These Are the 15 Best World Cup Matches Of All Time
If you’re enjoying this year’s World Cup coverage, then you’ve probably found yourself wondering: How many of this year’s teams, players, and matches will go down in history as the most memorable in the history of the tournament? After all, there have been some pretty amazing matches throughout the history of the World Cup.
In chronological order, check out the 15 best World Cup matches of all time. Do your favorites make the list?
1. Uruguay-Brazil, 1950
- Final score: 2-1
World Soccer puts the 1950 World Cup match between Uruguay and Brazil on its list of the greatest World Cup matches of all time. Back in 1950, the tournament’s rules were a little different, with the winners of the four groups proceeding into another group stage to decide the winner. Going into its match with Uruguay, Brazil only needed to draw to win the World Cup (the team had already beaten Sweden and Spain). But Uruguay scored two goals in the last 25 minutes of the match. Pelé, Brazil’s legendary star, broke down in tears after the game (but then went on to win three of the next five World Cups).
Next: This 1966 match made World Cup history, too.
2. Portugal-North Korea, 1966
- Final score: 5-3
The New York Post reports that in the 1966 World Cup, North Korea stunned the world by beating Italy. Then, it started its match against Portugal with a 3-0 lead in the opening 25 minutes. But according to the Post, “The next 65 minutes then belonged to the brilliant Eusebio, who embarked on a personal crusade to get his side into the final four. He reduced the lead in the 27th minute and got Portugal back to 3-2 with his first penalty on the stroke of halftime.” The North Korean team still resisted in the second half, and it took 20 minutes “before they were finally subdued,” according to the Post.
Next: People can’t forget this game, also played in 1966.
3. England-West Germany, 1966
- Final score: 4-2
World Soccer reports that the 1966 match between England and West Germany started with a lot of drama behind the scenes, including a stolen trophy. The publication notes that it remains one of the most controversial matches in football because of one moment. “In the 101st minute, Geoff Hurst hit a shot into the crossbar and down onto the line.” The referee ruled it had crossed the line, giving the English a 3-2 lead. Thanks to a break from Hurst, England won 4-2. As World Soccer reports, “This, of course, can be remembered as Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous commentary line, ‘They think its all over – It is now!'”
Next: Everyone still remembers this 1970 match.
4. Brazil-England, 1970
- Final score: 1-0
According to World Soccer, Brazil was the favorite going into its 1970 match against England. But what makes this match memorable was the performance of English star players Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore. Pelé, lurking at the back post, headed a cross downward toward the English goal, but Banks dove and looped the ball around the post to thwart the goal. And at another moment in the game, the ball broke to Jairzinho, and Moore timed a tackle perfectly to prevent a goal. However, Jairzinho eventually scored the only goal of the match in the 59th minute. Yet according to The New York Post, “England had their chance to force the equalizer and were actually the better team, which is really saying something.”
Next: Don’t forget about this match, also from 1970.
5. Italy-West Germany, 1970
- Final score: 4-3
Next on the list of the most memorable World Cup matches? Italy’s 1970 match against West Germany, according to World Soccer, which characterizes it as “the game of the century.” Italy scored in the 8th minute and seemed to have won against West Germany. “But a 90th-minute extra time equalizer by Karl-Heinz Schnellinger pushed the game to extra-time. Chaos was about to ensue,” the publication explains. During extra-time, in the space of 13 minutes, the teams scored five goals. Italy scored the winner and made it to the final.
Next: This match made headlines in 1982.
6. Algeria-West Germany, 1982
- Final score: 2-1
The New York Post puts the 1982 match between Algeria and West Germany on the list of the best World Cup matches of all time. “As upsets go, this was huge,” the publication notes. “It was also wonderful entertainment and gave all the underdogs the encouragement to take the game to the big guns and not be intimidated by reputations.” West Germany had Karl-Heinz Rumminigge, Pierre Littbarski, and Paul Breitner in its lineup. But Algeria surprised audiences nine minutes into the second half, when Rabaj Madjer made the opening goal. Rumminigge scored at 67 minutes, but Algeria “broke the game open just 60 seconds later when national hero Lakhdar Belloumi latched onto a cross after some brilliant lead-up work,” the Post recalls.
