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.
89: Gerry Armstrong’s magic moment
Northern Ireland are not the first team that spring to mind when thinking about the World Cup, but the Green and White Army enjoyed their moment of glory in 1982.
Gerry Armstrong was the only scorer, pouncing on a mistake by goalkeeper Luis Arconada, as they beat Spain, pipping the hosts to top spot in the group. In the second group phase, had Northern Ireland beaten France, they would’ve been World Cup semi-finalists, but were unfortunately hammered 4-1. Nevertheless, Armstrong’s winner in Valencia will always remain an iconic moment, in Northern Ireland at least.
88: Dos a cero
Fierce rivals USA and Mexico have met 74 times, including in eight finals, with their one and only World Cup finals clash coming in the round of 16 in 2002.
The U.S. prevailed 2-0, more on that later, with Brian McBride and Landon Donovan the scorers. Coincidentally enough, all four of USA’s World Cup qualifying victories over el Tri since then have been by the same 2-0 scoreline, including a ‘dos a cero’ victory in Cincinnati just last November.
In the States, it’s claimed that dos a cero isn’t just a scoreline it’s ‘a way of life’, with this by far the most high-profile of their victories.
87: The nation holds its breath… Yes!
Republic of Ireland made their World Cup debut at Italia ‘90 and, after drawing all three group games, found themselves in the knockout stages up against Romania.
This tie finished goalless and went to penalties, the first eight of which were scored before Daniel Timofte saw his effort saved by Pat Bonner. David O’Leary, who hasn’t taken a penalty before or since, stepped up and, despite the fact no one believed he would score, slotted the ball home and sent Ireland through.
This saw the Boys in Green reach the quarter-finals without even winning a game.
86: Roy Keane’s spat in Saipan
Roy Keane didn’t play a single minute at the 2002 World Cup, but it’s because of this that he’ll always be associated with the tournament. At the time, Keane was Ireland’s captain and talisman, but wasn’t willing to accept lower standards than he was used to at Manchester United.
Keane had taken umbrage with the fact that the players were put in economy on the flight over to Japan, while the FAI delegates were in first class, before being furious at Ireland’s sub-par training facilities in Saipan.
Manager Mick McCarthy had instructed the squad ‘not to do media’, so when he found out Keane had spoken to the Irish Times, the two clashed in front of all the players, and the captain was sent home.
85: The invention of the bicycle kick
The man credited with the first-ever bicycle kick is Brazilian forward Leônidas.
This was his signature move while playing in his homeland, but the new skill was brought to the masses at the 1938 World Cup, specifically in the quarter-final against Czechoslovakia. The Paris Match wrote of Leônidas “that rubber man has a diabolical gift for bringing the ball under control and unleashing thunderous shots when least expected.”
While it may be apocryphal to suggest Leônidas invented the bicycle kick, it’s certainly accurate to say the Brazilian popularised the manoeuvre.
84: Essam El Hadary: history maker
World Cup 2018 certainly didn’t go to plan for Egypt. Hampered by Mohamed Salah’s shoulder injury, the Pharaohs were beaten by both Uruguay and Russia, so were already eliminated ahead of their clash with Saudi Arabia. This though did allow goalkeeper Essam El Hadary his 15 minutes of fame.
At the age of 45 years and 161 days, he became the World Cup’s oldest player, smashing the previous record by over two years. Then, in the 39th minute, El Hadary enjoyed his big moment, pushing Fahad Al-Muwallad’s penalty onto the crossbar and away.
Saudi Arabia eventually won an inconsequential game 2-1, but history was still made on a sunny afternoon in Volgograd.
83: Roberto Carlos’ shoelace
In 2006, the last two world champions France and Brazil met at the quarter-final stage. The only goal came early in the second half, when Thierry Henry volleyed home Zinedine Zidane’s free-kick at the back post.
Zizou put on one of the great individual performances that day, but this game is remembered for Roberto Carlos’ inadvertent role in the only goal. As Zidane swings the ball in, Carlos is busy tying his shoelace, allowing Henry a free run at goal.
Carlos later took full responsibility for Brazil’s failure to retain their title.
82: Croatia stun Argentina
One of the biggest upsets of 2018 came during the group stages when Argentina suffered their biggest World Cup group stage defeat for 60 years.
This was Croatia’s first-ever victory over South American opposition and the first goal live long in the memory. Willy Caballero horrendously sliced a clearance up into the air, before the ball was expertly volleyed in by Ante Rebić.
3-0 it finished and, while this was a shock, it merely set the tone for both; Argentina were chaotic and would go home early, while Croatia were mightily impressive and reached the final.
81: South Korea’s underdog success
Co-hosts in 2002, Korea Republic had never won any of their 14 World Cup games, so little was expected of them, despite having home advantage.
However, under the stewardship of Guus Hiddink, they topped their group, before eliminating Italy and Spain during the knockout phase. In the former, Ahn Jung-hwan’s header, a 117th minute golden goal no less, sparked nationwide celebrations.
Then, goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae was the hero against Spain, both in normal time and the subsequent penalty shootout. This saw South Korea become the first non-UEFA/CONMEBOL semi-finalists since the first-ever World Cup in 1930, where they’d eventually succumb to Germany.
80: Germany wins against..Germany?
Countless sporting events have seen politics and sport cross paths, and this was very much the case on 22 June 1974.
Tournament hosts West Germany were drawn alongside East Germany; the country had been split in half following World War II. This was more than a football match, it was a clash of ideologies; capitalism vs communism.
To the surprise of most, east prevailed, with Jürgen Sparwasser the only scorer. West Germany went on to lift the trophy in Munich, but this group stage victory remained a real triumph for the eastern block.