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May 26, 2010

First XI: World Cup celebrations

This week's First XI looks at the most famous celebrations of all-time.

GettyImagesFalcao celebrates in 1982.

Falcao: Brazil vs. Italy (1982)
From the outside, Falcao was seen very much as the quiet man of the Brazilian side that travelled to Spain 1982. His equaliser in a losing cause against a Paolo Rossi-inspired Italy in the semi-final tie saw him cut inside onto his left foot, dragging three Italian defenders away from the goal and fire a fine shot into the net before charging towards the bench. With veins bulging from his forearms, he evaded Luizinho before doing his best impression of a kangaroo in front of the fans.

Marco Tardelli: Italy vs. West Germany (1982)
You've just scored a goal in a World Cup final. Every moment you've trained for has come true; everything you've worked so hard to achieve is close to being realised; so how do you celebrate? Surely the most memorable celebration of all-time came from Italy legend Marco Tardelli who set off on a run of delight after netting his country's second goal in their 3-1 win over West Germany in the 1982 final. The tears, the sheer unbridled passion as he ran towards his team-mates shaking his clenched fists with a mixture of joy and madness, screaming 'Goal' at the top of his voice, Tardelli's greatest moment has been named l'urlo di Tardelli - "Tardelli's Scream". Has anything else ever embodied the beautiful game so perfectly?

Gordon Strachan: Scotland vs. Germany (1986)
One of the first celebration crazes to sweep the World Cup was the hurdling of the advertising boards. At Mexico '86 a fair few players attempted it with success, and one didn't. When 5' 5'' worth of Scottish midfielder Gordon Strachan made a pact with Charlie Nicholas that whoever scored would undertake this feat, he must have been hoping he wouldn't have to follow through. However, what amounted to the high-jump for the wee man, was put into practice when he slotted home Roy Aitken's pass from a tight angle after 18 minutes. Sizing up his task, Strachan did a little test jump as the CAMEL ad loomed over him, then, realising it was beyond him, plonked his leg on top of it to the delight of his team-mates.

Roger Milla: Cameroon vs. Romania (1990)
Capturing the mood of a continent with a simple wiggle of his hips, Roger Milla exploded onto the world scene with his performances for Cameroon at Italia '90. It was the first time an African side had reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup and Milla had come out of retirement at the age of 38 to lead his side in Italy. Africa danced along with Milla as he netted a double against Romania, and then again when he came on to score two against Colombia. On each occasion, the striker ran to the corner flag and, with one arm aloft and the other on his gyrating hip, danced to his heart's content in front of the world.

Rashidi Yekini: Nigeria vs. Bulgaria (1994)
It was a good time to be a young Nigerian footballer at USA '94 as a side including Jay Jay Okocha and Finidi George went to their first World Cup. The joy of scoring their first ever goal at the tournament was portrayed by former African Footballer of the Year Rashidi Yekini, as he followed-up his close range tap-in during a 3-0 win over Bulgaria. Beating the Bulgarians was impressive enough, but Yekini took celebrating to a new level when he stayed entangled in the net to display his emotions - first, gripping and pulling at it as he screamed with joy, then poking his arms through to clench his fists and hold his face before eventually disengaging.

GettyImagesBebeto (C) rocks the baby in 1994.

Finidi George: Nigeria vs. Greece (1994)
Not to be outdone, Finidi George took it upon himself to push the boundaries of celebrating in Nigeria's final group game: a 2-0 win against Greece. After netting a superb chip to seal the Super Eagles' progress to the next stage. George raced towards the corner flag - another Milla celeb? No! He dropped down onto all fours, pretending to be a dog. Sniffing around for a few seconds, George then cocked his leg with a grace that belied his situation, before team-mates arrived on the scene to bring his show to an end. Not finished though, once the group has dispersed, the striker enjoyed a 360 degree jig.

Bebeto: Brazil vs. Holland (1994)
It is a well-known fact that footballers like to procreate, so someone was always going to celebrate the birth of their child after scoring a goal. Leave it to the Brazilians to make it look good though, as striker Bebeto brought the 'cradle-rocking' celebration to the world's attention. Having netted against Holland in the quarter-finals, Bebeto ran to the touchline to be joined by teammates Romario and Mazinho before they all started to rock an imaginary baby in tribute to the striker's potency (on and off the pitch). Some have tried to mirror him since - Jermaine Jenas to name one - but no-one has come close to pulling it off with such aplomb.

Diego Maradona: Argentina vs. Greece (1994)
USA '94 would be remembered for many celebrations, but one gave notice of a rather more sinister undertone. As Diego Maradona's Argentina side thrashed Greece 4-0, the great man himself (playing in his last World Cup) netted in the 60th minute and ran towards the camera to celebrate. The beauty of the goal was soon ruined by Maradona's wild, bulging eyes and distorted face in close-up, portrayed to millions through the TV set. It would be one of his last actions on the pitch as, just days later, he tested positive for the performance enhancing substance ephedrine and was banned for 15 months. It may have been the eyes that gave him away.

Brian Laudrup: Denmark vs. Brazil (1998)
The Danes had achieved the biggest success in their history when they won Euro '92, and by the time the 1998 World Cup in France came around they were still a talented team. Reaching the quarter-finals, they came up against Brazil and nearly caused an upset before eventually succumbing 3-2 to the Samba stars. Laudrup - capitalising on a failed bicycle-kick clearance from Roberto Carlos - smashed the ball home to equalise at 2-2 and set off in Tardelli-esque style. The run was short-lived though as he spun to the ground to pose as if he was on a Milanese catwalk with Soren Colding, camera flashes lighting up the French sky. Laid back? Perhaps a little too much so, as Denmark conceded the winner ten minutes later.

Ahn Jung-Hwan
GettyImagesAhn Jung-Hwan and his fellow skaters in 2002.

Ahn Jung-Hwan: South Korea v USA (2002)
Not content with lighting up the 2002 World Cup with his football, South Korea's Ahn got all political as he celebrated his goal against the USA. Having headed his side level, Ahn ran to the corner flag where he began to mime speed skating - a reference to the controversial disqualification of Korean skater Kim Dong-Sung in the 1500m at the 2002 Winter Olympics. While some of his team-mates knew what was going on, others just seemed to join in for the fun of it.

Papa Bouba Diop, Senegal v France, 2002
An African team, corner flags and dancing - we've heard all this before right? Well Diop, like the rest of the world, was stunned when he put Senegal ahead against the reigning World and European champions, France, but seemingly had something planned on the off-chance. Running into the corner, he took off his No.19 shirt, laid it on the ground and then invited his team-mates to dance in a circle around it, before breaking off into some form of freestyle jig. Diop was careful to ensure that no-one muddied his white shirt, but the damage was already done for France who left the tournament without scoring a single goal.