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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

My favourite World Cup moment: Michael Laudrup and the Danish Dynamite at Mexico 86

A goal of scintillating beauty

Danish forward Michael Laudrup tries to dribble by Scotland's Alex McLeish during the World Cup first round match between Denmark and Scotland in 1986. AFP
Danish forward Michael Laudrup tries to dribble by Scotland's Alex McLeish during the World Cup first round match between Denmark and Scotland in 1986. AFP

That kit, Preben Elkjaer’s smile, the fans with their face paint. In 1986 in Mexico, the Danes were, as their supporters sang, dynamite.

While their team was among the original hipsters of game, keeping that 70s feel well into the mid-1980s, amid them was an outsider, clean cut, 21-years old and ethereal; Michael Laudrup.

The demolition job the Danish team did on the Uruguayans in the group stages was capped by a goal of scintillating beauty. A gliding dribble through the penalty area by Laudrup, which he had begun beyond the D, leaving defenders trailing in his wake, seemed at the final point to have been too ambitious, his run having taken him too wide to get a shot in. But he knew what he was doing.

Almost at the death, an impetuous flick of his left boot cannoned the ball off of a Uruguayan player - who had sensibly taken a precautionary position on the goal line - and into the net. The hapless defender, his team mates, the Danish players, the crowd, myself and the commentator who cried “The boy’s a genius”, were all taken by surprise.

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Not Laudrup though, who took it all in his stride and would go on to almost effortless success at the highest levels of football. A colossus of the game, Johan Cruyff, who would later manage Laudrup at Barcelona, once said of him that he was the equal of Maradona, George Best, Pele others in the pantheon of greats but lacked that killer instinct that comes from growing up in poverty.

Laudrup came from a footballing family, the son of Danish international, Finn. For me though, he was and always will be my number one and that moment in Mexico 32-years ago remains the spark that ignited my passion and love for the game as embodied by the magic of the World Cup.

Mustafa Alrawi is Assistant Editor in Chief at The National