Monday 28 May 2018, 07:44

The childhood memories inspiring World Cup-bound stars

  • Players and coaches share their World Cup memories

  • Neymar, Kane, Pogba, & Son look back to their childhoods

  • Gabriel Jesus reflects on his previous World Cup tradition

At Russia 2018, they will be the ones creating the memories. But before they were players, the likes of Neymar, Harry Kane, Son Heungmin and Javier Hernandez were passionate football fans.

As such, they all have vivid memories - both pleasurable and painful - of the beautiful game’s greatest competition: the FIFA World Cup™. Here, looks at the tournaments, players and matches that stood out for the prospective stars of Russia 2018, and the inspiration these memories have provided.

Croatia midfielder

“I was 13 at the time [of France 1998] and I watched with my friends and family in Zadar. After every win, we just got happier and happier. At the same time, it was a great advert for Croatia – all the world finally knew about us. I remember I started dreaming about being able to reach that level one day. It was phenomenal.”

Spain midfielder

“My first memory is the 1994 World Cup, which my father (Brazil’s Mazinho) won. I was only three and though I don’t remember the matches, I remember him coming home, the celebrations, and all the family being there. I remember it very clearly. I also remember the 2010 Final between Spain and the Netherlands, obviously, and Andres’s [Iniesta] goal. It’s the most important moment in the history of Spanish football. We were with the U-19s at the time. When Andres scored, there were fire extinguishers going off and oil and knives flying in the air. The TV ended up on the floor as well.”

Iran midfielder

“I have a strong memory of watching the 2006 World Cup at home with my family. As we were watching a game, my father turned to me and said, ‘This is my biggest dream – to see you one day playing wearing that shirt at a World Cup’. I was just a kid at the time; neither of us could have imagined I would do just that only eight years later. But his dream definitely became my dream.”

Brazil striker

“For the past three World Cups I have painted the streets (of hometown favela, Jardim Peri) to celebrate the competition – it’s almost an obligation for the community. Hopefully I will get the chance to play at the World Cup in Russia to repay all the joy it has brought me.”

Colombia striker

“My earliest World Cup memory? Freddy Rincon’s goal against Germany at Italy 1990. I must have been four years old. Everyone in Colombia celebrated it, so I have a fleeting memory of it. In fact, I think I recall more clearly all the subsequent times I saw that goal than the actual moment it was scored. The next World Cup wasn’t until 94, so we grew up seeing that goal over and over again.”

Mexico striker

“The first World Cup I remember is 1998. My biggest idol was playing there, Ronaldo. Because of the schedule of the matches, sometimes I had to finish my classes in school early and rush home to watch them.”

Herve Renard

Morocco coach

“The 1978 World Cup in Argentina is the first I remember watching on TV. I can remember Mario Kempes, and the fantastic atmosphere – all those pieces of white paper on the grass. My saddest World Cup memory is France losing to Germany in 1982, Schumacher and Battiston, and France being beaten on penalties. I remember it well and it helps me understand the frustrations of supporters when their national team loses. It’s a terrible thing. I felt like I had lost a loved one!”

England striker

“I remember 2002 and Ronaldinho putting that free-kick into the top corner (against England in the quarter-finals). It still hurts me to this day! That was my earliest memory of a World Cup and since then it has always been a dream to go on and play in one.”

Germany midfielder

“The first World Cup I can remember actively watching was 2006. I was probably too small in 2002 but in 2006 it was here in Germany, and me and my family watched every bit of it. That German team excited the whole country, so every one of their games was a real highlight.”

Belgium assistant manager & World Cup winner with France

“My first memory of the World Cup was Marius Tresor scoring in the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup against West Germany. All I remember was everybody jumping in the house and breaking everything. [Tresor] is from the West Indies and I was in the West Indies at the time on vacation. I was five years old and, honestly, I thought the house was going to explode.”

Russia goalkeeper

“I remember watching the World Cup in USA in 1994. It was an overwhelming feeling. That was the first time that I understood what football was – every move, the entire game. My best memories are of watching the game against Cameroon, when Oleg Salenko scored five and Russia won 6-1.”

Korea Republic forward

“I have a lot of good memories of 2002. I remember after the penalty shoot-out against Spain in the quarter-final, everyone was going crazy. We couldn’t believe it. Everyone was wearing red shirts in 2002, including myself! I can’t choose one moment from that World Cup. Every moment in 2002 was fantastic.”

Brazil forward

“My first memory is from 1994. Although I was two years old, I think my first memory was watching on TV and the goal Romario scored against Holland. I remember that Bebeto crosses, and he takes it first time, and it’s a 'golazo’."

France midfielder

“I remember France’s 3-0 final win over Brazil in 1998. I was really young, just six or seven, and I was at home watching the match with all the others. As soon as France won, we all went outside and climbed over the cars. There were horns sounding and we were all happy.”