As close as some people get to the real thing
6 August ~ Unless you're a startlingly healthy 95-year-old millionaire, seeing live goals by players who've scored in the World Cup final is not a doable list and therefore unworthy of obsessive attention. Yet, after this summer's final, I felt denied. Three participants in July's Argentina v Germany decider had scored in games I'd previously attended. Germany's Mario Götze, who netted the only goal at the Maracanã, wasn't one of them. My collection is stuck at four. But then I did see them all in Glasgow.
In 1984, aged 15, I paid a fiver to watch Rangers host Internazionale in a UEFA Cup second round, second leg. The decisive away goal came from Alessandro Altobelli. My teenage devastation later gave way to a feeling of vicarious involvement in the 1982 World Cup final, in which Altobelli scored Italy's third against Germany. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge also starred for Inter. When he scored against Argentina in the next World Cup final I retrospectively regretted him only hitting our post.
Thirty years on, only eight countries have won the World Cup. My love of Scotland matches anything any Argentinian or German feels for their national XI. Yet those two have met in the World Cup final three times since Rummenigge struck the Ibrox woodwork; it'll be 20 years since Scotland even qualified. Part of me wants a bigger return on time invested. So I mainline the greats.
Hitting the back of the net in the planet's most important game isn't subjective greatness. It's solid gold. Seeing such a player score in the flesh is the closest you, I or even most Germans and Argentinians will get to FIFA's showpiece match. Andrés Iniesta's first strike for Spain after his winner in the final of South Africa 2010 was in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Scotland. In Hampden's main stand I held my breath when the ball rebounded to him 12 yards out. This wasn't solely because Scotland were already one down. I was channelling Soccer City, Johannesburg and football's biggest goal in four years.
It's not all consolation though. Playing for Marseille, Rudi Völler scored at Ibrox in a July 1992 friendly. A relaxed home crowd applauded and I thrilled at witnessing a goal by the German who'd made it 2-2 in the Azteca in that Mexico 86 final. But five months later Völler returned, in the Champions League, putting Marseille 2-0 up amid calamitous Rangers defending. This was too much of a rare thing.
UEFA staged the 2002 Champions League final at Hampden. I breathed the same air as Zinedine Zidane's spectacular winner for Real Madrid, midway between his two scoring World Cup finals. Desperation to attend a World Cup, and the randomness of FIFA's ticket ballot, found me at the opening game of Germany 2006. Philipp Lahm and Miroslav Klose scored against Costa Rica. The following year, in the Nou Camp, I saw Lionel Messi score against Rangers. That none of these three scored in the World Cup final is only as surprising as some of the 57 who have.
Italy's Marco Materazzi (2006) and Germany's Wolfgang Weber (1966) both managed just one other international goal. José Luis Brown's only goal for Argentina was the opener in that 1986 final. When Germany visit Hampden in the Euro 2016 qualifiers I want a Scotland victory, but not necessarily a clean sheet. Alex Anderson