To celebrate both Pinnacle’s 20th anniversary and the start of the FIFA World Cup we are looking back at the top 10 moments from the last 20 FIFA World Cups.
West Germany 1974: The Cruyff turn is born
The World Cup in 1974 signalled a leap forward in tactical soccer, as the Netherlands side gave the world “total football”, which was heavily moulded from the all-conquering Hungarian sides of the 1950’s. That Netherlands squad could arguably be the best ever not to win the World Cup, with its basis in Ajax’s multi-European Cup winning side of the early 70’s.
No player encapsulated the Oranje’s slick soccer quite like Johann Cruyff. It was the third group game against Sweden that cemented Cruyff’s name in soccer folklore.
Controlling a crossfield ball with defender Jan Olsson sticking close to the forward, he mimicks crossing the ball in order to disguise his new trick, wraps his foot around the ball and cuts it back in the opposite direction, leaving Olsson bamboozled. The Cruyff turn was born.
Brazil 2014: Germany 7-1 Brazil
Hosting a World Cup should help, just look at Uruguay 1920, Italy 1934, England 1966, West Germany 1974, Argentina 1978 and France 1998.
Yet for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, things didn’t go to script. In seven first-half minutes, Germany demolished Brazil’s hopes of a World Cup win in their own backyard, as they scored four goals to add to their 1-0 lead. The Brazilians, without their talisman Neymar after his injury the round before, looked lost for ideas defensively as the Germans cut through time after time.
The game ended 7-1 and the biggest World Cup semi-final defeat ever, with Germany manager Joachim Lowe admitting asking for his players to take pity on the Brazilians at halftime.
Switzerland 1954: The miracle of Bern
A war-torn country and a team who didn’t even exist four years earlier, losing 2-0 in a World Cup final to a squad who hadn’t lost in four years. What happened during the next 80 minutes will go on to be known as the miracle of Bern: the greatest comeback ever in a World Cup final.
After World War II, West Germany were reeling from post-war sanctions which left their soccer federation non-existent. It was only in February 1950 that a West German national side was reformed.
It was difficult to even qualify for the 1954 World Cup, drawing with Norway and only going to Switzerland due to a 3-1 victory to the newly independent Saarland.
Yet, thanks to a tactical ploy by manager Sepp Herberger which involved resting his best players against the hardest opponents (and a confusing group-style tournament system implemented at the time), West Germany made it to the final against Hungary, despite losing 8-3 to them in the tournament prior.
The weather in Bern for the final was torrential, which played into the West German’s hands as they had new revolutionary kit; screw-in studs on their boots.
Puskas and Czibor gave Hungary a 2-0 lead in just eight minutes and it looked as though another 8-3 was on the cards. Cue the miracle of Bern. Goals from Morlock and two from Rahn, alongside some goalkeeping heroics from Turek and the West Germans were World Champions.
Mexico 1986: Maradona vs. England
Diego Maradona’s performance against England at Mexico ‘86 capsulated the Argentinian’s career entirely; a man of controversy, but a man of brilliance.
After an eventful first half, the match came to life courtesy of Maradona who scored arguably two of the most famous goals in any World Cup, possibly in soccer.
The first, Diego Maradona beat England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to a high ball in England’s box and sent the ball into the back of the net. At first glance, it looked to be an incredible act of athleticism to beat England’s stopper to the ball. With closer scrutiny, Maradona had used his arm to punch the ball past Shilton.
It was cheating on the grandest stage of all, and Maradona had got away with it. When questioned about the moment, the diminutive Argentinian explained the goals as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
Whilst his first of the match showed the worst of Maradona, the second showed his best. The playmaker beat six of England’s outfield players and the keeper, spanning half of the pitch and slotted it into the empty net, with the goal going down as the greatest goal of the century.
Chile 1962: The battle of Santiago
Chile and Italy’s meeting at the 1962 World Cup is agreed to be the most nonsensical match in not just World Cup history, but soccer history.
BBC broadcaster David Coleman didn’t hold back when replays were shown throughout the week: “The game you are about to see is the most stupid, appaling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of [soccer] in the history of the game.”
The eight games played over the first two days of the tournament featured four red cards, three broken legs, a fractured ankle and cracked ribs.
Italy had played dangerously in their opening game, but now they were playing the host nation, and the Italians increased their aggression further.
The Chileans were fuelled by their fanatical home support, alongside the Italian press describing their hosting as “pure madness, Santiago is terrible.”
The Chileans spat, poked and provoked the Italians, who obliged by retaliating. The first foul was awarded after just 12 seconds, and the first sending off after four minutes. Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini refused to leave the pitch and it took 10 minutes and armed policemen to get him off.
