NBC Sports' lead soccer commentator relives memories from tournaments past.
Billy Stickland/Getty Images
Published June 8, 2018
Published 10 days ago
All it took was 27 seconds. It was 1982, and a 9-year-old Arlo White was watching his first-ever World Cup match. When England scored in the first minute, the kid from Leicester was immediately hooked. In the years since, White, NBC Sports' lead Premier League commentator, has watched and covered countless matches, many featuring the biggest teams and talents that the sport has to offer. His passionate, witty, and poetic play-by-play demonstrates a genuine love for the work and a thorough knowledge of the game, past and present. As White prepares to watch his beloved England compete in Russia, he spoke with FOTO about his all-time favorite World Cup pictures and the lasting memories behind them.
Bob Thomas/Getty ImagesENGLAND'S KIT, 1982"Maybe it's because you never forget your first time — or your first jersey. But, come on, this is by far the best England kit ever. The 1982 squad, or 'Ron's Twenty Two' as they called themselves in a catchy World Cup song (well, I was only 9!), included some of my earliest football heroes such as Bryan Robson, Ray Wilkins, Trevor Francis, and Terry Butcher. This picture reminds me of the pride I felt wearing my replica Admiral three lions shirt as they roared through the group stage. And I'm pretty sure I cried my eyes out in that same jersey when they bowed out in the next round."
Manchester Daily Express/SSPL via Getty ImagesROBSON VS. FRANCE, 1982"Espana 1982 was the first World Cup I can remember watching. The kick-off times were perfect for a 9-year-old — imagine dashing home from school, clicking on the TV for the 4:15pm start in Bilbao, and watching your favorite player put England in front after just 27 seconds. It was like a blur: Steve Coppell hurled a throw-in to the near post, Terry Butcher flicked it on, and all of a sudden there he was, Bryan Robson, "Captain Marvel," all alone in space. This photograph perfectly captures Robbo's athleticism and focus as he volleys the ball into the French net. At the time it was the fastest goal ever recorded at a World Cup Finals. And I was all-in..."Steve Powell/Getty ImagesMARADONA VS. BELGIUM, 1982"This is one of my favorite photos of the great Diego Maradona — and perhaps the greatest World Cup image of all-time. The Belgian defenders are clearly aware of his prodigious talent and look hypnotized by the ball at his feet. Without context, it's actually a little misleading. In actuality, Maradona had just received the ball from a quickly taken free-kick, and the six Belgian defenders staring at him had been part of the wall. That said, we all know that Maradona would have been very capable of dribbling through all of them and caressing the ball into the back of the net with ease — precisely what he did four years later in Mexico, against the very same opposition."Getty ImagesROSSI VS. BRAZIL, 1982"Brazil's 1982 World Cup squad — which included the likes of Socrates, Zico, Junior, and Eder — was regarded as potentially one of the very best Brazilian teams of all time. Thanks to Italy's Paolo Rossi, their greatness was never realised. Needing to beat the Brazilians outright to reach the semi-finals, Rossi put on one of the greatest performances in World Cup history, scoring a hat-trick to lead eventual champion Italy to a pulsating 3-2 victory. If that wasn't enough, Rossi went on to score in both the semi-final and final, becoming a national hero in the process."
Getty ImagesLINEKER'S HAT-TRICK, 1986"After enduring a terrible start to the 1986 World Cup, including a loss to Portugal and draw with Morocco (all without scoring a goal), England needed a win against Poland in their final group match to avoid an ignominious exit. I vividly remember staying up late with my dad to watch it, and Gary Lineker, a fellow Leicester-native, made it worth our while. His legendary hat-trick within the first 34 minutes sent England through. I love this picture as it's one of the first taken of Gary — who used to sell fruit and veg as a lad on Leicester market — as a newly-anointed global star. He would go on to score three more goals in the tournament, win the Golden Boot, and soon after sign with Barcelona. Not bad for a summer job."Bob Thomas/Getty Images"HAND OF GOD", 1986"It still hurts to this day, but what an iconic photograph of the infamous goal which put Argentina in front against England in the quarter-finals. The genius of this shot compared with others is that Maradona's hand is actually making contact with the ball, further emphasising what an outrageous hand ball it was. Poor Peter Shilton — he's straining every sinew in his body to punch it clear, but the England keeper had little chance against the legendary Argentine's apparent divine intervention. Five minutes later, Maradona produced one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time, but England fans were left seething and wondering what might have been."Billy Stickland/Getty ImagesGAZZA'S TEARS, 1990"The 1982 World Cup may have been my first, but Italia 1990 remains my favorite. Football in England during the 1980s was not the glossy product you see today. With the terrible tragedies of Hillsborough and Valley Parade, the rampant hooliganism, and crumbling old stadiums, the beautiful game was in need of a makeover. The 1990 World Cup squad, including the magnificent Paul Gascoigne (my favorite player of all time), seemed to usher in a new era. This famous photo of Gazza's tears following the team’s semi-final loss to Germany will forever have a special place in my heart. It is the ultimate illustration of his raw emotion and the immense pride he took in wearing the three lions on his shirt. Even in a moment of crushing disappointment, Gazza and his team made English football fans less ashamed of following the game, and they helped to kick-start a revolution."