Moments of World Cup glory

John Motson, BBC football commentator

Paulo Rossi’s hat-trick for Italy against Brazil in 1982 would be my supreme moment.

I’ve commentated in eight World Cups now and this’ll be the ninth, but that game still stands out as the best World Cup match I’ve ever had the pleasure of covering.

The significance of it was that the great Brazilian team with Socrates, Zico and Junior that everyone thought would waltz through and win the World Cup, came across Italy, who had a very poor start to the tournament and couldn’t buy a goal in the qualifying competition or in the group stages.

Italy suddenly caught fire in this game, and because the second stage was done on a league basis in 1982, all Brazil had to do was draw to go through to the semi-finals. But Italy beat them 3-2 and Rossi, who had only just come back from a suspension for match-fixing, got all three goals.

It was a magnificent game, the best that I’ve been at. Most people who were at that game will say the same.

Brian Glanville, Sunday Times football correspondent and author of The Story of the World Cup: The essential companion to Germany 2006

The astonishing goal that the 17-year-old Pelé scored in the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden in Stockholm. It would have been an amazing goal for anybody, even the most experienced player, but for a 17-year-old it was an absolute miracle of technique and courage and temperament.

He was absolutely in the middle of a pack of Swedish players and he didn’t stand on ceremony. The left half Parling was known as the iron stove — he had put German captain Fritz Walter out of subsequent games by a really ferocious tackle in the semi-final, but he didn’t bother Pelé.

He simply trapped the ball on his thigh, flicked it over his leg, turned round and slammed it into the net with his right foot.

He scored many, many marvellous World Cup goals, but for me that was the finest goal he ever scored.

Paul Wilson, Observer football correspondent

My most memorable tournament moment was probably the earliest one. Brazil was kicking off its 1994 finals campaign with a game against Russia in San Francisco.

A little nervous at covering my first World Cup match and impatient to get inside the Palo Alto stadium, I pushed past a knot of people at the top of a stairway who were causing an obstruction.

A guy turned round to see who had just barged him out of the way. It was Pelé, signing autographs for fans and unwittingly blocking a gangway.

I apologised and took a look around, now I was in. The stadium was much bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside.

It was entirely roofless too, and the Californian sun was beating down on 80,000 fans enjoying the warm-up act.

Carlos Santana, no less, was playing on the pitch.

Hello, I thought, I must have arrived on the world stage.

Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph football correspondent

On the pitch, Michael Owen’s glorious dribble and strike against Argentina in St-Etienne at France ’98 took the breath away. I was writing a "runner", the first-edition running copy, but just had to stop typing for a minute to take in what I had just seen: a likeable English kid ripping apart one of the world’s best defences. I still cannot believe the audacity of the goal when I see it replayed.

Owen scored at the end crammed with Argentinian fans and I remember noticing a knot of English fans cowering there as the game began. When Owen struck, those fans shed their fear and leapt up and down waving a Union flag. Very brave.

Off the pitch, the wisecracking Alan Shearer trying to get ABBA titles in all his answers to media questions. I particularly enjoyed his comment that it didn’t matter how England played, as long as they won, because "the winner takes it all". Sadly, England met their Waterloo a couple of days later — despite Owen’s gem.

Oliver Holt, Daily Mirror, British Press Awards Sports Journalist of the Year

There is one image that sums up for me the joy of football and the magic of the World Cup.

When Marco Tardelli scored Italy’s second goal in the 1982 World Cup Final against West Germany with a thumping left-foot shot, he set off on a celebratory run with his face contorted in the mix of madness and exultation that football seems so good at producing.

There was a great romance about that final and a wonder about Italy beating the great German machine and Tardelli’s goal effectively sealed the victory.

In the dying minutes, the Italian manager, Enzo Bearzot, made a fantastic gesture to sentiment when he brought on the veteran of the Italian squad, Franco Causio, as a thank you for his years of service to the team and his nobility as a man.

That was the match that made me believe that football really was the beautiful game.

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