Chile’s Leonel Sanchez broke the nose of the Italian captain with a punch but was given no punishment before doing the same on Mario David, who was sent off for retaliating.
Quickly the game descended into anarchy. Several times in the second half armed police were forced onto the pitch during the game. Referee Ken Aston declared that he “wasn’t reffing a [soccer] match, [he] was acting as an umpire in a military manoeuvre.” The game has gone down as a big black mark on World Cup history.
Germany 2006: Zidane’s headbutt
It was meant to be the perfect farewell. Legendary midfielder Zinedine Zidane would haul the FIFA World Cup above his head and bow out of the game indefinitely. What transpired in Berlin was nothing of the sort.
Zidane had dragged France to the Final, putting in game-winning performances against the likes of Brazil, many see as one of the greatest World Cup performances by a single player.
In the 110th minute of the World Cup final, as France faced Italy for the trophy, Marco Materazzi appeared to say something to the France captain, with Zidane engaging in a brief argument.
It seemed as though Zidane was walking off, before turning around and headbutting the Italians chest. Zidane was given a red card, and one of the most iconic World Cup images was taken; Zinedine Zidane walking past the World Cup and to the dressing room for the very last time.
Italy won the final on penalties and Zidane retired from football, with his actions likely costing him another World Cup winners medal.
Spain 1982: The disgrace of Gijon
On June 25, 1982, West Germany faced Austria in the final group game of the World Cup. West Germany needed to defeat Austria to advance, whilst Austria needed to lose by less than three goals to advance alongside the Germans at the expense of Algeria.
The match began promisingly, with the Germans looking to get revenge on the side who knocked them out of the previous tournament. The West Germans took the lead through Pierre Littbarski, a score that favoured both sides. Suddenly, the urgency that was in the game before diminished.
Aside from West Germany’s early goal, there was only one other shot on target during the entire match. The scoreline would see Austria and Germany make the knockout rounds and send Algeria out, and the decision not to play competitively and what looked like to fix the match was derided by fans and broadcasters alike.
The game paved the way of the new format of group stage matches, meaning that final group games are played at the same time so teams cannot know what result will see them make the knockout rounds, thus teams cannot plan a result prior to kickoff.
France 1998: Will Ronaldo play?
Just 21 at France 98, Ronaldo had scored four and assisted as many on his way to the final, dragging what was at the time a mediocre (particularly in defence) Brazilian outfit.
Then the news broke: Ronaldo was not in the starting 11. Hundreds of shocked pundits began to investigate why he was not in the team, and quickly rumours of sickness and injury made its way to the Stade de France.
Just as the world began to comprehend a final without the tournament’s star player, Ronaldo was back in. Il Fenomeno was reinstated to the teamsheet leaving many perplexed to exactly what had happened.
Ronaldo was not himself during the final and Brazil looked toothless without their talisman. France strolled to a 3-0 win and a World Cup in their home nation, and it was later revealed that the striker had a convulsion on the day of the final. What caused this illness and why he played the game remain a hot topic, with a number of
Mexico 1970: The Gordon Banks save
The greatest of saves will never achieve the instant acclaim of goals that are scored. So for Gordon Banks’ save against Pele to have made this list, it had to be something outstanding
By the time England faced Brazil at Mexico 1970 Gordon Banks was already a World Cup winner and seen as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
Jairzinho had outpaced England fullback Terry Cooper and crossed the ball to the far post and onto Pele’s head, who powered a downward header towards the bottom corner. Banks had to get from his near post to his far post and dive to reach the bouncing header and palm it away from what looked like to be a certain goal.
The save left Pele mystified, yet it was only in retrospect that the save reached such lofty heights, of which Pele himself described as history’s finest.
Uruguay 1930: The first ever World Cup
FIFA President Jules Rimet’s dream was finally realised in 1930, as Uruguay hosted the inaugural FIFA World Cup, paving the way for 20 following tournaments.
Only 12 teams made the trip to join the hosts in the tournament and
Instead, FIFA affiliated countries were invited, with seven South American teams participating.
European teams were difficult to convince to take part, with clubs unwilling to release players for the tournament, whilst others refused to make the long trip. Only four European teams made the trip.
The South Americans dominated the tournament, with only Yugoslavia making it out of the group stages from Europe, only to be defeated 6-1 by hosts Uruguay.
Uruguay became the first world champions after defeating Argentina 4-2 in the final and paved the way for host nations to generally thrive in the World Cup.
Did your favourite moment make the list?
Tweet us your greatest World Cup momentsTweet Pinnacle