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101 Great World Cup Moments: 69-60

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.

If you missed it, here is 101-90, here is 89-80, and here is 79-70.

69: Remembering Andrés Escobar

Without doubt, the most tragic event in World Cup history came in 1994. In a second group game, hosts USA beat Colombia 2-1, pretty much ending los Cafeteros’ knockout round hopes. The deadlock was broken by an Andrés Escobar own goal, turning into his own net while attempting to intercept John Harkes’ cross.

120,000 people attended Escobar’s funeral, and this remains the World Cup’s darkest moment.

68: Bulgaria take the world by storm

From a European perspective, USA ‘94 was a tournament of surprises, with both France and England failing to qualify for starters.

Once stateside, very few would’ve predicted that Romania would knock out Argentina and that Sweden would finish third. But it was Bulgaria, who’d never won any of their previous 16 World Cup matches, who epitomised this underdog spirit.

En route to the semi-finals, they ousted the two nations who’d met in the most recent World Cup Final, namely Argentina and Germany. Barcelona’s Hristo Stoichkov scored six times, thereby sharing the golden boot, also picking up the Ballon d’Or later that year. Few individuals have enjoyed a better tournament than him.

67: The game of the century

The 1970 semi-final between Italy and West Germany is commonly referred to as the ‘game of the century’ and it’s easy to see why. Gli Azzurri were set to comfortably reach the final with a 1-0 win, only for Karl-Heinz Schnellinger to equalise deep into stoppage time.

Perhaps this game should be rebranded as ‘extra time of the century’ because the additional half hour produced no fewer than five goals, coming in a 17 minute spree. Gerd Müller made it 3-3 but, while replays of his goal were being shown on television, Gianni Rivera was up the other end restoring Italy’s lead, sending them into the final after all.

66: Five for Salenko

It’s not often that two World Cup records are broken in the same game, but that’s exactly what happened when Russia met Cameroon in the 1994 group game. Russia ran out 6-1 winners, with Oleg Salenko scoring five of them, the only man to score five in a single World Cup match. However, unfortunately for him, this game is actually best remembered for Cameroon’s consolation.

Italia ‘90 star Roger Milla’s goal, just seconds after coming off the bench, makes him the World Cup’s oldest goalscorer, at 42 years and 39 days, breaking his own record from four years earlier. Both Russia and Cameroon were eliminated following this match, making it more remarkable that this game retains iconic status.

65: Marcos Rojo saves the day

It’s 2018 and, having failed to win either of their first two World Cup matches for the first time in 44 years, Argentina are on the brink.

La Albiceleste must beat Nigeria to reach the knockout stages, thereby doing so at the Super Eagles’ expense. Lionel Messi has scored a majestic opener, but this has been cancelled out by a Victor Moses spot-kick.

Nevertheless, right at the end, Marcos Rojo stepped forward as the hero, firing home a stunning volley. This turned out to be Argentina’s sole victory in Russia, but Diego Maradona and the tens of thousands of supporters in attendance certainly enjoyed it.

64: Rob Green’s nightmare moment

It’s 2010 and old foes England and USA are set to meet at the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

The British press have firmly written off the United States’ chances and, sure enough, Steven Gerrard gives the Three Lions a fourth minute lead. But then, on the cusp of half time, Clint Dempsey’s tame, daisy-cutter shot is spilled into his own net by Rob Green. The match finishes 1-1, with the US ultimately pipping England to top spot in the group.

This was Green’s one and only World Cup appearance, and he latter discussed the fact he didn’t know if he’d be starting or not, with Fabio Capello only revealing the team an hour before kick off; perhaps not the best preparation.

63: Igor Akinfeev’s left boot

Russia went into World Cup 2018 with very low expectations, simply looking to avoid being embarrassed on home soil. However, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side made it through the group stages, beating Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but were still expected to be eliminated by Spain in the second round.

Defeat looked inevitable when Sergei Ignashevich scored an early own goal, only for Artem Dzyuba to level things up. Across 120 minutes, Spain completed 1,006 passes, a World Cup record, but penalties were still required.

Igor Akinfeev was the hero, saving Koke’s effort, before sweeping away Iago Aspas’ attempt with his outstretched left foot. This sparked nationwide euphoria, with many Russians claiming they’ve never experienced spontaneous celebrations like it; even more poignant given what’s going on now.

62: The mother of all games

Given the global reach of the World Cup, it’s not surprising that politics and sport become intertwined, but this has never been more the case than when USA met Iran in 1998.

Relations between the two countries was very hostile, given that the U.S. had supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Ahead of the game, FIFA regulations stipulated that the ‘away’ team, Iran, should walk towards the ‘home’ team for the pre-match handshake. However, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had ‘given express orders that the Iranian team must not walk towards the Americans’ so they didn’t.

Instead, the Iranian players gifted the Americans white roses in a deliberately choreographed symbol of peace. When the match started, goals from Hamid Estili and Mehdi Mahdavikia saw Iran win 2-1, their first-ever World Cup victory.

Afterwards, relations between the two countries vastly improved, with USA defender Jeff Agoos famously saying: “We did more in 90 minutes than the politicians did in 20 years.”

61: France players go on strike

One name will make any French football fan shudder: Raymond Domenech.

Ahead of South Africa 2010, France’s manager was already on thin ice; he’d proposed to his girlfriend on live TV to distract from les Blues’ dismal European Championship exit two years earlier. By the time the World Cup came around, the players had simply had enough of Domenech’s antics.

After drawing with Uruguay, with the score level at half time against Mexico, Nicolas Anelka snapped at the manager, so was substituted and subsequently sent home. In solitary, the squad went on strike, led by Patrice Evra, refusing to get off the bus at training. They would go onto lost to their final game against the hosts, with this one of the most spectacular and controversial group stage exits in World Cup history.

60: Costa Rica top the group of death

In 2014, Group D was given the dreaded ‘group of death’ label, as it featured three former world champions: England, Italy and Uruguay. What nobody had countenanced was the idea that the fourth member of the quartet was capable of storming past the rest. Well, that’s exactly what Costa Rica did, beating Uruguay 3-1, before an equally surprising 1-0 victory over Italy.

Los Ticos actually finished top of the section, beat Greece on penalties, before suffering shootout heartbreak of their own against the Netherlands (more on that later). Nevertheless, what Jorge Luis Pinto’s team achieved in Brazil gives all underdogs hope, no matter how tough the draw.


Picture of Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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