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 weeks leading up to the tournament.
79: Croatia announce themselves to the world
Croatia have become familiar faces to global fans, but France ‘98 was their World Cup debut, following the breakup of Yugoslavia. So, despite performing well at Euro ‘96, few expected Miroslav Blažević’s team to make much of a splash.
On the contrary, the Blazers got all the way to the semi-finals, hammering reigning European Champions Germany 3-0, before a narrow 2-1 defeat to France.
Croatia remain one of just two nations, alongside Portugal (1996), to reach the last four on debut since WWII. Davor Šuker was the team’s star, scoring six goals, earning himself the golden boot.
78: Messi…give it to him and pray
Lionel Messi has, to date, scored 90 international goals, six of which have come at World Cups, although never in the knockout stages.
The most dramatic of the six came in 2014, when a stubborn Iran looked set to hold Argentina to a goalless draw. However, just as the game entered stoppage time, Messi cut in on his left foot and curled home a majestic winner. Even at full stretch, Alireza Haghighi had no chance.
Messi would, not quite single-handedly but almost, lead Argentina to the final, where they were heartbreakingly beaten by Germany.
77: England have done it! In the last minute of extra time!
Without doubt, one of England’s most famous World Cup goals came in their 1990 round of 16 clash with Belgium. At the end of a pretty dour two hours of play, David Platt’s spinning volley saw the Three Lions sneak into the last eight.
Given that Italia ‘90 was the tournament during which the English public fell in love with football again, this late late goal is a momentous sliding doors moment.
76: Maxi Rodríguez’s stunning volley
Argentina scored possibly the best-ever team-goal in World Cup history in 2006 (more on that later), but also bagged an astonishing individual strike too.
La Albiceleste’s round of 16 clash with Mexico was level at 1-1, before the magic moment came in extra time. Juan Pablo Sorín’s diagonal pass was chested up into the air by Maxi Rodríguez, who then produced a stunning volley the flew into the far top corner. There’s no saving that!
75: David Beckham’s redemption
The finger of blame for England’s exit at France ‘98 was largely pointed solely at David Beckham, who was sent off, rather harshly, for dangling a boot in the general direction of Diego Simeone.
So, when the two nations met again in Japan four years later, the Three Lions were desperate to avenge that exit.
Sure enough, Beckham’s penalty was the only goal of the night, and his wild celebrations matched those back home; four years worth of hurt thrust away in one kick of the ball. This would prove crucial as England snuck into the knockout stages, while Argentina endured their only group stage exit since 1962.
74: The dark history of Zaire’s hilarious moment
Zaire have only ever qualified for one World Cup and, despite not scoring and conceding 14, they left their mark.
During their third group game, Brazil are waiting to take a free-kick and, as the referee blows his whistle, Mwepu Ilunga breaks out of the wall and boots the ball away. At the time, many laughed at this, and suggest that they clearly didn’t know the rules.
However, Ilunga and his teammates were crippled by fear, after military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko had sent a delegation to West Germany, warning the player that if they lost by three-clear goals, they would not be allowed to return. At 2-0 down, Ilunga was just trying to waste time, which he successful did, as his team were only beaten by three.
73: Croatia reach the final
One of the most surprising World Cup finalists ever are Croatia in 2018. The Blazers’ famous night came when they beat England in the semi-finals; Ivan Perišić with a stunning equaliser, before Mario Mandžukić slotted home an extra time winner.
Croatia were beaten 4-2 by France four days later, but became the second-smallest country (by population) to appear in a final, after Uruguay in 1930. Zlatko Dalić's team didn’t leave Russia with the trophy, but they did prove it’s possible to upset the established elite.
72: Frank Rijkaard’s done what now?
In European international football, rivalries don’t come any bigger than Germany vs Netherlands. The majority of their last 16 clash in 1990 was played 10 vs 10, after both Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Völler were sent off just 22 minutes in.
The pair scuffled twice in a matter of seconds, with Rijkaard spitting in Völler’s mullet both times. Of course, the German got the last laugh, lifting the trophy a fortnight later, but this remains one of the most obnoxious events in World Cup history.
71: Quinto partido
Mexican football fans don’t dream of seeing their team win the World Cup, they simply crave ‘the fifth game’.
That’s because, amazingly, el Tri have gone out in the round of 16 at each of the last seven editions, no earlier and no later. The most heartbreaking of these defeats came in 2002, beaten by neighbours and fierce rivals USA in Jeonju.
In fact, the only times Mexico have gone beyond the last 16 were in 1970 and 1986, both of which they hosted. As 2026 co-hosts, they’ll be hoping for something similar, although the format change may make the illusive ‘quinto partido’ even harder to ascertain.
70: The curse of Kazan
What do Germany, Argentina and Brazil’s exits form World Cup 2018 all have in common? They all occurred at the same venue in the space of nine days.
All three giants, who’ve won 11 World Cups between them, saw their hopes dashed at Kazan Arena, beaten by Korea Republic, France and Belgium respectively.