simple, easy fun. It wasn't perfect, that's for sure; the pace of the game could've been a little quicker and the ball ought to have rolled and bounced more than it did, but the graphics were vivid and the game was easy to play.

We therefore doff our hat to the imperfect qualities of World Soccer - a good arcade football game that used its charm to win you over in the end.

Check out our other football video game reviews:

Friday, September 6, 2013

James Taylor's Top 5 World Cup Shirts

There I was all set to create a Top 5 Kits article today and then I received this storming selection from James Campbell Taylor of the excellent site JCT. So sit back and enjoy a feast of kit loveliness!

Italy 1990

This kit will always be special for me, not least because it was the first I ever owned. What's remarkable is that it was the same shirt Italy had worn at the previous World Cup! The only difference that I know of (apart from variations of material based on climate) was that the red and green trim on the collar and cuffs was inverted, with red on the outside. But imagine a World Cup host today not cashing in on the occasion with a brand new kit! Unthinkable. In fact, the Italy shirt barely changed from '81-'91. Purists may opt for the cotton Le Coq Sportif version worn by Bearzot's triumphant '82 side (and it's hard to argue when I think of that Tardelli goal), but for me the "MADE IN ITALY" Diadora shirts were a more stylish fit worthy of the country they represented. This was the last major tournament before names and front numbers appeared on shirts, and the kit has a pure perfection for me. This was also before the FIGC allowed the manufacturer's logo to appear on the kit, a rule that was sadly lifted in 1999. The Azzurri had an excellent team that year too, and trooped out onto the Olimpico turf in dashing tracksuit tops (still trying to get one of these). As perhaps for many people my age, the summer of 1990 was a massive turning point for me in my appreciation of the game and all those other things that come along with it. In Italy they still refer to those World Cup matches as "notti magiche" after the official song of Italia '90.

Brasil 1986

Ironically when I bought my Italy kit in 1990 I'd actually had the intention of buying this shirt, only to find it had been replaced by the '90 version, of which I wasn't quite such a fan. Nineteen years later I finally got my hands on one through an ebay seller located in Malaysia. Sounds fishy, but I know a 100% genuine Topper jersey when I see one. Oddly I think Topper is actually an Argentine company. Like Italy in the same period, the Brazil kit saw minimal changes between '82 and '90, but '86 was always my favourite (although the '82 version could easily be number 3 on this list). Cool badge with the Jules Rimet trophy, great sleek fit and classic numbers too. Even the goalie shirts were great, with "B R A S I L" across the chest. Most of all I love the thought behind the colours themselves. A proper, deep sunshine yellow that darkens with sweat (the shirt is a polyester-cotton blend), forest green trim and shorts a sort of Napoli blue (not royal!) with the little stripes. That's my most consistent gripe with the modern Brazil kits, the yellow is too sterile, the green is too light and the blue is too dark. It's as if Nike's palette doesn't extend beyond the default primary colours that come with whatever primitive computer program they use to design their shirts. Yellow + green + blue = done. So sad.

Argentina 1978

I could have easily gone with the '82 or '86 versions (the less-celebrated '82 kit is probably the nicest if I think about it) but I'm including the '78 version for, well, obvious reasons. This was the last the last World Cup before I was born and I'm not sure if it was the handlebar moustaches, cynical tactics or the political situation in Argentina at the time but no subsequent tournament has been quite as... badass. Amid the ticker tape the hosts wore a now-classic shirt, but this was back when football shirts simply were what they were. I doubt kids in Buenos Aires were salivating at the prospect of what Kempes & Co. would be wearing at El Monumental — they just wanted the team to win. The tight fit, short shorts, long-sleeves and debut of the classic AFA numbers in the second round have sort of made it the model against which all future Argentina shirts have to be compared (I think it's why I liked the long-sleeved techfit version in 2010 so much... man, would I love to own one of those).

Spain 1982

The thing that irritates me most about Spain's recent domination of major tournaments is how suddenly the world is overrun with Spain fans. Where were these people when la Roja used to be routinely knocked out in lacklustre fashion at the quarter-final stage? While the team was less successful, Spain's kits in the '80s were glorious. I used to love the blue shorts (a similar shade to Brazil's actually) and black socks. So cool. I have a hunch that the black socks were a design feature imposed by Franco, which is why they were phased out, but I've never found any hard evidence to support this claim. The navy & navy short-sock combo adopted in the nineties was fine, now more recently they've started wearing red socks. It's just all so... bland and predictable. It's ironic that as kits become more elaborate and detailed so every trace of teams' personalities is being watered down and stripped away. Anyway, going back to happier times: the Le Coq Sportif kits worn in '86 and '90 were lovely, but you cannot beat the Spain '82 kit. I'm sure this outfit would be more fondly remembered by kit lovers had the team not flopped so miserably.

