The 2018 FIFA World Cup is in full swing and already, we are getting classic matches this early. Last night, Spain and Portugal took each other on in an Iberian derby. Needless to say, it was a thriller. In fact, the match was so enthralling that many are considering it among the echelons of other classic matches.
Here are the top 5 World Cup matches of all-time.
1950 World Cup Final (Uruguay vs Brazil)
Brazil played host to the World Cup that year and the home team were hot favourites to win. But Uruguay and fate had other ideas, they went on to produce one of the greatest upsets in the tournament’s history.
Brazil was so confident of winning the tournament that celebrations were on standby on the sidelines of the pitch. Even the local newspapers had printed special editions proclaiming the hosts “Champions of the World”.
For Brazil, winning the 1950 World Cup was a national priority and of utmost importance. But the dirge-like atmosphere sapped the will of the Brazilians. The Yellow army failed to pressurise Uruguay in the last few minutes of the game.
At the final whistle, many Brazilian fans were inconsolable. Even on the pitch, tears were spilt. Brazil wept in grief while the Uruguayans wept with a mixture of joy and disbelief.
1970 World Cup Final (Italy vs Brazil)
The 1970 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy will forever go down in history. Surprisingly, The final did not yield a breathtaking finish. Unlike the semi-final, there were no pendulum swings of momentum from one side to the other. Brazil won comfortably, 4-1. And yet the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, on 21 June, 1970, is where the most dazzling virtues of the Beautiful Game fleetingly converged.
Italy managed to rein in Brazil until Pele scored on a fantastic header off a Rivelino cross in the 19th minute. Italy responded eight minutes before halftime when Roberto Boninsegna took advantage of a defensive error by Clodoaldo and beat goalkeeper Felix.
Italy’s jubilation was quickly soured as Pele and co. pressured the Italians in the second half. Midfielder Gerson scored a fantastic goal outside the penalty area in the 65th minute to give Brazil a 2-1 lead. From that point, Brazil showed no mercy on the Azzurri.
Five minutes later, Jairzinho was the next man on the scoreboard. Clodoaldo breezed past a couple of Italian players before passing to Pele. The Brazilian wizard jinked down the left and drifted towards the middle. He found some space and played a perfect square pass 25 yards from goal. Alberto received it and hammered past goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi.
1986 World Cup Quarterfinal (Argentina vs England)
England tried complicating life for the Argentians that day. They began the match as the better side, and played with aggression. But as the game dragged on Maradona was in the zone. Each time he controlled a ball there, the English defenders would close him down. But time and time again the Argentinian danced away. Eventually they settled on allowing Maradona to run across the face of the penalty box. The idea was to lower his accuracy.
For the first half, it worked, but Argentina’s dominance didn’t result in anything either. It was a tight, battling contest to which the referee gave just leniency.
The second half started out equally fierce. Then the moment came, a moment of unmatched infamy. A move that continues to draw disgust from Englishmen. With no space to exploit, Maradona picked up the ball midway through the English half, he ran centrally towards the arc of the penalty box.
He passed the ball to Valdano for a crisp one-two, but the Argentine fumbled and the ball lifted slightly upwards. A poor clearance from Hodge sent the ball deeper into the penalty box. Only Maradona and goalkeeper Peter Shilton were in the box. Both jumped for the ball and somehow the 1.65m tall Maradona got the slightest of touches on the ball to just narrowly chip it over Shilton.
The English players smelt a rat and complained to the officials. They claimed that the goal was both offside and illegitimate. Maradona had not scored with his head, feet, nor shoulders, but with his hand – the Hand of God. When Maradona hopped up to the ball, he clenched a fist right by his head and stretched it out to knock the ball over Shilton.
2014 World Cup Semifinal (Brazil vs Germany)
If you thought that Uruguay’s win was humiliating, you couldn’t be more wrong. Enter, the 2014 World Cup semifinal. Defeat doesn’t quite describe the match, a massacre is closer to the truth. Die Mannschaft hammered in 7 goals compared to Brazil’s paltry 1.
It was so brutal that no Brazilian fan could even bear to watch. This match truly had to be the biggest collapse in the history of football. By the end of it, the players cried, the stadium cried and a nation wailed and beat their chests.
Germany scored five goals in 29 minutes against a Brazil team that had taken leave of any semblance of a game-plan. Extraordinary and excruciating to watch it was a World Cup match like no other. Even the Germans sensed that they should mute their celebrations, as if they were also bystanders at a solemn state funeral.
Judging by the scoreline, one could be forgiven for wondering how the Brazil team reached the semifinal stage.
2018 World Cup Group Stage (Portugal vs Spain)
This one was a mighty fierce battle between two brilliant sides. The Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal drew first blood when a ill-timed tackle from Nacho Monreal resulted in a Portugal-favoured penalty. Skipper Ronaldo did not miss and Portugal surged ahead. 20 minutes later, Spain hit back with a fine effort from Diego Costa to level the scores.
Then, just before half-time, Ronaldo scored again after receiving a corner kick. David De Gea had no answer whatsoever. During the second half, Costa struck again to level one more time. 3 minutes later, Monreal made up for his earlier foul by handing Spain the lead.
Las Furia Rojas then changed tactics, opting to retain possession. But the Portuguese press them hard. Then, the defence cracked when Spain gave away a free kick. Once again, Ronaldo stepped up and his aim was true. Crucially, the goal was in the 88th minute and both teams had to settle for a point each. But the sheer ferocity is what makes this make a classic.