Top 10 Memorable Moments at FIFA World Cup Finals


For countless numbers of fans around the world, the FIFA World Cup is more than an international football tournament – it is an event that holds the world spellbound for a whole month every four years.

The World Cup, like the quadrennial Olympic Games, brings with it an almost endless barrage of media coverage which, is particularly frenzied during the initial group stages where countries battle it out for a place in the second phase of the tournament.

Germany Celebrate Winning FIFA World Cup 2014Image: Danilo Borges (Wikimedia Commons)

The whole planet literally seems to stop for the World Cup, and World Cup betting is huge business. The betting bonanza lasts an entire month and this time round in 2018 is estimated to top a billion dollars worldwide.

It may be more about the money in this day and age, but the puritans among us will only appreciate the spectacle and not pay too much attention to the marketing or hype.

Since its inaugural 1930 tournament the World Cup has delivered a multitude of fantastic moments but, some are above and beyond the others when it comes to drama or brilliance.

The following list contains ten unforgettable moments from World Cup history…

(1) zidane’s headbutt in 2006 final

The 2006 World Cup was full of drama, but nothing really topped French footballer Zinedine Zidane’s actions during the final itself. In the second half of extra time, Zidane headbutted Italian Marco Materazzi and received his marching orders. His actions were more akin to a street ‘assault’ than behaviour befitting the world’s most important soccer match, and Zidane’s moment of madness ended both his tournament and international career. It also cost his country who went on to lose 5-3 to Italy in a penalty shoot-out, but the midfielder’s actions were arguably the bigger story, making headlines across the globe.

(2) senegal upsets france in 2002

Picture the scene. Defending champions France playing the opener of the 2002 World Cup tournament against tiny Senegal, who were playing in their first ever World Cup Finals match. And against the odds, David slew Goliath as Papa Bouba Diop became an instant celebrity by scoring the game’s only goal. France, the reigning world champions, shocked by the nature of this defeat, were unceremoniously dethroned without scoring a single goal in their three group matches: The worst performance by a defending champion in FIFA World Cup history.

(3) the ‘original’ ronaldo and brazil’s 2002 world cup win

Four years after he suffered an epileptic seizure before the World Cup final against France, Ronaldo returned a hero, winning the tournament’s Golden Boot. He topped the standings with eight goals, including two in the final against gallant Germany. His performance is still cherished years later as nothing less than brilliant.

(4) Croatia beats Germany in 1998

The result that changed a nation’s thinking. In 1998 Croatia, playing in their first ever World Cup, beat the heavily favoured Germany 3-0 with a first half stoppage time goal and a dominant second half display. The defeat was such a shock for ‘Die Mannschaft’ that they immediately set about reforming their entire football programme, culminating in a runner’s up spot at the following FIFA World Cup and a victorious showing at the 2014 competition.

(5) rossi returns from ban to win world cup, 1982

Paolo Rossi was serving a three-year match fixing ban, but was reinstated after two, allowing him the opportunity to return to international football as the hero of the 1982 World Cup. His predatory hat-trick against Brazil is remembered by all who saw it, and in the final against West Germany, he scored the first goal in a 3-1 victory, which also handed him the Golden Boot award for top scorer in the tournament. A true assassin.

(6) kuwaiti sheik’s antics in 1982

During the World Cup in 1982, Kuwaiti Sheik and Football Association President, Fahad al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, ordered his team off the pitch in disgust believing they had heard the referee’s whistle to halt play. Their opponents, the french, had continued playing despite the apparent whistle and, as Kuwait hesitated, France scored. After a ten minute hiatus the referee eventually disallowed the goal, but France scored again shortly after the re-start. The theatrical protest and end result is one World Cup moment that has been replayed many times since.

(7) brazil and italy in 1970 final

In Mexico City during the 1970 World Cup, the world witnessed one of the most beautiful goals of all time. During the build-up to Brazil’s fourth goal, eight different players masterminded the move which saw Carlos Alberto rifle the ball home. This picturebook goal is so well known that it is replayed time and time again, even some five decades later.

(8) pele tears it up, 1958

During the 1958 World Cup finals a 17-year-old Brazilian named Pelé burst onto the world stage, scoring a hat-trick in the semi-final against France. Playing against Sweden in the final, Pelé scored twice, including an insanely imaginative goal that belied his youth. The celebrations after the final win with the teenage hero crying with his team mates is the stuff of legend.

(9) the miracle of bern, 1954

At the time, Hungary were the number one ranked team and by far the most dominant side in the world, led by the inspirational Ferenc Puskás. In the six months leading up to the 1954 World Cup finals Hungary had demolished England 3-6 away (only their second home defeat ever) and 7-1 at home. No-one gave West Germany a chance in the final, especially after Hungary had raced into a two gaol lead inside eight minutes. The rest is history, with West Germany grabbing an 84th minute winner in a game dubbed ‘The Miracle of Bern’. Even a feature film has been made about this match.

(10) USA defeats england 1-0, 1950

Lastly, another giant-killing act featuring the best team in the world against lowly outsiders. In 1950 America’s mostly amateur squad of players upset the professionals from England, with janitor and Haitian citizen Joe Gaetjens scoring the game’s only goal in the 38th minute. It’s a game still talked about today and has also been the subject of a movie. After the match Gaetjens returned to his native Haiti where he was allegedly murdered by the Tonton Macoutes secret police in 1964. His legacy of scoring the lone goal in a huge upset continues to be the highlight of US football to this day.


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Last Update: 10 May 2018

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