The names roll off the tongue with the familiarity of family, with the same ease they demonstrated in playing the game.
Pele, Maradona, Charlton, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Platini, Zidane, Zico, Zoff, Eusebio, Socrates ... names made famous for the game they played and the part they played in making the game famous. They will never be forgotten for their performances on the world's biggest stage, for their longevity and excellence.
Yet they share the stage with individuals who's star burns brightly, albeit for a far shorter period of time and for different reasons.
Such is the nature of the World Cup. Those who have their 15 minutes of fame, because of character, oddity or performance, share the same spotlight as those who are remembered forever.
Finidi George will be remembered for one of the strangest goal celebrations in World Cup history. In the 1994 World Cup against Greece, the Nigerian striker scored a wonderful goal and then sank to the ground to imitate a dog. George crawled for a few yards and then lifted his leg pretending to urinate. No explanation was ever tendered.
Rene Higuita, the frizzy-haired Colombia goalkeeper, was odd even by goalkeeping standards. He made The Scorpion Kick famous. He would allow the ball over his head, dive forward and whip his heels up and connect with the ball (he hoped.) He also loved to come out of his net to dribble the ball.
In the 1990 World Cup against Cameroon, already down 1-0, he came almost to midfield to have a dribble with his mates. Cameroon veteran Roger Milla disposed him of the ball and had nothing but an empty net staring at him for his 40-yard run. Cameroon went on the quarterfinals, the first African nation to do so.
That was also the World Cup that brought Milla to fame. A long-time professional, he retired from football but the Cameroon president convinced him to play for his nation. The 38-year old scored four goals.
When you watch soccer now and notice players running to the corner flag to dance around it, it was Milla who brought that celebration to the World Cup. Four years later at 42, he would become the oldest player to score in a World Cup game.
Referees have plenty of their own infamy at the World Cup. In the 2006 World Cup game between Australia and Croatia, English referee Graham Poll had already given Croatian Josip Simunic two yellow cards but failed to send him off. Late in the game, Simunic picked up his third yellow and was subsequently sent off.
Poll claimed he inadvertently placed No. 3 Simunic's second booking in the wrong column next to Australia's No. 3. Poll took a great deal of heat but none of the other three officials handling the match pointed out the error to him. Poll retired the following year.
His post refereeing work included writing a column in a newspaper ... on officiating.
The United States were playing Colombia in the group stage of the 1994 World Cup. American John Harkes attempted to send a ball across goal and Andrťs Escobar Saldarriaga, a Colombian defender, accidently kicked it into his own net.
The Americans went on to win 2-1, a game that eliminated Columbia from the tournament.
A week after he arrived home, he was reportedly gunned down because he caused huge gambling losses to several powerful drug lords.
South Korean Ahn Jung-Hwan is hardly a household name in the soccer world unless you are a fan of Italy. Jung-Hwan scored the golden goal in the 2002 World Cup, eliminating Italy after a controversial game. When he wasn't playing for South Korea, he was a forward with Italian club Perugia. After
the game, Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci cancelled his contract and was quoted as saying, "I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football."
He later rescinded the threat but Jung-Hwan never played another minute with an Italian club.
Can you can speak about the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea without mentioning the atrocious officiating? It was so bad many believe the fix was in to ensure Korea made it as far as it could. The worst culprit was Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno who made a mess of the Italy-South Korea quarterfinal in the same
game in which Jung-Hwan scored the winner. The errors included disallowing at least one good goal and sending off Italy's Francesco Totti.
After the game, Italians named toilets after Moreno.
By 2003, he was out of football after being suspended for twenty matches in part for allowing 13 minutes of extra time in one game. He was then suspended for a match for sending off three players from one team.
Speaking of dogs, the World Cup has a history with the four-legged creatures.
Four months before the 1966 World Cup in England, the Jules Rimet Cup, the ancestor of the World Cup, was stolen during a public rare stamp exhibition in England. The trophy was found just seven days later wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge by Pickles, a mutt being walked by
When England won the trophy, Pickles was invited to the celebration banquet and was allowed to lick the plates clean.
He died a year later not from anything he ate off the plates.
Then, there was the unnamed mutt who invaded the field during a 1962 World Cup game in Chile between England and Brazil. A few minutes into the game, the dog strayed on the field and wouldn't be caught.
England player Jimmy Greaves got down on all fours and enticed the dog to come to him. Announcer Kenneth Wolstenholme said "Now Jimmy Greaves ... Will he? Well done Jimmy!" The problem didn't end there though. The dog peed all over Greaves, who was forced to play the rest of the game smelling of dog urine.