The World Cup: simply the biggest show on earth.
To date, there have been 17 different hosts, 80 nations have taken part, exactly 900 matches have been played, 2,548 goals have been scored, and eight countries have lifted the trophy.
With the latest edition due to start on November 20 between Qatar and Ecuador, 101 Great Goals kick-starts the countdown to Qatar 2022′s big kick off by taking a look back at 101 Great World Cup Moments.
We will count down through the moment in the week leading up to the tournament.
39: Surely not again Luis Suárez?
If you’re new to football, it may come as quite a shock that one of the greatest strikers of his generation is possibly most famous for… biting! Despite the fact he’d already bitten Otman Bakkal in 2011 and Branislav Ivanović two years later, Luis Suárez’s nibble of Giorgio Chiellini at World Cup 2014 still sent shockwaves around the world. Uruguay actually won this group game, thereby pipping Gli Azzurri to a place in the knockout stages. However, Suárez would play no further part, banned for four months by FIFA, thereby not making his Barcelona debut until 25 October.
38: It’s still Michael Owen…. He’s scored a wonderful goal!
In the round of 16 at France ‘98, teenager Michael Owen announced himself to the world. By the 16th minute, the score was already 1-1, but England then retook the lead, thanks to an astonishing solo goal. Teenager Owen picks up the ball in the centre circle, dribbles past both José Chamot and Roberto Ayala, before firing into the top corner. In a FIFA poll conducted in 2002, this was voted the second-best World Cup goal of all-time, behind only Maradona’s goal in 1986, also occurring in a match between these two rivals. The Three Lions’ World Cup would end here though; David Beckham was sent off for kicking out at Diego Simeone and then, as always, England were beaten on penalties.
37: The name’s Bond. James Rodríguez
Despite the fact his team exited in the quarter-finals, James Rodríguez was the undisputed star of the 2014 World Cup, picking up the Golden Boot having scored six goals. This earned the Colombian a €75 million move from Monaco to Real Madrid, then the fourth-most expensive transfer of all time. James’ turn and chip against Japan was a special moment, but it pales into insignificance compared to his strike against Uruguay. 28 minutes into this round of 16 clash, James’ controls the ball on his chest before volleying home an astonishing strike. This won that year’s Puskás Award, and was the defining image of Rodríguez’s amazing three weeks.
36: Gazza’s tears
If you say the words ‘Gazza’s tears’ to anyone over a certain age in England, they’ll all conjure up the exact same image in their mind. The year is 1990 and England are in their first World Cup semi-final for 24 years, but are up against old enemies the Germans. With the score 1-1, this one has gone into extra time, nine minutes into which the decisive moment comes. Paul Gascoigne puts in a late challenge on Thomas Berthold and is shown a yellow card that means he would miss the final through suspension. This leaves Gascoigne heartbroken and close to tears; teammate Gary Lineker pulls ‘that face’ and urges manager Booby Robson to ‘have a word’. England would go out on penalties, Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missing, with Gazza, a far better penalty taker, not chosen, as he wasn’t in a fit state mentally to do so.Open in new window
The 2014 World Cup Final was a night of nearly moments and squandered opportunities, until one of the most aesthetically pleasing World Cup Final goals, coming deep in stoppage time. André Schürrle cross picks out Mario Götze, who pulls off a sublime chest-control and volley to win the World Cup for Germany, breaking Argentinian hearts. If Götze had got the control slightly wrong, the ball would’ve run away from him and Sergio Romero would’ve smothered it. Just 22 at the time, Götze then had the expectation of the world on his shoulders and, in truth, his career endured a downturn from then on.
34: “Diego in our hearts, Italy in our chants”
World Cup 1990 was, of course, hosted by Italy, but they didn’t feel particularly at home in their semi-final clash with Argentina. Due to a rather bizarre decision by the tournament organisers, this match was played in Naples, at the stadium Argentina’s talisman, Diego Maradona, had called home for six seasons, delivering Napoli’s first two Scudettos. Also, Italy suffers from a massive cultural divide, between those in the south and their most affluent northern compatriots. Given this backdrop, many Italians inside the San Paolo that day were cheering on the South American side. Turns out, they were the ones celebrating because, when Aldo Serena’s penalty was saved by Sergio Goycochea, it was Argentina who reached the final. This game further emphasises the power of Maradona, on and off the field.
Football is often just a microcosm of society and a prime example of this is the France team that won the World Cup on home soil in 1998. This team was nicknames ‘the rainbow team’ and was given the slogan ‘black-blanc-beur, celebrating it’s multiculturalism and, for a short period, the country enjoyed a ‘completely integrated society’. A picture of Marcel Desailly, Laurent Blanc and Zinedine Zidane holding the trophy became the abiding image the would represent this. However, this didn’t last long, with the honeymoon period firmly over by 2005, when riots began a three-week state of emergency. In fact, when France regained the World Cup two decades later, the same conversations were happening, concerning the country’s racial inequality. All of this goes to show the power football can have on the wider population.
32: The game of their lives
Not many World Cup matches have a film about them, but this group stage encounter from 1950 is certainly worth documenting. It’s England, making their World Cup debut, but amongst the favourites, up against a bunch of amateurs calling themselves the United States. Coming into this one, USA had lost their last seven internationals by an aggregate score of 45-2, including their group opener against Spain. Meanwhile, England had just beaten Chile 2-0, and were resting star player Stanley Matthews for most difficult matches. So, the 10,000 in attendance were shocked when Joe Gaetjens’ diving header gave the U.S. the lead on the cusp of half time. England could not find an equaliser and 1-0 it finished. The result was so unexpected, many British newspapers believed it to be a misprint, and that England had actually won 10-1. To this day, this remains one of the biggest World Cup shocks ever, as documented in the 2005 movie ‘the game of their lives’.
31: Argentina champions of the world again
The 1986 final is widely regarded as the best final of the television age. Argentina raced into an early 2-0 lead, only for quick-fire goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Völler saw West Germany draw level. Nevertheless, they were only level for little over two minutes. Diego Maradona played in Jorge Burruchaga who wrote his name into World Cup history by poking home the winner. Maradona didn’t score in this final, but was instrumental in la Albiceleste’s success, putting in one of the great individual performances in front of 114,600 supporters at the Azteca.
30: That Carles Puyol header
The 2010 semi-final between Germany and Spain was always going to be an epic encounter, coming just two years after they’d contested the European Championships Final. The only goal of the night came towards the end, when Carles Puyol’s astonishing, towering header flew past Manuel Neuer. This send Spain through to their first-ever World Cup Final, that they’d win of course, and this remains one of the greatest headed goals in the tournament’s history.