Five memorable World Cup celebrations

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Football News

The passing of Nigerian football great Rashidi Yekini last week was a loss to the game, especially in that country, where he was idolised as a player.

The fact he was just 48 years of age enhances the sense of tragedy.


Yekini will be most remembered for this emotional celebration at the 1994 World Cup in the USA after scoring his country’s first ever goal in the competition.


Yekini was also the first man from Nigeria to win the African Player of the Year, when he was given the accolade in 1993.


Remembering Yekini’s goal for Nigeria, the most recognisable of his record 37, has got GMF thinking about other memorable celebrations at the biggest competition in football.


It was never going to be a simple task with there being so many to choose from, but GMF is confident they’ve picked the best five, outside of Yekini’s.


There were no certain criteria; it just had to make us smile. They range from intense emotional release, to funny gestures and even slightly controversial.


Ahn Jung-Hwan, South Korea v USA, 2002


The then Perugia striker was the star of the South Korea team and he cemented his place in World Cup history after heading the equaliser against the Americans.


He ran to the side of the pitch and mimicked the motion of a speed skater, quickly being followed by some team-mates. This was a nod towards South Korean anger at the disqualification of skater Kim Dong-sung in the gold medal race of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics earlier that year.


The, eventually, victorious opponent was an American named Apolo Anton Ohno, who was criticised for throwing up his arms when Kim raced across him during the 1500m race, many in Korea believing it to be a dirty trick. Ahn, it seems, had not forgotten.


Bebeto, Brazil v Holland, 1994


The Brazil striker sparked a trend for many goal-celebrating new fathers when he scored the second goal in his country’s quarter final victory over the Dutch.


He wheeled away ecstatic, was joined by team-mates Romario and Mazinho before the three of them ‘rocked the baby’ in a line.


It was done to acknowledge the birth of his third child, Mattheus, just a couple of days before the match.


Roger Milla, Cameroon v Various, 1990


Cameroon were something of a surprise in 1990, defeating defending champions Argentina in their opening match and making it to the quarter-finals with wins over Romania and Colombia.


The evergreen Milla was 38 at the time and scored four goals in the competition, but also became famous for his celebration – running to the corner flag and doing a little dance.


Gordon Strachan, Scotland v West Germany, 1986 (from 1:20)


The Scottish striker has always been known for his sense of humour on the pitch, as well as being a quality player.


Scotland eventually would exit Mexico '86 in the group stages, but Strachan left his mark with the celebration for his goal against West Germany. Advertising boards surrounded all pitches at the tournament and it had become en vogue to leap over them when celebrating a goal.


This would have been difficult for Strachan as he is not the tallest man in the world, something he highlighted in his celebration.


Marco Tardelli, Italy v West Germany, 1982


This is probably the most famous goal celebration of all time and connects directly with that of Yekini’s in being an unbridled outburst of euphoria.


The then Juventus defensive midfielder picked up the ball on the edge of the area before firing home across goal to give the Italians a 2-0 lead in the final.


He picked himself up and proceeded to charge around the field, his face overcome with emotion, looking on the verge of tears. It was an almost childlike reaction to scoring in the biggest football match in the world, just completely overcome with the joy and importance.


Now it is your turn to put forward some suggestions and join in the debate. What do you think? Let us know and leave a comment below…

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Gordon Strachan

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