Dubai: In the fourth part of our countdown to the 2018 World Cup, which kicks off in Russia two months from Saturday, we take a look at the classic happenings to have shaped popular culture and with it the tournament’s place in our hearts, from tears to peroxide blonde locks, saves, spills and celebrations. These are the reasons we love football, and the images that will stay in our heads forever.

1998 Romanians go blonde

A bet with their coach Anghel Iordanescu “to do something crazy” to raise team spirit if they qualified from the group led to the entire Romanian side (except from bald keeper Bogdan Stalea) dying their hair blonde after beating Colombia and England. At first it was funny, confusing a few commentators, but it quickly backfired with the team, described as Romania’s ‘golden generation’ with Gheorghe Hagi, Dan Petrescu and Gheorghe Popescu, drawing their last group game against Tunisia and then crashing out in the last 16 against Croatia.

1990 Milla’s corner flag dance


The 38-year-old Cameroonian striker’s performances led to him being named African Player of the Year after helping the Indomitable Lions reach the quarter-final and top their group with wins over Argentina and Romania. But it was his grinning jive around the corner flag with an extra time winning brace over Colombia in the last 16 that made him a household name. They were knocked out by England, but Milla came back in 1994 to score against Russia at the age of 42 to set the record for oldest World Cup scorer.

1990 Gazza’s tears

An entire nation wept with Paul Gascoigne in England’s semi-final against West Germany when he cried after realising his yellow card for a foul on Thomas Berthold would rule him out of the final if the Three Lions had won as he had already picked up a caution against Belgium in the second round. England went on to lose on penalties anyway but Gazza’s reaction, twinned with Gary Lineker’s ‘keep an eye on him’ look across to Bobby Robson, became one of the most enduring images in English football.

1994 Bebeto rocks the cradle


Brazil’s Bebeto ran over to the touchline with teammates Romario and Mazinho swinging their cradling arms in tandem after he scored the second in a 3-2 quarter-final win over the Netherlands. The celebration was in reference to his newborn son who was born just days before the game, and guess what, that boy — Mattheus Oliveira — grew up and now plays for Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes on loan from Sporting Lisbon who he joined last year after spells with Brazil’s Flamengo and Portugal’s Estoril.

1970 Banks’ save

In a game famous for a few things from Bobby Moore’s tackle on Jaizinho to that iconic image of Moore and Pele embracing after the game, it was undoubtedly keeper Gordon Banks save from Pele’s header, inexplicably getting down to the far right corner to flick the ball back over the crossbar, that stole the show. Brazil won the group game 1-0, but the match will be forever remembered as Banks’ greatest moment, quite a statement considering he had helped England win the World Cup just four years earlier.

1986 Maradona’s winding run

Argentina striker Diego Maradona will forever be vilified for his ‘Hand of God’ goal in La Albiceleste’s 2-1 quarter-final win over England in 1986. But if ever he needed to make up for it, he did so just four minutes later with a 60-yard, 10 second dash, past Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher (twice) and Terry Fenwick, before putting it past Peter Shilton, for what became known as the ‘Goal of the Century’. Argentina went on to win the World Cup and it was Diego’s two against England that parodied his twisted genius.

1974 Cruyff’s turn

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff first pulled off the move — a look to pass that is then dragged back behind his own standing leg ready to turn and run on to — in the Netherland’s goalless group game against Sweden. Jan Olsson was the victim of that initial trick but there have been many more since with Cruyff making it his trademark, and countless others attempting to copy the famous feint. Beyond the move, Cruyff was also a key proponent of total football, now followed by his protégé Pep Guardiola.

1974 Mwepa’s kick

Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, had never been to a World Cup before and haven’t been back since, hence some of their players probably weren’t too familiar with the rules of football. Least not defender Mwepu Ilunga, who ran from the wall upon the referees whistle to boot a Brazilian free-kick clear before anyone in yellow and blue had had the chance to touch the ball, let alone decide who should take it. Mwepu got booked for the infringement but had no idea what he had done wrong.

1982 Tardelli’s cry

The way Italy midfielder Marco Tardelli recoiled screaming from having scored the second in a 3-1 win over West Germany in the final, with his arms raised and head rolling with tears running down his cheeks as he ran towards the bench, became an abiding image of the passion football can invoke. Italy have won four World Cups, and this was their third, but few snapshots in time sum up their contribution to the game quite so emphatically. Tardelli later said he was born with that scream inside him, and was just waiting to let it out.

