The last twenty-eight years have seen the FIFA World Cup cement itself as a worldwide event that captures the imagination of people around the globe. It has seen the tournament that was once hosted exclusively in Europe and Latin America, go to new continents such as Asia and Africa, and brought football to the United States, a country that has traditional no real affinity for the sport. The extra spotlight had made the memorable moments even more memorable, no matter how shocking some of the moments from 1994-2018 have proven to been!
1994. Brazil 3 – Netherlands 2
By 1994, it had been twenty-four years since Brazil had won a World Cup, and the most iconic team in World Cup history was desperate to win their first World Cup in the post Pele era. They had a great great in 1994, but so did the Dutch, setting up a mouthwatering quarterfinal match between the two in Dallas, USA. The first half was a goalless, but in the second half, the game would open up.
Brazil opened the scoring in the fifty-third minute after a quick counterattack led to Bebeto teeing the ball up for Romario to make it 1-0. Bebeto wasn’t there, latching onto the ball after a Dutch mistake at the back to make it 2-0, and he introduced the world to the now famous “cradling the baby” celebration, in tribute to his newborn child. It looked like Brazil would cruise to a comfortable win, but the Dutch quickly responded through Dennis Bergkamp, and then from a corner, Aron Winter made it 2-2 with fourteen minutes left! With ten minutes left, Brazil won a free kick just outside the Dutch box, and left-back Branco hammered the free kick home to give Brazil the lead again, which they would hold onto. Brazil would indeed go on and win their fourth World Cup, a title twenty-four years in the making!
1998. France 3 – Brazil 0
Fresh off their World Cup triumph in 1994, Brazil were looking unstoppable in 1998 as their World Cup winning squad now had a new weapon at its disposal…Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, AKA – Ronaldo. Aged just twenty-two, Ronaldo was the undisputed best player in the world and had scored four goals throughout the tournament and had three assists. Brazil were in the final against the host nation France, but on the day of the game, something was wrong. Just hours before the final, Ronaldo was hospitalised after suffering a seizure, Brazil initially submitted a team sheet that didn’t feature Ronaldo, but Ronaldo was then suddenly added back to the starting eleven, just forty minutes before the game began!
In front of a passionate crowd in Paris, the traditionally underperforming French rose to the occasion. The French talisman Zinedine Zidane out jumped his marker at a corner – Ronaldo, and gave the French an early lead twenty-seven minutes in, and the result seemed inevitable. Zidane scored again just before half time, again from a corner and despite defender Marcel Desailly being sent off, France would add to their lead right at the end of the match through Emmanuel Petit to secure a 3-0 win, and Frances first World Cup! People still wonder today what really as happened as to why Ronaldo was allowed to play, but what can’t be denied was just how dominant the French were on the day, and they deserved their first World Cup trophy!
2002. South Korea 2 – Italy 1/ South Korea 0 (5) – Spain (3)
I simply can’t separate these two games as they both make this list for the same reasons. Going into the 2002 World Cup in which South Korea hosted, the hosts had actually yet to win a World Cup game in fourteen attempts. But lead by manager Gus Hiddink, and generational players Park Ji-sung, Cha Du-ri and Korean legend Hwang Sun-hong, Korea stunned the world by topping their group that included Portugal, the United States and Poland. Their reward was a game against Italy, a highly talented team that will billed as legitimate World Cup contenders.
Against Italy, South Korea were awarded a very soft penalty and although it was saved, it was a sign of things to come. The referring in that game was very questionable, Italian talisman Francesco Totti was sent off after a very harsh second yellow card, and then in extra time, a Damiano Tommasi goal was ruled out for offside, despite the midfielder being clearly onside. Korea won the game, and in the quarterfinal against Spain, it was a familiar story. Spain had two perfectly good goals disallowed, and Korea held on to win the game on penalties. South Korea became the first Asian side to reach the World Cup semi final, a phenomenal achievement, but the way in which it was achieved is still a bitter subject for Italians and Spaniards.
Another 2-4: Canada Sent Packing – FC13 Podcast
2006. Italy 1 (5) – France 1 (3)
One of the biggest international rivalries in world football reached its apex in 2006, as France and Italy met in the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, Germany. In a game filled with stars like Francesco Totti, Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo and Patrick Vieira, two players would dominant the conversation of this game for years to come… Zinedine Zidane, and Marco Materazzi.
