This weekend, the championship finals for the 2018 World Cup will be held. It has been an exciting tournament which has captured the world’s attention for the past several weeks. While soccer (apologies to our European readers) has never been as revered in most of North America as it is in other parts of the world, the World Cup continues to grow in popularity and remains one of the most exciting sporting events around. So now is the perfect time to look back on the good, the bad and the ugly with the most memorable moments in World Cup history.
Miracle on grass – 1950
England arrived at the 1950 World Cup with their eyes set firmly on the trophy. With every intention of reaching the finals, they first had to deal with a pesky team from the United States. While the US team had made some waves by roundly beating Spain, England was one of the world’s best and team USA were made up of non-professionals – there should be no competition. Legend has it that many papers took the score they received as a typo, assuming it was meant to read 10-0 for England. The truth was, USA won 1-0.
Gordon Banks shuts down Pelé – 1970
Pelé was probably the best soccer player in the world in 1970. It would have been a scary thing for any keeper who had to go up against his considerable skills, but it turns out that Gordon Banks was very much up to the challenge. With a header that would have beat 99 out of 100 keepers, Banks made an unforgettable diving save to keep his team alive. Almost as good as the save is Pelé’s look of disbelief.
Maradona’s Hand of God- 1986
During the Argentina vs England match in 1986, the English squad was doing anything and everything to shut down the superstar Diego Maradona and they seemed to be fairly effective. That is until in the infamous goal. Maradona went on a rush, breaking through the English defense and after a failed attempt by the English to clear it, Maradona did something few professional soccer players have ever tried – he simple punched the ball into the net. What’s more, the goal was counted. In response to the controversial goal, Maradona described the goal as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. Later in the game he would score a legitimate goal which would be named “the Goal of the Century”. Quite an eventful game for him.
Roberto Baggio misses – 1994
Old rivals Italy and Brazil met in the championship game which certainly ramped up the tension, but that was before kick-off. The game went on scoreless for the full 90 minutes and at the end of a nail-biting extra-time period a winner had still yet to emerge. Which meant for the first time ever, the World Cup trophy winner would be decided in penalty kicks. And like a movie playing out, the final kick came down to Italian superstar Roberto Baggio. But this was not the happy ending for the saviour of Italy. He beat the keeper, but his shot flew far over the crossbar, taking a country’s dreams with it.
Dennis Bergkamp beats the clock – 1998
Nothing is more satisfying than a buzzer-beater (unless it’s against your team, I suppose) and they are very rare indeed in the game of soccer. However, Dennis Bergkamp is an audience-pleaser to be sure. In the dying seconds of the Netherlands vs Argentina semifinals qualifier, the ball was sent down the pitch, finding a waiting Berkgamp, calm as ever, who put it in the net so we could all go home happy.
The headbutt heard around the world – 2006
The World Cup soccer is sometimes maligned due to the professional athletes, shall we say, embellishing certain injuries. However, just because there’s a little theater going on doesn’t mean it’s not actually a rough game. Some injuries are mistakes, some are more intentional, and then there are those rare ones that are just… well, you know the one. In the 2006 final, France was playing Italy for all the marbles. Zinedine Zidane was the great hope for the French team, but unfortunately, he had quite a bad temper. As the extra time was winding down, Zidane exchanged some words with Italian Marco Materazzi before walking away. But then Materazzi couldn’t help but get one more jab in. While there’s still some question as to what was said, it was enough to provoke Zidane quite effectively. He responded with a swift and brutal headbutt to the chest. In was one of the most blatant attacks in World Cup history, resulting in Zidane’s expulsion from the game and Italy’s eventual win.
What has been your favourite World Cup moment? What moment from this year’s tournament stands-out the most?