Brazil v Germany 2002 final
The 2002 tournament was the first World Cup finals I covered as a reporter and it turned out that, having been in South Korea for the group stages, I came over to Japan for England's quarter-final game against Brazil and then beyond. The final in Yokohama all came down to one man and in many respects it was set up for Ronaldo to fail.
The story of the 1998 final in Paris against France and how it turned out for Ronaldo was that much fresher then. This time was supposed to be about his redemption. He was already the tournament's top goalscorer going into the final. There was real pressure on Brazil as it was not as if the country regarded it as a triumph to reach the final. You could see from the questions that their media asked that they expected nothing less than to win it.
It was the first tournament in Asia, which brought its own issues. The humidity was oppressive. Brazil had only just squeezed past Turkey in the semi-final with a solo effort from Ronaldo. In the final itself Ronaldo missed two or three good chances. Then Germany came back into the game and Oliver Neuville had a free-kick turned onto the post. Ronaldo got his two goals in the last 23 minutes, the first a tap-in after he pounced on a mistake from Oliver Kahn.
Despite what had happened before in his career, he kept his cool and won his team the final, adding a second goal with a precise finish. The great players can do that when the pressure is on. I remember in the mixed zone area of the stadium, where the players speak to journalists: the whole Brazil squad burst in with the trophy, waving flags and singing. I wish we'd had camera phones then. It was a wonderful moment. There was joy, but also relief. They knew that they could not blow two finals in a row.
World Cup: writers' magic moments
World Cup: writers' magic moments
1/6 Sam Wallace - Brazil v Germany 2002 Final
Ronaldo and Gilberto Silva kiss the Cup in 2002 - the last time Brazil won the competition
2/6 Ian Herbert - Archie Gemmill’s goal against the Netherlands, 1978
The diminutive Gemmil danced and shimmied his way through the Dutch defence to score one of the most memorable goals in World Cup history
3/6 Glenn Moore -Brazil training session, 2002
Rivaldo trains with Juninho in 2002. Brazil practiced in a spirit of joy
4/6 Kevin Garside - David Platt’s winner against Belgium, 1990
David Platt sends England through with a spectacular volley against Belgium in 1990
5/6 Jack Pitt-Brooke - Dennis Bergkamp’s goal against Argentina, 1998
The Arsenal legend scored one of the greatest goals in World Cup history to knock Argentina out in 1998
6/6 Tim Rich - Argentina v England, 1998
David Beckham is sent off against Argentina in '98
Archie Gemmill's goal against the Netherlands, 1978
For those of us born into that late 1960s generation whose first football awareness carried no conception England and World Cup finals could go together, Scotland just had to do. The Argentina finals of 1978 were the first of significance for me, despite England's absence. And so it was that Ally MacLeod's Scotland team carried a ridiculous amount of significance while "We're on the march with Ally's Army" still carries a memory of a certain place and time.
In retrospect, the tournament delivered something vastly more dismal than anything England have served up. Scotland's opening defeat by Peru was followed by the draw with Iran which effectively sent them home. Interest in the tournament was fast receding for Scotland when Archie Gemmill scored one of the World Cup's most memorable goals. It was 36 years ago yesterday that he did his shimmy but the enduring image of his goal means it might have been last month.
The Scots needed to win by three clear goals in Mendoza to qualify and Rob Rensenbrink's first-half penalty looked to have sealed their fate. But after Kenny Dalglish's equaliser and Gemmill's penalty, the little man assumed possession on the right flank, danced around two defenders and sprinted into the area to draw Jan Jongbloed off his line to score. Suddenly the great escape looked on but then Johnny Rep slammed one in from 30 yards, the game finished 3-2 and Scotland went out on goal difference.
Football has taken me around the world, but the beauty of that moment remains in the memory. "Christ, I haven't felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978," Mark Renton said in Trainspotting. A generation of English people feel the same.
Brazil training session, 2002
For the players a World Cup is all about the matches, but for anyone lucky enough to attend one it is about so much more. The memories are many, but one in particular stands out.
Most World Cup teams work in secrecy with armed guards patrolling the perimeter ensuring no one gets to see the tactical masterplan which will bring the trophy home. Except the team most likely to do so, Brazil. Their attitude is "we're Brazil, this is what we have, try and beat us, you won't".
