Legendary goals, famous meltdowns, controversy. Here are the 10 most iconic moments in World Cup history.
Maradona’s Goal of the Century (1986)
Yes, the “Hand of God” was more famous – or infamous – but Diego Maradona’s second goal against England in the quarterfinals still stands as a shining example of what soccer is all about. In a span of four minutes the world saw the worst and best of Argentina’s ultimate sporting icon. While the “Hand of God” goal was the very definition of deceit, Maradona’s second goal, later dubbed “The Goal of the Century,” was pure poetry, affirmation of his genius and standing as the greatest player on the planet at the time.
Maradona’s Hand of God (1986)
Racing England goalkeeper Peter Shilton for a ball that hung in the air, the Argentine trickster punched it into the net, expertly camouflaging his trickery and duping the linesman and referee by nodding his head as if he made contact with it. At the post-match press conference, a brazen Maradona claimed the goal was scored “a little bit by the Hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona.” TV networks around the world showed the incident time and time again that evening, as Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal became enshrined in the sporting lexicon.
Geoff Hurst’s goal (1966)
No goal in the history of sport sparks as much debate and controversy as Hurst’s game-winner against the West Germans in the final. In extra time, Hurst belted a furious right-footed shot that blazed past goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski, hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down on the goal-line. Did the ball cross the line? Subsequent replays over the years show it did not, but when asked by Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst for a ruling, linesman Tofik Bakhramov, without hesitation, pointed his flag towards the centre circle on the field, signaling a goal. The Germans were livid, but England went on to win the World Cup.
Pele and Carlos Alberto bury Italy (1970)
A memorable strike that capped off an emphatic 4-1 win for Brazil over Italy in the final. Pele started the move down the left side before drifting towards the middle. He found some open space and sensing Alberto was coming down the right side, he played a perfect square pass 25 yards from goal that Alberto lashed onto without breaking stride and hammered the ball past static Italian goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi. The goal was symbolic of the attacking genius of the Brazilians who used spirit, guile and talent to vanquish the defensive Italians.
Uruguay silences the Maracana (1950)
Buoyed by the crowd of 174,000 spectators at Rio’s Maracana stadium, the invincible Brazilians were virtually assured of victory against Uruguay in the tournament finale. What’s more, Uruguay had tied Spain in its first game of the final round and trailed Brazil by a point. All the hosts had to do was earn a draw against Uruguay and Brazil would be crowned world champions. How could they lose? Thanks to a brave effort, Uruguay pulled out the victory in the 79th minute when Alcides Ghiggia played a 1-2 pass with Julio Perez and beat the Brazilian goalkeeper at the near post. When the final whistle blew, the stunned and silent Maracana crowd broke into tears.
Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt (2006)
With 10 minutes remaining in extra time of the final, Zinedine Zidane turned to face Marco Materazzi (who said something to tick off the French midfielder) and head-butted the Italian defender in the chest, knocking him to the ground and earning a red card for himself. Zidane’s act of lunacy cost France its best scorer in the shootout and Italy claimed its fourth World Cup title. A media feeding frenzy ensued – news agencies around the globe tried to find out what Materazzi said to set off Zidane – and the retiring Zizou left the game in disgrace.
The goal that started it all (1930)
Lucien Laurent earned a special place in World Cup history when he scored for France on July 13, 1930. In the opening game of the inaugural tournament in Uruguay, the Frenchman collected a high cross from the right wing and ripped a dangerous shot past Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Bonfiglio. Laurent’s strike in the 19th minute was the first goal ever scored at the World Cup, blazing a path that would be followed by legions of great goal-scorers in the ensuing decades.
The Cruyff Turn (1974)
It was during the first round that the incomparable Dutch master Johan Cruyff conjured up a bit of magic. With his back towards the net just outside the penalty area, Cruyff looked as if he was about to pass Sweden’s Gunnar Olsson on his left, heading back towards the centre of the field. Instead, with the same right foot that appeared to knock the ball backwards, Cruyff shifted the ball in the opposite direction while simultaneously swivelling his entire body in the same direction and took off past Olsson on the right towards the Swedish goal-line. He didn’t score, but the “Cruyff Turn” became an instant part of soccer lore as children from all over the globe tried for decades to duplicate his ballet-like move in school yards.
Joe Gaetjens’s header against England (1950)
Thirty years before a bunch of American college hockey players stunned the powerful Soviets at Lake Placid, the U.S. soccer team pulled off the greatest upset in World Cup history when it defeated England. Late in the first half, Walter Bahr launched a long-range shot on the English net. Joe Gaetjens dove headlong and made enough contact with the ball to send it past the reach of the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The U.S. went on to beat England 1-0 in the “Miracle on Grass.”
Marco Tardelli’s celebration (1982)
Tardelli’s goal ended up being the winner against West Germany in the final, but it was his legendary celebration that everybody remembers. After scoring to give Italy a 2-0 lead, the midfielder slowly jogs away from the net when the reality of what he did suddenly sinks in. Tardelli picks up more speed as he frantically runs around the field, wildly flailing his arms about with tears in his eyes while screaming ‘”goal” over and over again before being mobbed by his teammates. The pure emotion etched on Tardelli’s face was not of a pro athlete, but of a boy who realized his childhood dream.