In this midst of corruption allegations and half-finished infrastructure, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Brazil. For the next month, football results are elevated above their usual spot at the end of the news, to just before the end of the news – it’s a special time indeed.
Being an England fan, I am no stranger to crushing disappointments and broken dreams. Fortunately I’m also able to take enjoyment from the successes of others, which is why I’ve put together this short but entertaining list of great World Cup moments from tournaments gone by – in no particular order.
Mexico 1970 – Brazil vs. Italy – Alberto Goal
Widely regarded by many as being “the wondergoal”, Brazil’s fourth goal in the 1970 World Cup final has gone down in history as one of the finest movements the game has ever known. The names of those involved – Tostão, Brito, Coldoaldo, Pelé, Gérson and Rivelino – reads like a fantasty football team from your dreams, and Alberto’s finish still puts a smile on his face when recalling the moment even today.
France 1998 – Holland vs. Argentina – Bergkamp Goal
A moment I recall from my childhood with startling clarity is Dennis Bergkamp’s incredible goal against Argentina in the quarter final of the France 1998 World Cup. The ambitious first run, his incredible technique in controlling a long pass and a finish that involved little more than a deft flick with the outside of his right foot make this one to remember. It’s so famous it’s even been recreated in LEGO.
Sweden 1958 – Pelé Finds His Boots
In 1958 a 17 year-old by the name of Edson Arantes do Nascimento arrived at the Swedish-hosted tournament carrying a knee injury. In the quarter final, Brazil met Wales and Pelé scored the only goal – his first – that gave many a taste of the legend that was about to be unleashed.
The video above shows Pelé in action in the final, in which host nations Sweden lost 5-2 thanks to some incredible footwork and an amazing on-field presence from the teenager.
Germany 2006 – Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro – The “25 passes” Goal
You’d be forgiven for having mixed feelings about Argentina’s footballing past, particularly if there are three lions on your shirt. That said, there’s little to fault in the video above which shows the 2006 Argentinian side connecting 25 passes (go on, count ’em) before Cambiasso buries the ball in spectacular fashion. The game finished up 6-0, though the scoreline will never be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking back to this match.
Argentina 1978 – Scotland vs. Holland – Archie Gemmill Goal
Arguably Scotland’s finest World Cup moment came in 1978, with Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland that put them 3-1 ahead. If you’ve seen the 1996 film Trainspotting, you’ll spot the reference: “I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978,” provided by drug-addled protagonist Mark Renton. It refers to Scotland’s dependence on a three-goal lead in order to qualify for the next round, a dream that was dashed two minutes later by Holland’s response.
England 1966 – England vs. West Germany – They Think It’s All Over…
It’s usually pretty obvious when a game of football ends, but it wasn’t in 1966. This was the first time England had hosted the tournament, and the first time they’d come so close to winning. Kenneth Wolstenholme’s words have become quite possibly more famous than the result itself, as he struggled to decipher whether the game was finally over and hold in his excitement fuelled by a packed Wembley stadium.
Mexico 1986 – England vs. Argentina – Maradonna Makes History
Right after one of the most infamous goals of all time came another memorable occasion, this time for the right reasons. The “Hand of God” as it has become known (below) highlighted the many terrible refereeing decisions that have blighted so many world cups, but Diego Maradonna’s next move is arguably Argentina’s best goal to date in any World Cup.
Above you can see the infamous “Hand of God” in which Maradonna “scored” a “goal” with his fist that – many might argue – had a huge impact on the result that day. Of course I’m not bitter.
Brazil 1950 – Brazil vs. Uruguay – Uruguay Silences The Maracana
The first World Cup to be held after the conclusion of World War II, Brazil 1950 has gone down in history as one of the biggest upsets. The host nation built the world’s largest stadium, the Maracana, in Rio de Janeiro especially for the occasion. Brazil’s national team were dominating the competition, beating Spain 6-1 and Sweden 7-1 – to the point where the nation was convinced they would win. Then they lost, to their neighbours Uruguay who took their second ever title. At this stage, Brazil had never won the world cup – oh how times have changed.
Mexico 1970 – England vs. Brazil – Gordon Banks’ Legendary Save
Rarely are goalkeepers honoured in quite the same way as strikers, but England keeper Gordon Banks earned his place in history in England’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil at the 1970 World Cup. Pelé thought he had scored when he headed a strong downward ball towards England’s goal in the first half, but he (and the rest of the world) was surprised to find Banks had managed to deflect it in stunning acrobatic fashion.
West Germany 1974 – Holland vs. Sweden – The Cruyff Turn
Sometimes some of the best moments in history are the briefest, like this moment of genius shown by Johan Cruyff in the 1974 World Cup group stages against Sweden. The move is so quick and skillful you need to watch it several times to really appreciate what is going on. Nobody had seen a move like this before, and while many have recreated similar fancy footwork since, Cruyff’s turn happened at a World Cup – and that makes it extra special.
Whoever you’re supporting this year, be sure to spare a thought for the successes, failures and defining moments of past competitions as you enjoy the tournament taking place in Brazil over the next few weeks. Be sure to mention your favourite World Cup moments in the comments!