A look at the best World Cup moments from the last ten editions

Photo Credit: AP

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest football tournament in the world. It brings together the stars of the game for a football fest that is unlike any other. It’s the pinnacle of the sport and since its inauguration in 1930, the tournament has produced some real highlights.

There have been many talking points throughout the history of the FIFA World Cup. But so many special moments as well. From the drama of England’s 1966 victory at Wembley against West Germany to the brilliance of the 1970 Brazil team featuring Pele and the Maradona-inspired success of Argentina, there have been some stunning moments to look back at.

It’s easy to fall back into a nostalgic mood when thinking about the best World Cup moments. But what about the action from more recent tournaments? In anticipation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we look back at the most recent 10 editions for the best World Cup highlights of recent years.

1982: Paolo Rossi’s remarkable revival at the World Cup

Paolo Rossi was the darling of the 1982 World Cup, but the tournament did not get off the greatest of starts by the Italian. Having received a ban after being found guilty of being involved in a betting scandal that included him missing the 1980 European Championships, it was remarkable that Rossi was even in Italy’s 1982 World Cup squad.

After his ban ended, he made three appearances for Juventus in Serie A at the end of the 1981/82 season. So he was out of shape and with no match sharpness. But Rossi was selected by Italy manager Enzo Bearzot. Rossi though came under heavy criticism after some extremely poor performances in the first group stage where Italy played out draws against Poland, Cameron and Peru.

But Bearzot kept playing Rossi for the second group stage, in which Italy lined up against South American giants Brazil and Argentina. Given that they were facing some star-studded opposition, Italy weren’t given much of a chance. But they started with a 2-1 win over Argentina in the group. Rossi, who hadn’t scored in the tournament so far, then came to life.

He rattled off a hattrick in their decisive second group stage match against Brazil, Italy winning 3-2. In the semi-finals, Rossi scored twice to help the Azzurri beat Poland. He was then on the scoreboard in the World Cup Final, opening the scoring as Italy beat West Germany. Rossi finished with the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball (best player) and the World Cup title.

He’s the only European to have won all three at a single tournament. It was some revival.

1986: Maradona’s Goal of the Century

One of the greatest moments, and one of the most famous ever, was Maradona’s goal against England at the 1986 World Cup. No, not that controversial one, the one that followed it. Just minutes after he had put Argentina ahead with the infamous “Hand Of God” goal in the quarter-final match, Maradona produced one of the most iconic World Cup goals of all time.

Maradona got hold of the ball in his own half and just made a bee-line for England’s goal. England came at him, but Maradona ghosted past the defenders like they didn’t exist. Maradona left player after player in his wake and he just kept going at pace, with astonishing control. Having seen off the English defence, the Argentine glided around England keeper Peter Shilton to slide the ball home. Argentina would go on to lift the title that year, beating West Germany in the Final.

1994: Saeed Al-Owarian solo stunner v Belgium

It’s not always about the big stars of the game, getting on the list of the best moments for the recent World Cups. Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Owarian produced a highlight reel goal in the group stage of the 1994 tournament against Belgium. It was the tournament debut for Saudi Arabia who had lost to the Netherlands in their opener before beating Morocco. Then in Washington, D.C. at USA ‘94 they met Belgium. Saeed Al-Owarian picked the ball up in his own half.

Much like Maradona’s aforementioned goal against England, Al-Owarian just kept running. His pace carried him past defenders, who were falling and sliding around trying to stop him. He reached the penalty area, turned the final defender inside out, and drove a sliding finish past the keeper. It was a stunning goal, the only one of the game to boot.

1998: Dennis Bergkamp’s game-winning goal

In the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals the Netherlands met Argentina and the game produced a goal that was a stunning work of art. It was Dennis Bergkamp who was the artist and he left it late to create it. Bergkamp produced the winner for the Netherlands in the final minute of the tie. Teammate Frank de Boer had picked the ball up in defence and strode forward. From well inside his own half, De Boer launched a long ball forward which Bergkamp met in Argentina’s penalty area.

Bergkamp brought the ball down with sublime control, but he was heading away from the goal. A sharp turn back inside, playing the ball between his own legs, saw Bergkamp wrong-foot the marking defender. The Netherlands forward then produced an audacious finish from the edge of the six-yard box with the outside of his right foot. The ball flew into the far corner of the net. It is to this day, one of the greatest match winners in a World Cup match.

