As the buildup to the quadrennial summer showpiece continues, one can hardly be less enthusiastic about the fact that it is being hosted in uncharted territory – Russia. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that once the images of the fans, the team colour, and the festivities begin alongside the football, we will all be deeply immersed.
Every four years, I delve into the abyss of World Cup memories, for they are a special kind of memory to hold onto for every person no matter how young or old. Today, I recall the famous pose struck by Brian Laudrup during one of the more entertaining knockout matches of World Cup 1998 – the Quarter Final match between Brazil and Denmark on July 3, 1998 in Nantes, France.
Brazil were everybody’s favourite to win the tournament and also defending champions from USA 94. I was a young lad of 9 living in the football crazy nation of Singapore. France 98 was a remarkable World Cup as it was around the time we had installed cable in our house (and other households across the nation had done the same). The tournament was the only thing on at everybody’s house no matter where you went – also the only thing talked about at school.
Ronaldo was the best player in the world, and Denilson was the most expensive at a remarkable $35 million. Bebeto was on the cover of FIFA 97 (my first). The Brazilians’ opening game was the first of France 98, and although it was an unremarkable 2-1 win over Scotland, more exciting performances against Morocco (3-0) and a shock loss to Norway in a game in which all the goals happened after the 78th minute (2-1) followed. Brazil then thumped Chile 4-1 in the first knockout match before lining up against Denmark in the quarter finals.
Denmark had an interesting path to the quarter finals, which included losing to eventual champions France 2-1 in the group stage, but defeating Nigeria 4-1 in the first knockout round. The Danes looked an exciting team and proved so against Brazil, scoring in the second minute before Bebeto and Rivaldo sent Brazil 2-1 up at the break.
In the 50th minute, a beautiful finish from Laudrup was followed up with the iconic celebration. Even though Rivaldo put Brazil 3-2 up nine minutes later and sent them into the semi-finals, Laudrup’s celebration was watched over and over again in households across the world. The Danes had put in a great account of themselves at the World Cup for such a small nation. It is hard to think of a better goal celebration than the originality of Laudrup’s pose. I must admit – I tried to do the same in my youth leagues but did not have as much luck!