Paul Marcuccitti is a passionate
soccer fan from Australia who will share his views about the World Cup in this column.
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Don't forget Mother Nature before the big match
The first World Cup I remember watching was the 1982 edition in Spain. I can
not recollect the whole tournament but I was only eight years old at the
time and, given that a lot of matches were live in Australia in the middle
of the night, I woke up to watch very few of them.
Fortunately, I was out of bed for three of the best matches: Italy's 3-2 win
over Brazil; that amazing semi-final between France and West Germany, won by
the latter on penalties after the teams finished extra time level at 3-3;
and the Final in which Italy defeated the Germans 3-1.
It was a particularly exciting time in my home. My parents are Italian (as
if my last name isn't a dead give away) and my father was actually in Spain
watching his native country triumph.
Oddly enough, I never really warmed to the "Azzurri" of later years. They're
always quite competitive, of course, but the attacking zest of Enzo
Bearzot's 1982 heroes has been evident too rarely since then.
When the 1986 World Cup finals kicked off in Mexico, I decided that no
amount of sleep deprivation was going to stop me following the action from
start to finish. I still remember how nervous I was about sleeping through
the sound of the alarm and I would check it three or four times to make sure
I'd set it for AM and not PM.
By the time Argentina and West Germany met in the tournament's decider,
Mother Nature was starting to tell my body that there was only so long I
could keep up this routine of sleeping five or six hours, going to school
during the day and playing sport after that.
I think the time in my home city was 3.30 in the morning when the Final
kicked off. Fortunately, I was awake before the alarm sounded so I had
successfully defied Mother Nature until the very end - or so I thought.
As you'd expect, much of the pre-match talk was about Diego Maradona. Could
West Germany stop him? Would Lothar Matthäus be given the job of marking
Now, in this era of Diego worship, I'm going to risk a lynching and admit
heresy - I actually wanted the Germans to win. Yes, they were a bit on the
dull side. Yes, their progress to the Final had been steely and calculated.
And yes, their goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, should have been arrested for
his attempted murder of Patrick Battiston in the 1982 semi-final.
But the Maradona handball that opened the scoring for Argentina in its
quarter-final against England had left me rather unimpressed. When, a few
minutes later, Maradona's famous slalom run made the score 2-0, I turned to
my father (who had stayed home this time) and innocently asked, "If he can
do that, why did he have to cheat to get the first one?" I think Dad just
The fact that England was the victim of Maradona's crime made it worse. I
followed the English league and the likes of Lineker, Hoddle and Shilton
were quite familiar to me. [Until 15-20 years ago, the only hour of soccer
shown on Australian television each week came from England. I'm glad to say
that things have changed but the English league is still the one I'm most
passionate about. Old habits die hard.]
Anyway, West Germany did have some redeeming features. One of them was this
fabulous player who I remembered from the 1982 World Cup. He had a great
name too - Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. John Motson, that wonderful English
commentator, seemed to relish every opportunity of excitedly calling out all
four syllables ("Ru-mme-ni-gge!") whenever the blonde forward made an
attempt on goal.
Little happened in the first 20 minutes of the match but then Matthäus
fouled Maradona in a dangerous position. From the resulting free kick,
Argentina's sweeper, José Luis Brown, put his country into the lead. Had
Schumacher stayed on his line, he probably would have saved Brown's header
but the German custodian mistakenly came for a ball that he had little hope
of reaching. There would be no more goals in the first half.
During the half time break, Mother Nature, who I had the better of thus far,
was starting to tell me that it was probably time I visited the bathroom. I
should have gone but instead I decided to listen to what the experts on the
television had to say.
I don't know why I bothered. Even then I thought I could do just as good a
job analysing the game myself. On the other hand, I fancied my chances of
postponing the bathroom visit for another 45 minutes so I stayed rooted to
The second half was the stuff of legend. In the 55th minute, Jorge Valdano
scored his fourth goal of the tournament to put Argentina 2-0 up. Toilet
time? Not quite yet. I remembered West Germany's comeback in the semi-final
of 1982. Maybe they could do it again.
Into the last 20 minutes, things were looking grim for the Germans. They had
finally started to attack but, so far, no results. But wait! They had a
corner. Andreas Brehme takes it; Rudi Völler gets a touch; RU-MME-NI-GGE!
Yes! The great man had put his country back in the game.
OK. I really, really had to go to the bathroom now. My twelve year-old body
wasn't enjoying this punishment. But the score was now 2-1 and the World Cup
Final was alive. There was barely a quarter of an hour left. Come on, man,
With less than ten minutes remaining, Völler equalised for West Germany.
What a match this was turning out to be!
But, despite the excitement, I went to the toilet as the match restarted at
2-2. I just couldn't hang on any longer. Surely we were now destined for
extra time. Surely I wouldn't miss anything!
As I walked back out of the bathroom and down the passage, quite relieved I
must say, I heard excited noises coming from the television.
Oh no! Don't tell me there was a goal and I had missed it! Who scored? Was
it the Germans? Had they completed the most remarkable of comebacks?
The first thing I saw when I got back to the TV was a replay of Jorge
I was devastated. Not because Argentina had gone back in front - sure I was
disappointed about that. The more devastating thing was that I had missed a
piece of World Cup history.
Yes, of course I saw the bloody replay of the goal. Of course I watched the
match again. But I missed the moment when the world saw the winning goal in
the Final and all because I didn't go to the bathroom when I had the chance
at half time.
So Mother Nature had the last laugh.
I would not make the same mistake again. A year later, I didn't miss seeing
the deflection off the knee of Tottenham's Gary Mabbutt which gave Coventry
its winning goal in the 1987 FA Cup Final. And, a year after that, I didn't
miss Marco Van Basten's unbelievable volley which put the Netherlands 2-0 up
in the Final of Euro 1988.
I barely need to mention that I saw every minute of the 1990 World Cup Final
though it was so bad that I might as well have spent the entire match in the
bathroom! Still, at least Argentina didn't win that one. If I thought that
Maradona's handball had clouded the Argentineans' 1986 World Cup victory, it
would have been an absolute tragedy if their negativity and thuggery at
Italia 90 was rewarded with a repeat triumph. The referee, Mr Codesal of
Mexico, obviously thought the same and settled the decider by awarding the
Germans a dubious late penalty.
But I digress. Let me conclude with some friendly advice in good time for
the sporting feast that awaits us in June. As the big matches approach,
don't forget Mother Nature. If you miss the great, historic and decisive
moments when they're live around the world, you might regret it.
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
on who keeps this site available.