1986 Maradona surrounded


An image of Argentina legend Diego Maradona in possession of the ball and about to take on six Belgium players in front of him during the semi-final could have just been down to the angle of where the shot was taken from, with Diego just receiving a short pass from a free-kick in line with the defensive wall. However, it suited the theme of this being Diego’s World Cup and was hauntingly recreated by Lionel Messi against South Korea in 2010 to keep the comparisons between the two players rolling.

2014 Van Persie’s flying header

Robin van Persie’s flying header lobbed Ilker Casillas to pull the Netherlands level in their 5-1 group opening win over Spain. It was the first time the two sides had met since the 2010 World Cup final, which Holland lost, making it not only an amazing goal but also the perfect act of revenge for the Oranje. His subsequent run over to the bench to high-five coach Louis Van Gaal with all his teammates forming a circle around was also symbolic of the ghost of 2010 being laid to rest.

1994 Baggio hits over

Both Italy and Brazil had been neck-and-neck during the tournament and all it was going to take was an individual error to separate the two sides during one of the closest finals to date. Step up Baggio, who for all his hard work to get that far was the cruelest of scapegoats to miss Italy’s fifth and decisive penalty. He didn’t just miss but skied it well over the crossbar to condemn himself to a lifetime of being remembered for that one moment. It could have been so different.

2014 Brazil’s destruction

Hosts and record five-time winners Brazil were looking at this first home tournament since 1950 to make amends for their shock 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the final 64 years earlier, a humiliation still known as the Maracana Blow. To say they failed to do that in 2014 is understatement, after crashing out 7-1 to eventual winners Germany in the semi-final. That match — cruelly even worse than the first exit — is now known as the Mineirao Blow and as good as ended some international careers.

1994 Yekini’s net shaker

After scoring Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal in a 3-0 win over Bulgaria in the group phase, Rashidi Yekini ran into the net, put his hands through the holes and clenched his fists towards his face shaking them wildly in celebration. Unfortunately the win did more to rally Bulgaria than it did Nigeria, with the Bulgarians recovering to reach the semi-final beating Argentina, Mexico and Germany along the way before defeat to Italy, who had long seen off Nigeria in the last 16.

1978 Tickertape and Kempes

Mario Kempes scored the first and second in a 3-1 extra time win over Holland in the final in Buenos Aires for Argentina’s first World Cup win in their one and only hosting of the tournament. Diego Maradona of course did it again in Mexico in 1986 but Kempes, arms outstretched exulting under a rain of ticker tape showering down from the stands at River Plate’s Estadio Monumental, was La Albiceleste’s first hero and that image of him wading through white strands of paper reminds us of one of the most dramatic finishes to a final ever.

1998 French pride

Rarely has a winning side featured players from so many mixed backgrounds echoing a true and varied reflection of a nation’s social make-up. Whether it be players originally from the Caribbean, Polynesia, North or Central Africa or Europe, every corner of France’s former colonial reach was represented in their first World Cup win, that too at home as hosts. If ever a country — that has struggled with ethnic division both before and since — needed such an example of what made it great, it was now.

1994 Salenko’s five


In the same group game where Roger Milla became the oldest World Cup scorer with a lone effort in a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Russia, Oleg Salenko on the other side also got the biggest goal haul in a single World Cup match with five. Both efforts were proved meaningless however as the game was a dead rubber anyway with the pressure off as the two sides were already eliminated. Salenko did however get to share the golden boot with Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichov on six goals.

1950 Pele takes a bow


A 17-year-old from Brazil named Pele burst onto the scene with the winner against Wales in the quarter-final and a match-winning hat-trick over France in the semi, before a decisive brace in the final against hosts Sweden. It was the first of his record three World Cup wins with follow-ups in 1962 and 1970, but he wasn’t as prolific in front of goal in the latter two tournaments, only scoring one in 1962 and four in 1970, where it was much more of a team effort.

1978 Archie’s run

A goal so good it’s documented in cult Scottish movie Trainspotting. Archie Gemmill picked up on a seemingly failed advance down the wing from Kenny Dalglish, who was surrounded by three Dutchmen, and then ran past five men into the box to slot the third past the keeper in Scotland’s 3-2 group win over Holland. Not only is this regarded as Scotland’s greatest World Cup victory but it’s also undoubtedly their best ever goal made even better by it’s inclusion in the country’s favourite film.

1994 Houghton’s screamer


We were torn for a best Irish moment between Republic keeper Pat Bonner’s penalty save to beat Romania in a shoot-out to reach the quarters on their World Cup debut in 1990, and Houghton’s unfathomable lob of keeper Gianluca Pagliuca in their shock 1-0 group opening win over Italy in 1994. Houghton edges it, but only because it was against the hotly-favoured eventual losing finalists Italy, who Jack Charlton’s Ireland side had exited against with last eight defeat four years earlier, making it fair revenge.