Super stars, super memory

Nine players who will represent their countries in Russia relive their first memories of the World Cup.

Neymar: "I think my first memory (of the World Cup) was watching on TV and the goal Romario scored against Holland."   -  GETTY IMAGES


“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.”

– Luka Modric, Croatia 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.”

– Thiago Alcantara, Spain midfielder

“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’.”

– Neymar, Brazil forward

“For the past three World Cups, I have painted the streets (of home town 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.”

– Gabriel Jesus, Brazil striker

“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.”

– Paul Pogba, France midfielder


“I remember watching the World Cup in the 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.”

– Igor Akinfeev, Russia goalkeeper

“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.”

– Javier Hernandez, Mexico striker


“I remember 2002 and Ronaldinho putting that free kick into the top corner (against England in the quarterfinals). It 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.”

– Harry Kane, England striker

“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.”

– Julian Draxler, Germany midfielder

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