Both players would make an impact early on for contrasting reasons, Materazzi gave away a penalty five minutes in after fouling Florent Malouda, and Zidane Cooley chipped the ball off the bar and across the line to make it 1-0 France. Undeterred, Italy equalise on the thirty-fifth minute through none other than Materazzi. The game would finish 1-1 in ninety minutes, and in extra time, Zidane and Materazzi were involved in one of the most famous/infamous football moments of all time. Off the ball, Materazzi said something to provoke Zidane, which promoted the French captain to headbutt Materazzi with ten minutes left in extra time. It would prove to be the last moment in Zidane illustrious footballing career, as he was shown an immediate red card. Italy went onto win the game on penalties, but still to this day whenever people think of this game, they think of that one moment, and wonder what it was exactly Marco Materazzi said?
2010. Uruguay 1 (4) – Ghana 1 (3)
The 2010 World Cup was the first ever World Cup hosted in Africa, and by the time Ghana kicked off their quarterfinal match against Uruguay in Johannesburg, they were truly the darlings of the tournament. Both teams scored goals that were worthy of goal of the tournament, first from Ghana’s Sulley Muntari, and then Diego Forlan equalised for Uruguay to make it 1-1, and take the game to extra time.
Right at the end of extra time, Ghana won a feeekick, and John Paintsil’s delivery caused chaos in the Uruguay box before eventually falling to the head of Stephen Appiah, with his goal bound header looking set to give the Ghanaians a famous win, young Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez batted the ball away with his hand, preventing a goal but conceding a penalty and a red card at the same time, causing him to leave the pitch in tears. Ghanaian talisman Assmoah Gyan couldn’t convert however, crashing the ball off the bar, a which sent the game to penalties, and sparked scenes of joy from Suarez. Uruguay would win the shootout, and Suarez overnight was seen as a villain of football for having cheated Ghana out of a semi final spot…although I imagine he doesn’t regret it.
2014. Germany 7 – Brazil 1
There are few football games in which people who aren’t fans of the sport can tell you exactly where they where when a game happened, but such was the magnitude of the 2014 World Cup semi final, that I bet almost everyone can remember where they were when they seen the score. Five time champions and 2014 hosts Brazil were under a gargantuan amount of pressure to deliver, and with star striker Neymar out injured, their task against Germany would require a perfect performance from the underperforming side. In front of a fever pitch crowd in Belo Horizonte, Brazil fell behind early to a Thomas Müller goal eleven minutes in, and what unfurled next was simply unfathomable.
Brazil conceded again twenty-three minutes in, and then again on the twenty-fourth minute, and then again on the twenty-sixth minute…and then AGAIN on the twenty-ninth minute. Half an hour into a World Cup semi final, Germany had a 5-0 lead over Brazil. Goals 2-5 all came from mistakes and errors from the Brazil, it was as if the immense pressure was caving in on the entire team in a way never seen before on such a dramatic scale. Players, fans, and Brazilians everywhere where distraught in tears. Germany would score twice more in the second half (they probably could’ve scored more if they wanted to), before Oscar grabbed a consolation to make it Brazil 1 – Germany 7, a scoreline known to everyone around the world.
2018. France 4 – Croatia 2
Since 1986, the World Cup Final had traditionally been tight cagey affairs (1990,94,06,10,14) or fairly one sided (1998,2002), in-fact 1986 was the last time that the two finalists had scored at least two goals on footballs biggest stage. It was fitting that 2018 would break that trend, it was a tournament that that was characterised by open it was with their being an average of 2.64 goals scored per game. The final was played in. Moscow, Russia between tournament favourites France, and surprise package Croatia – who became the first European team east of Germany to reach a World Cup Final since Czechoslovakia in 1962.
France opened the scoring eighteen minutes in through an own goal from Croatian striker Mario Mandžukić, but the Croats soon found an equaliser when a Luca Modrić free kick made it’s way to Ivan Perišić who fired the ball home to make it 1-1 ten minutes later. Then gave a controversial and historical moment, for the first time in World Cup Final history, the video assistant referee was called into action after Peišić was deemed to have illegal handled the ball, a decision was was consider harsh by many at the time. Antoine Griezmann slotted the penalty to make it 2-1 at half time, and in the second half, just like the final sixty years ago, a teenager would make the headlines! Paul Pogba made it 3-1 on the hour makes and six minutes later, nineteen year old Kylian Mbappé made it 4-1, becomming the first teenage World Cup Final goalscorer since Pele in 1958. Mario Mandžukić capitalised on a French goalkeeping mistake to make it 4-2, and that’s how it stayed as France won 4-2, the highest scoring World Cup final since 1966!
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