Mexico 1986

I've always been a fan of the Mexico kit, but I'm not sure why. Just always well turned out I suppose, even in recent years (except '98, which isn't so recent now). In 2002 they had a slightly darker green, and the away kit (while not used) was a fantastic burgundy with navy shorts like in 1970. In 2006 they had a cool chevron device on the front (later adopted briefly by Man U unfortunately) and fancy numbers. In 1978 their kit was manufactured by Levi's! Crazy! But if I had to pick one I'd go with '86. While a fairly standard adidas template what elevates the shirt is the wholly unprecedented and totally unnecessary inclusion of the word "MEXICO" above the number (where the player's name would go today). Circa 2005 Nike (then Mexico's kit provider) re-released a "version" of this shirt. There are probably a couple of other reasons why I love this kit. Besides loving that tournament (the long grass, the bright light, the saturated colours) there is also Manuel Negrete's goal against Bulgaria. Or maybe it's because I always think of this song.

So there you have it. I deliberately stuck to kits from the modern era, those pre-1970 didn't really change enough and are obviously too perfect in their simplicity. But surprisingly my choices represent a golden span of a mere twelve years. What's most interesting is that I've included the host nation for all four World Cups from that period! Proof that the hosts are always well-dressed I suppose — although that sequence came to an abrupt end in 1994. The hardest part was separating my appreciation for the kit itself from fondness for the team or era... I could have easily included Italy '94 or Brasil '82, and I am still grappling internally with my inexplicable exclusion of France's '78, '82 and '86 kits. So apologies that these choices are a little safe and hardly obscure. Maybe I should do an alternate list — the B-sides, if you will.

As I was compiling this list I realised that a lot of my favourite international kits are from European Championships. I feel another top five list coming on...

Huge thanks to James for a fine selection there...if you'd like to choose your Top 5 World Cup Kits (or any other tournament for that matter), drop us a line and let us know to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com...

More Top 5 World Cup Shirt lists as chosen by other people...

Chris O
Rich J
Al Gordon
Ed Carter
Rich Nelson
Steve Gabb

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Retro Round-Up: 6 September 2013

Greetings, friends, and welcome to what is sadly our last Retro Round-Up here on The Football Attic. We think you'll agree we've had a lot of fun and laffs since we started this feature six months ago and we've proven conclusively that football nostalgia is still alive and well out there on the World Wide Web.

With that positive thought ringing in our ears, let's do it all one more time with a final look at this week's top retro football picks...

...Starting with a revelatory look at Carlos Valderrama's haircut before he was famous. He didn't always look like he'd just been electrocuted, as proven by Old School Panini...

...More 'Before they were famous' fun can be found on this latest selection of old football stickers, courtesy of Who Ate All The Pies...

Over at The Goldstone Wrap, Christopher Worrall shows how easy it is to get the autographs of all your favourite players - just draw pencil sketches of them all and send your picture off to them...

...In the week when Liverpool FC and the wider world of football commemorated what would have been Bill Shankly's 100th birthday, Got, Not Got remembers the charismatic genius from Glenbuck...

...There's no doubting the football-playing brilliance of Cyrille Regis, and here he is personally dismantling Swansea City back in 1981 on another super video from FootballGaffesGalore...

...and finally, we come to our eBay Buy of the Week - probably the best one we've ever had, too. It costs £19,000 but you'll never spend your pennies more wisely - it's this truly unbelievable collection of Subbuteo equipment. Enjoy...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Football Attic Podcast 13 - Watching Football

What's it like going to a match? Is it any different from watching it on TV? Is not having Jonathan Pearce shouting crap down your audiohole a plus or a minus? (it's a plus!)  Have you ever left a game early? Do you like a pie and some Bovril?

All these questions and more are (sort of) answered in the latest exciting* episode of The Football Attic Podcast!

Oh and it's episode 13...unlucky for some? You decide!

*excitement not guaranteed.