Most teams' training sessions are also serious affairs, especially when the stakes are high. There may be a few laughs, but it is clear the players are at work, not play. Not so Brazil, not on one drizzly day in June 2002 when I was privileged to watch them light up a dreary Tokyo suburb. Having dispensed with England, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men were about to play Turkey in the World Cup semi-final, but you would never have known it. There was Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo scampering around with smiles as if on the beach – or filming a commercial.
Scolari went through a full tactical preparation, but the highlight was a match played as night fell, in a spirit of joy. At one point Dida, the reserve goalkeeper, joined in on the wing. Then Luizao scored with a spectacular overhead kick, ripped off his bib and shirt and wheeled away waving his clothes above his head. The match resumed and Luizao, to the merriment of his team-mates, spent the next five minutes trying to combine playing with putting his shirt back on. There was a palpable sense of fun and it was no surprise when Brazil brushed aside Turkey, then, in the final, Germany, to win the trophy.
David Platt's winner against Belgium, 1990
The corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road on the edge of Soho was not an obvious place to feel the World Cup love. This was pre-Premier League 1990, pre-widespread ownership of mobile phones. Tweeting was something birds did. Football was still largely the preserve of the old hardcore, and I was working on the door at Limelight to supplement the meagre stipend provided by an impoverished local newspaper.
There was a stirring on that early summer night that presaged the gear change that was about to thrust the game on to a different plane of cultural life in Britain. When David Platt hooked Gazza's free-kick over his right shoulder into the back of Belgium's net it unleashed a kind of madness across the capital.
Horns sounded, people hung out of car windows as they edged through Theatreland towards Piccadilly. Passers-by with no connection to the game or to the revellers inside the vehicles were drawn into a mad, impromptu communion with people they did not know. The news of Platt's dramatic, late, extra-time winner that took England into the quarter-finals, spread through the West End transforming the streets into a neon nirvana.
Platt was a scorer of important goals and never more so than that night in Bologna, an intervention that propelled him on to the world stage. He was soon on his way from Aston Villa to Serie A with Gazza, global stars the pair of them, and England was experiencing the first flush of football's remarkable projection to the centre of all things.
Dennis Bergkamp's goal against Argentina, 1998
Brilliance is one thing and meaning it quite another but Dennis Bergkamp's winner against Argentina at France '98 must be the World Cup's best ever combination of the two.
Bergkamp describes it as the "top goal" of his career. In a quarter-final, in the last minute, in the heat of Marseille, against Argentina, with the game locked at 1-1, Bergkamp looked 50 yards behind him to team-mate Frank de Boer, bringing the ball out of defence. De Boer floated the ball to Bergkamp, who had already started to sprint forward, away from Roberto Ayala. Bergkamp had to jump to control the ball perfectly with his right foot.
"There isn't much wind, so I'm looking forward, to keep sprinting, to meet the ball," Bergkamp said of his goal later. "You know the line, and at the last moment you think 'OK, now I have to jump'. And when I'm in the air it's going to meet my foot."
Bergkamp dragged the ball back inside him, finding space to shoot. Without the angle to use his left foot, he shot with the outside of his right boot into the far top corner.That Dutch team, probably the best in the competition, lost to Brazil in the semi-finals on penalties.
Argentina v England, 1998
It is not David Beckham's dismissal or Michael Owen's sublime goal but the sound of Argentina v England that comes to mind. For almost an hour before kick-off, the Argentine fans sang and waved their scarves above their heads so rhythmically that it might have been one of the crowd scenes from Evita. It is the most intimidating sound I have heard at a football ground.
All four goals in this last-16 game were scored in a breathtaking first half and, during the interval, a journalist from L'Equipe turned to me and said: "This is the most beautiful game of the World Cup." Then came Beckham's little kick at Diego Simeone and the beauty disappeared into a grim struggle. In many ways it was still Glenn Hoddle's finest hour as England manager. Then came Sol Campbell's headed goal that was disallowed.
England's penalties were pretty amateurish, David Batty and Paul Ince both missing. Saint Etienne seemed the start of something rather than the finish. Yet within months, Hoddle had gone, sacked for his bizarre religious views after an intervention from Tony Blair. Given how Blair's career panned out, this was one of the ironies of the age.