The 14 most iconic World Cup moments

The Rio Report

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With the 2014 finals just two days away, we run down the most iconic moments of the last 14 World Cups...

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1958 - Pele bursts onto scene

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1958 was the year in which the world was introduced to football's first superstar - Pele. At 17 years old, he was the youngest to feature in the tournament and burst onto the scene, setting the sixth World Cup tournament alight as he helped Brazil claim their first title. Netting his first ever World Cup goal in the quarter-finals against Wales, Pele then went on to claim a hat-trick in the semis against France before bagging a brace in the final as the Selecao hammered Sweden 5-2.

1962 - Battle of Santiago

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When an earthquake devastated Chile in 1960, many though that the World Cup to be held two years later would be moved - but it wasn’t. For the Chilean people, the event was a salvation for their suffering and the host nation progressed to the semi-final. However, the tragic earthquake and national team’s success paled into insignificance, with the 1962 World Cup remembered for the infamous ‘Battle of Santiago’. Chile’s clash with Italy was a hugely unsavoury match, with scuffles breaking out at regular intervals throughout the match. Italians Mario David and Giorgio Ferrini were both sent off, while Chile’s Leonel Sanchez broke opponent Humberto Maschio’s nose with a left hook – though he somehow avoided a red card.

1966 – "They think it's all over...it is now"

England hosted the World Cup for the first time in 1966 - in the era of ‘swinging London’. And even though the famous Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from Westminster Central Hall just three months before the first ball was kicked, the ’66 tournament will be remembered for one thing: the final. Yes, England beat arch rivals Germany to be crowned champions for the first (and only) time. Yes, Geoff Hurst became the first (and only) man to score a hat-trick in the final, but the memory that sticks out for many fans – particularly those of an English persuasion – is that of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s commentary as Hurst wrapped up the 4-2 win. “They think it’s all over. It is now!”

1970 - Carlos Alberto

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The 1970 World Cup in Mexico marked a new era in football. For the first time in World Cup history substitutes were used, yellow cards were issued and audiences around the world had the delight of watching the matches on colour television. Perhaps it was quite fitting, then, that the great Brazilian team’s attacking, attractive style of football was complimented by their dazzling yellow shirts broadcast through television sets across the world. And no better time, indeed, than to watch one of the great Brazilian goals; Pele laying the ball off out wide on the right – seemingly into unaccompanied space – only for captain Carlos Alberto to zoom into picture before crashing the Selecao’s fourth goal past Italy, helping them claim their third title.

1974 - Cruyff turn

The Western half of a divided Germany hosted the 1974 World Cup, and, with a new trophy available, it was a chance for the host nation to project a new image to the world. But the image that is etched upon the memory of those watching is that of Johan Cruyff. The talismanic Dutch forward - who wore two stripes, rather than three, on his Adidas jersey because of his affiliation with Puma, such was his influence - helped his side usher in a new brand of football. ‘Total Football’ was a revolutionary tactical system in which every player was required to be more flexible and adaptable than ever before. The Dutch advanced to the final, which they eventually lost to the hosts, but it for a moment in a group match against Sweden that the tournament will forever be remembered. It was here, on the world stage, where Cruyff produced his dazzling ‘Cruyff turn’, completely bamboozling defender Jan Olsson. There are reports that Olsson is still looking for the ball today…

1978 - Ticker Tape

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After being snubbed on three separate occasions, FIFA finally awarded Argentina the honour of hosting the 1978 World Cup, and the South American nation didn’t disappoint. Though controversy surrounded Argentina’s 6-0 win over Peru, which knocked Brazil out of the tournament in bizarre circumstances, it was the atmosphere – and more notably the ticker tape that engulfed the pitch during every single one of the host nation’s fixtures – that will be remembered forever.

1982 - Schumacher & Battiston

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As in 1978, a hugely controversial – or ‘mutually beneficial’ – result in a group match sparked uproar amongst world football fans. Algeria, who suffered World Cup heartbreak following Germany’s 1-0 win over Austria, branded the two nations as “cheats” as they exited the tournament after the first round. That, however, wasn’t the most memorable event as Spain played host to the world. Italy were the eventual winners of the trophy, with Marco Tardelli’s infamous celebration in the final sticking in the memory of football fans, though that, too, was trumped. It was during the semi-final clash between West Germany and France that produced one of the most iconic and rather disgusting images in football history. French defender Patrick Battiston raced through on goal and looked certain to poke the bouncing ball past German keeper Harald Schumacher, but the Germany stopper had other ideas. Schumacher raced out in an attempt to thwart Battiston’s advances but ended up clattering into the defender, breaking his jaw and knocking him unconscious. Astonishingly, the referee refused to award a penalty, though Schumacher did offer to pay his opponent’s dental bills. Nice guy.

1986 – Diego Maradona

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Mexico hosted the World Cup finals for the second time in 16 years as Argentinean whizkid Diego Maradona guided his side to glory in front of 115,000 inside the Stadio Azteca. But it was in Argentina’s semi-final with England that the little magician made history. With the game tied at 0-0, Maradona capitalised on a defensive mistake to challenge England goalkeeper Peter Shilton for the ball – but rather than making contact with his head, El Diego stretched out his arm to punch the ball into the back of the net. England players and fans pleaded with the referee, but the goal stood. What came next, however, was nothing short of genius. Just four minutes after the infamous ‘hand of god’, Maradona ran the near length of the pitch, dancing past every England player’s challenge, rounding Shilton and rolling the ball into an empty net in what is regarded as the greatest World Cup goal of all time.

