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101 Great World Cup Moments: 9-1

As Europe once said, it’s the final countdown.

This time it is to the greatest World Cup moments of all time, after 101 Great Goals’ countdown of the 101 greatest World Cup moments over the past week.

With players from across the globe set to take centre stage in Qatar for the 22nd edition of the greatest show on earth and 24 nations hoping to add their names to the list of eight countries to have won football’s biggest award, we have been celebrating the best moments since 1930′s inaugural event in Uruguay.

From Romania’s bleached blonde hair, to Frank Lampard’s ghost goal of 2010 and the handball that broke the hearts of a continent, we’ve had it all, and finally, here are the top 10 greatest moments in World Cup history.

If you missed it, here is 101-90, here is 89-80, 79-70, 69-60, 59-50, 49-40, 39-30, 29-20 and 19-10.

9: Nigel de Jong’s karate kick

The Netherlands are synonymous with total football, but adopted a very different approach in the 2010 final against Spain. A new record was set for most bookings in a World Cup Final (14), more than doubling the previous record of six from 1986. Nine of these were shown to Holland players, with John Heitinga dismissed in extra time.

The most high-profile flash-point came in the 28th minute, when Nigel de Jong kicked Xabi Alonso chest-high, but was only shown a yellow card by Howard Webb. This became the defining image of the final, probably more so even than Andrés Iniesta celebrating the winning goal four minutes from the end.

8: Brazilian brilliance

Mário Zagallo’s team demolished Italy 4-1 in the final, with Pelé opening the scoring in his last World Cup match. But it’s the fourth goal, fired home by Carlos Alberto, that is what’s remembered; eight of 10 outfielders touched the ball, which is why this is rated as one of the best World Cup goals ever scored.

7: They think it’s all over… it is now!

The 1966 World Cup, in Britain especially, was a watershed moment for the World Cup, with 32.3 million people watching the final on TV, still a record. On the pitch, England beat rivals West Germany 4-2 in front of almost 97,000 at Wembley.

The game finished 2-2 after 90 minutes, with the iconic moments both coming in extra time. First, Sir Geoff Hurst put England back in front and, to this day, it’s still unknown whether or not the ball crossed the line.

The ‘Russian linesman’ Tofiq Bahramov, who gave the goal, became infamous as a result; he’s actually from modern-day Azerbaijan, with Qarabağ’s home in Baku named after him. Hurst then completed his hat-trick, the only man to bag a treble in a World Cup Final, and Kenneth Wolstenholme’s BBC commentary is up there as some of the most iconic: “Here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!”

6: Maracanaço

World Cup 1950 is the only edition of the tournament not to feature a final, instead the four group winners would all feature in a South American-style final round pool. Going into the last game, Brazil sat top, having smashed Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1, while Uruguay were two points behind, after a 2-2 and then a comeback 3-2 win.

Thus, the host nation only needed a draw, leading to newspaper O Mondo publishing a picture of the team with the headline “these are the world champions”. Obdulio Varela, Uruguay’s captain, bought a dozen copies and laid them on the floor, encouraging teammates to urinate all over them.

However, it was all going to plan for the hosts when Friaça broke the deadlock. Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised, before the unthinkable happened; Alcides Ghiggia won it for Uruguay, beating Moacir Barbosa at his near post, an error he never got over. Uruguay claimed the trophy and Brazil abandoned their all-white kit, never to be worn again.

5: Total football and the Cruyff turn

The Netherlands team of the 1970s is widely regarded as the greatest team never to win the World Cup. Oranje reached the final in both 1974 and 1978, beaten by the hosts, West Germany and Argentina, both times.

However, Holland’s brand of ‘total football’ captured the imagination of the watching world, paving the way for more attacking play, after the rather duller era of Catenaccio.

The Dutch’s flamboyance is epitomised by one innovative piece of skill during their 1974 group game against Sweden. Johan Cruyff, while tightly marked by Jan Olsson, feigned to move in on direction, only to drag the ball behind his standing leg and spin 180 degrees. Almost half a century late, the Cruyff turn is still taught to children all around the world; very few have a skill named after them.

4: Ronaldo. Will he? Won’t he?

The World Cup Final in 1998 saw hosts France face defending champions Brazil; it doesn’t get any bigger than that. The best two players on the planet, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, were set to go head-to-head, or were they?

72 minutes before kick off, FIFA received the official team-sheet from Brazil that featured Edmundo in the starting XI and Ronaldo on the bench. BBC commentator John Motson said this news commenced scenes of “absolute mayhem and chaos” in the media area. However, just 20 minutes later, the CBF submitted a ‘modified’ team-sheet that did feature Ronaldo starting.

O Fenômeno did play the full 90 minutes, but was a shadow of his usual self as France ran out 3-0 winners. Many years later, it was revealed Ronaldo had spent the previous night in hospital, having been found in his hotel room by teammate Roberto Carlos, suffering from a convulsion that left him unconscious for around four minutes. Doctors told Ronaldo there was no way he could play, so the real reason he did remains a mystery.

3: Mineirazo

It’s 8 July 2014, and the world is ready for an epic semi-final between hosts Brazil and Germany. Billions of people tuned in to watch this one, but none of them could’ve predicted what would transpire. Germany scored five times in 19 first half minutes, with Miroslav Klose becoming the World Cup’s leading goalscorer of all-time in the midst of the chaos.

Joachim Löw’s side eased off in the second half, but still ran out 7-1 winners. This was Brazil’s biggest defeat for 94 years, the biggest loss suffered by a World Cup host and will always be the ultimate embarrassment on home soil. In terms of humiliation, it was said the Maracanaço of 1950 could never be topped; they were wrong.

2: The headbutt heard around the world

The 2006 World Cup Final was to be Zinedine Zidane’s last match in professional football, with Zizou shinning during the knockout stages. That night in Berlin, the French captain very much ensured he was the centre of attention.

First, les Blues were awarded a seventh minute penalty after Marco Materazzi (more on him shortly) tripped Florent Malouda. Zidane, in typical Zidane fashion, elected for a Panenka that, just, crossed the line, bouncing in off the crossbar. This lead didn’t last long though with Materazzi heading home a corner shortly after. The final went to extra time, 10 minutes into which came the iconic moment.

The two scorers get into a disagreement, which led to Zidane headbutting Materazzi in the chest. Referee Horacio Elizondo brandishes a red card, only after consulting fourth official Luis Medina Cantalejo via his headset; some early VAR foreshadowing. In the subsequent shootout, David Trezeguet thwacked his effort against the crossbar, with semi-final hero Fabio Grosso firing home the decisive kick for Italy.

The picture of Zidane sombrely walking past the trophy, his last act as a footballer, is hard to top when it comes to iconic World Cup images.

1: “A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”

For two of football’s most iconic goals to come just four minutes apart, both scored by the same man, this has to be the most memorable moment in World Cup history.

Just four years after the Falklands War, this Mexico ‘86 quarter-final between England and Argentina was always going to be a feisty affair. Early in the second half, Steve Hodge’s miscued clearance looped up into the air; Diego Maradona managed to get their first and punch the ball past Peter Shilton.

Afterwards, this became known as the hand of god, when Maradona himself said the ball was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.

Four minutes later, the same man scored FIFA’s ‘goal of the century’, dribbling around four England players, rounding the goalkeeper and finishing cooly. These two goals saw Argentina reach the semi-finals, with Maradona going onto pick up the trophy and the player of the tournament award.


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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