As much as we're hoping Brazil 2014 will be a humdinger, we will no doubt look unfavourably upon some aspects compared to the glorious World Cups of the post.
You cannot beat a bit of nostalgia, after all, and some of us will recall our favourite historic World Cup tournaments in anticipation for the latest opening ceremony on Thursday.
But which past edition tournament is the favourite in the Eurosport office? The latest Roundtable gauges the views of the team - and remember, you can add your own entries at the bottom.
Alex Chick (Twitter: @alex_eurosport):
Italia '90 - The tournament that properly cemented my obsession with football. Decried at the time as a cynical, low-scoring tournament, all that remains 24 years on are the stories, the personalities. Cameroon beating Argentina, Voeller and Rijkaard's spit-spat, Toto Schillaci, Roger Milla, Rene Higuita... and the England of Gazza, Lineker, Pearce and Waddle. Their run to the semis contained precisely zero wins against top-level opposition, but it remains a glorious memory.
Tom Adams (Twitter: @tomEurosport):
USA ’94 - You always remember your first, and though I have hazy memories of 1990, this was the first World Cup which had me captivated, collecting the pull-outs from the papers, trying to watch every match possible. It wasn’t perhaps a vintage tournament, but it had Romario, it had Batistuta, it had Hagi, it had Stoichkov and it had Letchkov knocking out the Germans. Throw in Maradona’s drug disgrace and the Divine Ponytail’s penalty pain and it left an indelible mark.
Sean Fay (Twitter: @Sean_Fay):
Italia ’90 - I suspect for most people the answer to this question will be the first one they were ‘all-in’ on as a kid. For me that was Italia ’90 and as an Irishman you could have wished for a better first love. At Euro ’88 we didn’t really know what to do and at USA ’94 there was an element of expectation about the whole thing but Italia 90 was just a perfect storm of circumstances. It is hard to really tell a non-Irish person how this tournament gripped the nation but there was lots of little things that stick in memory that will never go away: Packie Bonner gritting his teeth, Charlie O’Leary’s flapping tracksuit, Eamon Dunphy’s thrown pen, Timofte’s miss, the Romanian goalkeeper’s tash, bunting everywhere, Tony Cascarino taking a penalty, that bugger Schillaci, visiting the Pope, Put ‘Em Under Pressure, the commemorative milk bottles, the World Cup binder/sticker collection, George Hamilton simple saying ‘Yep’ on RTE when Bonner saved that penalty, fans on the news pleading for money to stay in Italy, Kevin Sheedy (who put the ball in the English net?), Hans van Breukelen spill, ‘wrap it up and here we go’, Jack Charlton on the running track in Rome holding an Irish flag, the t-shirts in Pennys. These references won’t mean much to most, but if you were a football crazy nine-year old in Dublin back in 1990 – they’re memories that will never be bettered.
Mexico '86 - As with pets, girlfriends and nights out on New Year's Eve, there's just something special about the first one you experience – you know, in the days when you go into it blissfully unaware that it's almost certain to end up being very, very painful. England's awkward, painfully shy start; Gary Lineker's devastating hat-trick against Poland; the amazing destruction of Paraguay in the last 16; it all seemed like it would only get better and better before Maradona put England out by scoring the best and worst goals in World Cup history in the space of four minutes. If that isn't the perfect metaphor for a doomed, but fondly-remembered, relationship, I don't know what is.
Liam Happe (Twitter: @liamhappe):
USA ‘94 - The first tournament you remember completely and vividly will always have the advantage in this topic, but let's be honest: the 1994 World Cup was a cracker. Goal kicks taken by full-backs? Third-placed group teams getting into the knockout phase? Epic, Dallas the TV series-inspired video packages before BBC's coverage of games? Goals galore? Check to all of the above. Believe it or not, this FIFA 'new frontiers' philosophy for World Cup venues wasn't always a complete disaster. If only the final wasn't so drab, USA '94 would probably be more widely-regarded as the best-ever.
Dan Quarrell (Twitter: @Dan_Eurosport):
France '98 - It really is true that when the hosts enjoy a good run through a major tournament, the whole even improves as a result. My vote is largely influenced on account of happening to be in France for over a week at the time, but seeing a nation overcome mass pessimism and general derision to defeat a fine Brazil side in style was glorious. England were competitive; Dennis Bergkamp scored 'that goal' and Ronaldo was at his brilliant best while Zinedine Zidane rose to the biggest occasion of all to become an all-time great.
Reda Maher (Twitter: @Reda_Eurosport):
Mexico ‘86 – It was the first one I was truly engaged with - I did a school project about Mexico, complete with pop-up tectonic plates and a drawing of Gary Lineker - but I was seven and barely remember the detail. However, at that age you are less prone to the inevitable soul-searching following England's inglorious exit, so for me all the associations are joyous. Lineker smashing them in with a cast on his wrist, the unfathomable suspicion that Maradona was up to no good, Morocco's hair... even Bryan Robson popping his shoulder was met with the inquisitive happiness of a child: "Ah, he ALWAYS gets hurt, doesn't he?". Even after England's heart-breaking exit, the seven-year-old is soon thinking of sweeties, and trying to emulate the infamous hand of god in the playground. Every tournament afterwards - including Italia 90 where I got to mourn both England and Egypt losing out - has been met with a sense of crushing disappointment.
France '98 - Was a tough call between France '98 and the USA in 1994. Both had some terrific moments - particularly Diana Ross missing an open goal at Chicago's Soldier Field in the opening ceremony 20 years ago - but we'll opt for France due to the host nation making good on their sparkling promise by winning La Coupe du Monde. There were some glorious pieces of skill and enjoyable sides to pore over. Croatia were a personal favourite possessing blokes such as the technically immaculate Robert Prosinecki and Zvonimir Boban. The magnificent goals included David Beckham's free-kick against Colombia, Laurent Blanc's golden goal winner against Paraguay and Dennis Bergkamp's winner for the ages against Argentina in the quarter-finals. Overall it was the best finals in memory. And like Germany's admirable job in hosting 2006, easy to watch because it was in Europe.
Marcus Foley (Twitter: @mmjfoley):
I barely remember it but it has to be Italia 90 – it was my first exposure to tournament football and it was a belter. The swashbuckling West German team were a delight to watch, England came from nowhere to make the semi-finals and Ireland made the quarters without actually winning a game only to be put out by Toto Schillaci – himself who had come from nowhere to be a star. Paul Gascoigne tears remain one of the most iconic sporting photos that have ever been taken. This World Cup had everything!
Mexico '86 - 2 votes
Italia '90 - 3 votes
USA '94 - 2 votes
France '98 - 2 votes
Well, you can tell when this workforce grew up, can't you? It's undoubtedly true we will recall those childhood tournaments the fondest, but as it turns out Italia '90 wins one of the closest Roundtables yet with the odd vote in nine across four World Cups. Is it the fact that England did so well? Is it that, being 24 years old, this pack of writers in their late 20s-early 30s were always going to give it the edge? Who knows...
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