2014: Germany 7-1 Brazil at the World Cup

In terms of soccer results from recent World Cup matches, nothing beats the remarkable scoreline that was produced in the World Cup 2014 semi-final Brazil v Germany fixture. With the likes of Neymar, Fred and Oscar driving Brazil, the tournament hosts topped their section in the group stage. After a tense penalty shoot-out win in the Round of 16 against Chile and a 2-1 victory over Colombia in the Quarter Finals, Brazil set up their big clash with the Germans.

Germany had also won their group, before needing extra time to beat Algeria in the Round of 16. A 1-0 success over France in the quarter-finals put them through the final four. What unfolded at Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte in front of a crowd of more than 58,000 at the World Cup 2014, was simply remarkable.

In the 11th minute, Germany forward Thomas Müller set the ball rolling with the opening goal of the match. It sparked a stunning period of play. With less than 30 minutes on the clock, Germany were 5-0 ahead. Miroslav Klose had doubled Germany’s lead in the 24th minute before Toni Kroos rattled off a quick-fire brace in the 24th and 26th minutes. Sami Khedira then netted in the 29th minute to leave Brazil well and truly shell shocked.

Germany didn’t let up there as André Schürrle netted twice more for Germany after the break. The lone consolation for Brazil came in the final minute of the match when Oscar netted for the Selecao. It’s worth remembering that this was a World Cup semi-final, which are usually tense and cagey affairs. Germany went on to lift the title with a victory over Argentina in the final. A single goal from Mario Götze, at the time a player with Bundesliga side Bayern Munich gave Germany their fourth World Cup crown.

Last 10 World Cup Finals

  • 1982 – Italy 3-1 West Germany
  • 1986 – Argentina 3-2 West Germany
  • 1990 – West Germany 1-0 Argentina
  • 1994 – Brazil 0-0 Italy (3-2p)
  • 1998 – France 3-0 Brazil
  • 2002 – Brazil 2-0 Germany
  • 2006 – Italy 1-1 France (5-3p)
  • 2010 – Spain 1-0 Netherlands (a.e.t.)
  • 2014 – Germany 1-0 Argentina (a.e.t.)
  • 2018 – France 4-2 Croatia

5 Infamous FIFA World Cup Moments

We have looked at some of the best moments from the recent World Cup tournaments. But what about a glance through the top five most infamous moments?

1986: The “Hand of God”

Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal gave Argentina the lead over England in the 1986 quarter-finals. With the ball flying high in the air, Maradona leapt ahead of England keeper Peter Shilton, hitting the ball into the goal with his hand. Everyone in the stadium but the referee apparently saw the offence, so the goal stood. Maradona stated that the goal had been scored by “a little with Maradona’s head and a little with God’s hand.” There was no head involved.

2006: The Cristiano Ronaldo wink

England faced Portugal in the quarter-finals of the 2016 World Cup. Then teammates at Premier League side Manchester United, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were opposing each other. Rooney had been caught in a tangle between a couple of Portuguese players. In a moment of frustration, he kicked out a little at Ricardo Carvalho as he believed he had been fouled. Ronaldo got hyped up pleading with the referee to send Rooney off. The referee did just that, and CR7 was then caught on camera giving a cheeky wink to his bench.

2006: Zinedine Zidane headbutts Marco Materazzi

Another of the most infamous World Cup moments from recent history was produced in the France v Italy finale. Zinedine Zidane, then at La Liga side Real Madrid, headbutted Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 110th minute of the 2006 Final. The Italian had said something to incite Zidane who reacted and got a red card. Italy won the final via penalty shootout.

2010: Luis Suárez vs Ghana

What is a look back at the infamous World Cup moments without Luis Suárez? The Uruguayan forward has produced a couple of the biggest. At the 2010 World Cup Uruguay played Ghana in the quarter-finals. With the final whistle rapidly approaching and the game at 1-1, Ghana had played a free-kick into Uruguay’s box. It was nodded towards goal and heading in, but Luis Suárez who had been standing on the goal line simply saved it with his hand. He was sent off. Ghana missed the penalty that was awarded and Uruguay eventually went on to win a penalty shootout.

2014: Luis Suárez v Giorgio Chiellini

Suarez was back at it four years later in a bizarre incident involving Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, one of the toughest defenders in the business. After Italy had cleared a ball from their box, while the direction was focused elsewhere, Suarez ran up behind Chiellini and bit him on the shoulder. Remarkably Suarez wasn’t sent off, and Uruguay went on to win 1-0 eliminating Italy from the group stage.