First XI: World Cup quotes
May 20, 2010
By Robin Hackett
This week's First XI looks at the most famous, most important or funniest quotes in World Cup history.
Benito Mussolini (1938) "Win or die!"
Fascist dictator Mussolini sent the phrase "Vincere o morire!", literally translated as 'Win or die!', to the Italy players by telegram ahead of the 1938 final in Paris. Italy won the game 4-2 against Hungary, prompting opposition goalkeeper Antal Szabo to say: "I may have let in four goals, but at least I saved their lives". The phrase is skewed by its translation - it is normally used as a form of encouragement rather than a threat - but there is little doubt there was a strong weight of expectation placed on the players, who wore all-black Fascist uniforms and gave straight-arm salutes before the kick-off.
It would not be not the first time Mussolini had made such a threat. It is reported that he told Admiral Vaccaro, head of the Italian federation, before the 1934 success: "Admiral, Italy must win the World Cup." The Admiral replied: "Of course, Duce. That would be a wonderful achievement." Mussolini responded: "Admiral, I don't think you understood me. Italy MUST win the World Cup."
Harry Keough (1950) "Boy, I feel sorry for these b******s. How are they ever going to live down the fact we beat them?"
Ahead of their group stage meeting with World Cup debutants England, USA coach Bill Jeffrey said: "We have no chance." Nonetheless, England - for so long the self-appointed kings of the game - suffered abject humiliation with a 1-0 defeat to a team of semi-professionals in one of the great upsets. The comments from USA defender Keough, a US Postal Service worker, will have done little to improve the mood among the English players, who failed to make it out of the group stage.
Obdulio Varela (1950) "Boys, outsiders don't play. Let the show begin."
Ahead of the final and deciding final group match against Brazil in the Maracana, Uruguay captain Varela famously gave the players an alternative team-talk after coach Juan Lopez and one of the country's officials had advised them to defend for their lives and try to keep the score down to respectable levels. Varela stood up and told his team-mates: "[Coach] Juancito is a good man, but today, he is wrong." Uruguay came out of the match with a 2-1 victory and one of the World Cup's greatest ever upsets.
Herbert Zimmermann (1954) "TOOOOOR! TOOOOOR! TOOOOOR! TOOOOOR!"
Radio commentator Zimmermann delivered the most famous piece of commentary in German football history during the 1954 final, when West Germany defeated a legendary Hungary side 3-2 in one of the all-time great upsets - also known as the 'Miracle of Berne'. The country had only around 20,000 TV sets and, given the historical importance of the match following Germany's demise after World War II, Zimmerman's excitable remarks on the radio went down in history. Among a number of famous remarks was the line that greeted Helmut Rahn's 84th-minute winner: "Rahn shoots ... GOOOOAAAAL! GOOOOAAAAL! GOOOOAAAAL! GOOOOAAAAL!"
Sir Alf Ramsey (1966) "It seemed a pity so much Argentinean talent is wasted. Our best football will come against the right type of opposition - a team who come to play football, and not act as animals."
Often seen as the spark that ignited the long-standing rivalry between England and Argentina, Ramsey was left horrified by the behaviour of the Argentina players during a bad-tempered quarter-final. The most famous incident of the game came when the visiting captain, Antonio Rattin, was sent off and refused to leave the field. Ramsey would not allow his players to swap shirts at the end of the game and spoke out after the game.
Kenneth Wolstenholme (1966) "And here comes Hurst. He's got ... some people are on the pitch - they think it's all over. It is now! It's four!"
It's the most famous phrase in English football, but BBC commentator Wolstenholme admitted he was surprised that his words - accompanying Sir Geoff Hurst's goal to make it 4-2 against West Germany in injury time of the '66 final - took on such cultural significance. He had expected his line when Bobby Moore collected the Jules Rimet Trophy from the Queen - "It's only 12in high, it's made of solid gold and it means England are the world champions" - would become the immortal phrase.
Even in the immediate aftermath, he said, those words were not widely remembered: "All the talk was about winning the World Cup and nobody gave a tuppeny stuff what anyone had said on television or what the coverage had been like, but BBC2 repeated the match later in the year and it was after that, when people were watching it already knowing the result, that the words came out and hit them."
Willem van Hanegem (1974) "I didn't give a damn as long as we humiliated them. They murdered my father, sister and two brothers. I am full of angst. I hate them."
The long-standing football rivalry between Netherlands and Germany may date back to the 1974 final, but the feelings of resentment from the Dutch side date back to World War II. Even in 1988, when Netherlands beat West Germany in the European Championship semi-final, fans chanted: "In 1940, they came; in 1988, we came." Several members of the brilliant Netherlands side of '74 had seemingly been motivated by the invasion as they took on the Germans in the final and Van Hanegem, who lost several family members during the war, was foremost among them. When West Germany came from behind to secure a surprise 2-1 win, Van Hanegem left the field in tears.
Diego Maradona (1986) "A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."
In a match in which he scored one of the greatest World Cup goals of all-time, Maradona caused one of the biggest World Cup controversies. His handball to put Argentina 1-0 ahead in their quarter-final against England sparked outrage around the globe, but he argued that his actions were justified by the Falklands War. "Although we had said before the game that football had nothing to do with the Malvinas war, we knew they had killed a lot of Argentine boys there, killed them like little birds," he said. "And this was revenge."
Sir Bobby Robson (1990) "We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought."
Robson, famous for his confused remarks, was unsure as to whether Cameroon had met or exceeded expectations during their quarter-final clash against England at Italia '90. England had gone from a goal up to two goals behind before a late Gary Lineker penalty took the game into extra time, and a second Lineker spot-kick eventually saw Robson's men emerge as winners.
Roy Keane (2002) "Who the f*** do you think you are, having meetings about me? Mick, you're a liar ... you're a f****** w*****. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a f***** w***** and you can stick your World Cup up your a***. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your b*******."
Keane's reported rant at coach Mick McCarthy still makes him a divisive figure in the Republic of Ireland. Keane had been deeply unhappy with preparations: he described the training pitch in Saipan as "like a car park", criticised the travel preparations and was unimpressed with the dietary standards ("Do you think Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is eating f****** cheese sandwiches or a takeaway f****** pizza tonight?"). An unwaveringly honest interview with the Irish Times had stoked tensions further, and when McCarthy confronted Keane in front of the squad, the Manchester United midfielder let rip at his manager before returning home.
Marco Materazzi (2006) "I prefer the w**** that is your sister."
The exact words that prompted France legend Zinedine Zidane to butt Italy defender Materazzi during the 2006 final did not emerge until over a year after the match. There had been widespread speculation about the insult that had provoked Zidane into receiving a red card in the final match of a glittering career. Several newspapers suggested he had labelled Zidane, a non-practising Muslim, a 'terrorist', while other accounts suggested he had insulted his mother, who was ill at the time. Materazzi took strong exception to those suggestions. "It is absolutely not true," he said. "I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means." He added: "I didn't talk about his mother, either. I lost my mother when I was 15, and even now I still get emotional talking about it."
Materazzi finally confirmed his remarks in August 2007, speaking to an Italian magazine. Zidane suggested earlier this year, though, that Materazzi had made reference to his mother, saying he would "rather die" than apologise for his actions.