The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on June 14, as Russia open the competition in Group A against Saudi Arabia. The sport’s greatest event brings together fans from around the globe, and the 21st edition should provide intriguing drama.
The World Cup has never been short on excitement, and some thrilling games can last a lifetime in the memory.
Ahead of the festivities in Russia, we take a look at the ten greatest matches in the history of the FIFA World Cup.
West Germany 2 – Netherlands 1 (1974)
A clash of all-time great footballers took place in the 1974 World Cup final, as Franz Beckenbauer led West Germany to victory against Johan Cruyff and the Netherlands. The sides each opened the scoring on penalties in the first half, before Gerd Müller would score the winner in the 43rd minute.
A true rivalry was formed between these two countries at the time, although the Dutch would fall at the final again in 1978 to Argentina.
Disciplined sides that dominated throughout the decade, West Germany and the Netherlands were giants at the peak of their powers.
Chile 2 – Italy 0 (1962)
Dubbed “The Battle of Santiago”, Chile’s group-stage win over Italy at the 1962 World Cup will forever be remembered for the violent nature of the game. The first foul took place 12 seconds into the match, and things only got worse from there.
Punches were thrown, players were seen spitting at each other throughout and police officers were needed at various points. Somewhere in the midst of the chaos, Chile scored two goals in the second half.
This particular fixture reminded fans everywhere that the “beautiful game” can have an ugly side.
Romania 3 – Argentina 2 (1994)
The 1994 World Cup in the United States featured a bizarre run for Argentina, that eventually ended with a surprising loss in the Round of 16 versus Romania.
Diego Maradona was disqualified from competing at the group stage, after a banned substance was found during a drug test.
Perhaps expecting an easy result against Romania, Argentina would return home disappointed.
West Germany 3 – Hungary 2 (1954)
The 1954 World Cup final was a major turning point in the history of European football, as West Germany upset a favoured Hungary squad in Switzerland to capture their first title in the competition.
Hungary’s “Golden Team” featuring the legendary Ferenc Puskás were a true powerhouse at the time, having defeated England 6-3 at Wembley Stadium the year prior (the first time a side from outside the United Kingdom won against the Three Lions).
A wild first half saw Hungary build a 2-0 advantage, only to see West Germany battle back and lift the World Cup trophy.
Italy 4 – West Germany 3 (1970)
A heart-pounding semi-final match between Italy and West Germany in 1970 saw a surreal amount of late excitement, with the Azzurri making their way to the final to face Brazil.
Five goals were scored in extra-time, a record that still stands today.
A game that produced an incredible amount of drama, it is doubtful that fans will see anything quite like that again anytime soon.
Germany 7 – Brazil 1 (2014)
Brazil were poised to reach the 2014 World Cup final on home soil, until they met Germany in a semi-final match that produced one of the most surprising results anyone could have imagined.
A 7-1 thrashing of Brazil left the entire country stunned, as the Germans would go on to lift the title after defeating Argentina.
If the two sides should meet again in 2018, the Selecão will certainly be looking for revenge.
Argentina 2 – England 1 (1986)
Diego Maradona led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, and he showcased his class in a remarkable victory against England in the quarter-finals.
His two strikes are each a part of football lore, as the “Hand of God” sequence was followed only minutes later by the greatest goal in the history of the competition.
Within those two moments, all that made Maradona what he was as a player is summarised perfectly.
England 4 – West Germany 2 (1966)
England hosted the World Cup in the summer of 1966, and they made sure it was a memorable occasion after defeating West Germany in the final at Wembley Stadium.
Two goals from Geoff Hurst in extra-time would deliver the trophy for the Three Lions.
Uruguay 2 – Brazil 1 (1950)
For an entire generation, Brazil’s loss in 1950 to Uruguay at the final stage represented the most extreme of failures.
While their 7-1 loss in 2014 may have featured more goals, “The Maracanazo” is described by many as a national tragedy.
Brazil 1 – England 0 (1970)
Just due to the magical talent on the pitch that day, Brazil’s group-stage win versus England in 1970 should be looked at as a true treasure.
Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore battled against Pelé, Carlos Alberto and Jairzinho in a thrilling encounter.
Arguably the greatest team in the history of football, Brazil’s 1970 squad would not be stopped on their way to the final in Mexico.