1990 - Gazza's tears

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Italia ’90 was one of the most negative World Cups in football history. A lack of discipline and a lack of goals, the tournament was epitomised by the opening game in which defending champions Argentina were beaten 1-0 by Cameroon. There were a few memorable moments, though…

The host nation’s Roberto Baggio and Toto Schillaci lit up the tournament, as did ancient Cameroonian striker Roger Milla, but it was Paul Gascoigne that made all the headlines. With ‘Gazza’ already on a yellow card heading into the semi-final against West Germany, the Tottenham midfielder was walking a tightrope. With the score locked at 1-1, the hot-headed Gascoigne threw himself into a challenge with Thomas Berthold and was subsequently booked, meaning that he would miss the final, should England advance.

For the then 23-year-old, reality had sunk in and he instantly realised the consequences of what was a pretty innocuous challenge. Gascoigne was overcome with emotion and instantly burst into tears on the pitch – so much so that teammate Gary Lineker signalled over to England boss Bobby Robson to “have a word with him.” The tears continued into extra-time and penalties, with the inconsolable Gazza unable to take a penalty, instead handing over responsibility to Chris Waddle. And we all know the story from there…

1994 – The two missed penalties

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Many questioned FIFA's decision to award the 1994 World Cup to the United States. After all, despite the emergence of Major League Soccer, the Americans had never really been fully on board with foot...errr...soccer, but, nevertheless, USA '94 proved to be the highest attended World Cup in history. Diego Maradona once again hit the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons, having tested positive for a banned substance and was sent home – bringing down the curtains on a wonderful career. But, USA '94 will be remembered for one thing.

Well, two actually. The first was Diana Ross' dreadful penalty during the opening show – something of which set the tone for the remainder of the World Cup. The second was another missed penalty, though this one came in the final – the first ever final to be decided by a penalty shootout. Italy's talismanic Roberto Baggio had dragged the Azzuri through the group stage and each knockout round, but missed the decisive penalty against Brazil in the final.

1998 - Ronaldo dropped, reinstated, lost

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In 1998, after 60 years of waiting, France hosted the World Cup for the second time in their history and went into the tournament amidst a cloud of political turmoil. Two years prior to the tournament, French president Jean-Marie Le Pen stated that the national team was “artificial” and that players only elected to play for France “to further their international careers” – of course, Le Pen was aiming his criticism at those not of French origin. Quite fitting, then, that the man to drag France through the tournament and all the way to World Cup glory was Zinedine Zidane – he of Algerian descent. And it was in the final, of which Zidane scored twice in a 3-0 win over Brazil, that one of the most controversial incidents in World Cup history came about.

Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who was, by some distance, the best player in the world at the time, was inexplicably left off the teamsheet despite scoring four goals to fire his team into the final. It is widely reported that the striker had suffered a seizure earlier in the day, which would explain his omission from the starting XI, but, astonishingly, Brazil failed to make it onto the pitch for a warm up – amid reports of a changing room bust-up – and as they appeared from the tunnel ahead of the match, Ronaldo was in the team.

2002 - Rivaldo play-acting

The World Cup hosting duties were shared for the first time in 2002 as Japan and Korea assumed responsibility. A vibrant, atmospheric tournament produced many shocks, thrills and spills. Turkey and South Korea both made the semi-finals, reigning champions France suffered defeat in their first match against Senegal and David Seaman was embarrassed by Ronaldinho. All of these made Asia’s first ever World Cup what it was. So it’s a shame that the one picture that sticks in the memory of those watching as Brazil claimed their fifth title was that of Rivaldo’s shameless play-acting. The Brazilian legend conned referee Yung Joo Kim into sending off Turkey’s Hakan Unsal after Unsal had kicked the ball towards Rivaldo, hitting him in the leg. But, instead of carrying on with the semi-final clash, Rivaldo hit the deck like he’d been shot, clutching his face. Unsal was sent off and Brazil went on to win the match.

2006 - Zidane's farewell

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Germany hosted their first World Cup as a united nation in 2006 and put on one hell of a show. What started in a frantic, mesmerising and heart-stopping manner, as hosts Germany shared six goals with Costa Rica in a 4-2 win, finished in the same way. An aging Italian side battled their way to the final, as Zinedine Zidane virtually dragged France to the showpiece fixture in what was to be his final ever match. The mercurial Frenchman, looking to end a glittering career with a second World Cup triumph, opened the scoring and seemed certain to go on and help France lift the trophy. But, with the match tied at 1-1 in extra time and with penalties looming, Zidane did the unthinkable and signed off a career full of poise, grace, finesse and skill in the most brutal and violent manner. The Frenchman, engaging in verbal battle with Marco Materazzi, took offence to something the Italian said, headbutting his opponent. Zidane was sent off as Italy claimed their third World Cup.

2010 – The death of total football

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Having failed at the final hurdle in 1974 and 1978, Netherlands, under the fastidious management of Bert van Marwijk, had the chance to right the wrongs as they made the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Having conceded just five goals on the way to the final, knocking out Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay on the way, ‘the greatest team never to win a World Cup’ looked almost certain to end their drought. A free-flowing, expansive style, akin to their predecessors’ ‘Total Football’, ensured the Netherlands would take on reigning European champions Spain. It was billed as one of the most exciting finals in World Cup history. Total Football v Tiki Taka. Except it wasn’t like that at all.

Van Marwijk sent his Dutch side out with a completely different game plan to the one that had seen them gain many plaudits throughout Africa’s first World Cup. Rather than try and play their way through and past Spain, Netherlands attempted to stop their opponents from playing, and in the most brutal and cynical manner. Kicking out at Spain's players at every opportunity, the Dutch team disgraced themselves on the biggest stage – Nigel de Jong’s karate kick on Xabi Alonso the lasting memory of a truly dreadful final.

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