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.
49: Eusébio’s four-goal haul inspires comeback
One of the forgotten great World Cup performances came at Goodison Park in July 1966. Portugal, making their debut, had won all three group matches, notably defeating defending champions Brazil. However, just 25 minutes into their quarter-final clash with surprise package North Korea, Otto Glória’s team found themselves 3-0 down! Step forward Eusébio, who scored four times in just 32 minutes, as A Seleção fought back to win 5-3, the only team to win a World Cup game when 3+ goals down. Eusébio scored a total of nine goals at that tournament, as his team finished third, still Portugal’s best performance to this day.
48: Battle of Nürnberg
If you search the Battle of Nürnberg in Wikipedia, you won’t find a deadly conflict from WWII. Instead, you’ll find details of a 2006 round of 16 match between Portugal and Netherlands. In total, 16 yellow cards and four reds were shown, with Costinha, Khalid Boulahrouz, Deco and then Giovanni van Bronckhorst all dismissed. Both the yellow and red card counts remain a record for any FIFA international tournament; Portugal won 1-0 by the way.
47: Well that’s three yellow cards
In Australia, their 2-2 draw with Croatia in 2006 is memorable because it’s the only time, to date, the Socceroos have ever reached the World Cup knockout stages. Everywhere else, it’s known as the day it took three yellow cards for Josip Šimunić to be sent off. Approaching the 90th minute, Dario Šimić and Brett Emerton have both been dismissed for second bookings. So, when Šimunić, already on a yellow card, hauls down Josh Kennedy in the centre circle, he’s got to go surely? Well, English referee Graham Poll shows him a second yellow, but no red, as Šimunić sheepishly jogs away. Just three minutes later, the centre-back is booked for a third time and, belatedly, given his marching orders. This, unsurprisingly, was the last tournament match Poll ever officiated.
46: The heat battle of Lausanne
The highest-scoring match in World Cup history remains the 1954 quarter-final between Austria and Switzerland. Theodor Wagner and Josef Hügi both scored hat-tricks, for opposing teams, as Austria advanced 7-5. This is made all the more impressive by the fact the game was played at 40°C (104°F), which is why it is known as the ‘Heat Battle of Lausanne’. Overall, 1954 remains the highest-scoring World Cup, in terms of goals per game, with that record of 5.38 unlikely to ever be beaten.
45: Eric Dier does it
England and penalty shootouts go together like beef in trifle; not well. The Three Lions hopes in 1990, 1998 and 2006 had all been ended by spot-kicks. So, when their 2018 clash with Colombia ended all square, fans were fearing the worst. Jordan Henderson himself admitted feeling the same, after his effort was brilliantly saved by David Ospina. But, immediately after, Mateus Uribe thwacked the crossbar, before Carlos Bacca had his spot-kick swatted away by Jordan Pickford. So, Eric Dier stepped up kept his cool, and ensured England won a World Cup penalty shootout for the first time ever!
44: Germany’s Argentine demolition
In 2010, everything was set up for romantic Argentine World Cup success. They had Diego Maradona in the dugout and recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi in the team. However, in the quarter-finals against Germany, all of la Albiceleste’s shortcomings were exposed, hammered 4-0, conceding three in a 21 minute blitz. Messi set an unwanted record at that tournament: most shots taken at a single World Cup without scoring (29). Turns out, just because Maradona was one of the very best players of all time, he wasn’t a great manager.
43: Nacer Chadli with the last kick of the game
Belgium pitched up in Russia with sky-high expectations, given that they were enjoying something of a golden generation. However, Roberto Martínez’s team then found themselves 2-0 down to Japan in the second round. Belgium hit back, scoring twice in five minutes. So, with 30 seconds to go, the Samurai Blue get a corner and send almost everyone forward, seeking a winner. Instead, Thibaut Courtois catches it, sparks a counter attack and, 12 seconds later, Nacer Chadli is in the middle to tap home the winner. This was the first time in over half a decade a team had come from two goals down to win a knockout game, doing so with the last kick of the night.
42: David Luiz makes a nation believe
If you’re Brazilian, World Cup 2014 certainly peaked in the quarter-finals. A Seleção remained on course to win the trophy on home soil by beating Colombia 2-1. This game is most memorable because David Luiz scored one of the very best free-kicks in World Cup history. From 35 yards (32 meters) out, Luiz side-foots the ball high into the Fortaleza night sky, but with venomous dip, as the ball flies past David Ospina. Of course, World Cup 2014 didn’t completely go to plan for Brazil (more on that later) but this goal remains iconic.
41: Germany dethroned
Reigning world champions Germany stood on the brink of elimination in 2018, having lost to Mexico and then, just, beaten Sweden. Despite having been generally shambolic, all Joachim Löw’s team had to do is beat pointless Korea Republic, a feat most expected them to achieve. However, going into stoppage time, with the game still goalless, the unthinkable happened; Kim Young-gwon poked Korea in-front. Then, one of the most unexplainable moments in World Cup history occurred. With Germany chasing an equaliser, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer picks up the ball in a left wing position, but is disposed by Ju Se-jong, who hoofs the ball forward and Son Heung-min taps into an empty net. This was the first time in 80 years that Germany had exited in the first round, and what a way to do it.
40: World Champions curse
What do the last four World Champions from Europe, namely France, Italy, Spain and Germany all have in common? They’ve all gone out in the group stages as defending champions. Between them, they’ve won just two of 12 group games four years after lifting the trophy, with France in 2002 and Italy in 2010 going home without a victory. Will les Blues keep the trend going in Qatar?