Next: Fans also loved this 1982 match.
7. Italy-Brazil, 1982
- Final score: 3-2
World Soccer characterizes Brazil’s 1982 team as “the greatest team never to win a World Cup.” That’s largely attributed to Brazil’s match against Italy, where Brazil encountered “a staunch Italian defense and the mercurial talent of Paolo Rossi.” As the publication explains, “With the majority of the game taking place in the Italian half, chances were scarce for the Azzurri, but thanks to Rossi, when they got them, they scored. Rossi scored a sublime hat-trick to Brazil’s two goals from Socrates and Falcao.” The New York Post notes, “What followed for the next 40 minutes was total Brazilian domination.” Falcao restored parity in the 69th minute, but Rossi clinched the win in the 74th minute.
Next: This is yet another memorable match from the 1982 World Cup.
8. West Germany-France, 1982
- Final score: 3-3 (5-4 on penalties)
World Soccer puts the 1982 match between West Germany and France on the list of the most memorable World Cup matches thanks to one controversial moment. In the 60th minute, French forward Patrick Battiston “looked to pounce onto a through ball,” according to World Soccer. He didn’t see German keeper Harald Schumacher coming, and Schumacher knocked Battiston unconscious, cracked his ribs, knocked out two of his teeth, and damaged his vertebrae. Schumacher received no card, and no foul was given.
Next: Don’t forget about this match from the 1986 World Cup.
9. Belgium-Soviet Union, 1986
- Final score: 4-3
The New York Post puts the 1986 match between Belgium and the Soviet Union on its list of the greatest World Cup matches of all time. Led by Enzo Scifo, Belgium “pulled off a shock win over a team that had scored nine goals in their previous three matches,” the publication explains. The Belgian team responded decisively after Soviet Union striker Igor Belanov opened the scoring in the 27th minute. The match really heated up in the last 20 minutes, and Belgium took control in extra time.
Next: Fans also love this 1986 match.
10. Argentina-England, 1986
- Final score: 2-1
World Soccer reports that in the 1986 match between Argentina and England, Diego Maradona “created two of the most memorable World Cup moments in the space of four minutes.” The publication explains that just after halftime, “After a miscued clearance, Maradona somehow beat English keeper Peter Shilton to the ball. The answer was he used his hand to go over the outstretched Shilton, and the referee allowed it.” Just four minutes later, Maradona made “the goal of the century” by picking up the ball, taking it past five English defenders and the keeper, then slotting it home.
Next: The two teams met again in another memorable match.
11. Argentina-England, 1998
- Final score: 2-2 (4-3)
Another notable meeting of the Argentinian and English teams? Their 1998 World Cup match, according to The New York Post. The publication reports that “This game had everything — a nasty undercurrent dating back to Diego Maradona’s 1986 ‘Hand of God’ goal, the precocious talent of Michael Owen, a David Beckham sending off, some impressive counter-attacking play and another England collapse. In truth, it was a game England should have really won.” When the game went to penalties, the Post reports, “there was almost a feeling of inevitability about the result.”
Next: People are still talking about this 2006 match.
12. Italy-Germany, 2006
- Final score: 2-0
The New York Post adds the 2006 match between Italy and Germany to the list of the best World Cup matches of all time. “This showed that goals are not necessarily needed for a game to be considered a classic, as for 118 minutes neither side could convert,” the publication notes. Neither team scored a goal until Fabio Grosso did for Italy in the 119th minute. “The hosts just couldn’t find a way past Gianluigi Buffon, who pulled off two particularly notable saves from Lukas Podolski and Bernd Schneider,” the Post notes. Italy hit the post twice early in extra time, but Grosso managed “a superb strike before Alessandro del Piero hit the second.”
Next: Don’t forget about this great 2010 match.
13. Uruguay-Ghana, 2010
- Final score: 1-1 (4-2 on penalties)
Next on the list of the best World Cup matches? The 2010 match between Uruguay and Ghana, according to World Soccer. The game ended 1-1 and went to extra time, and the publication reports that “the drama was saved for late in extra-time.” Ghana was on the offensive, and with the last kick of the game, Asamoah Gyan kicked his penalty shot into the crossbar. The Uruguyans began to celebrate, even though Ghana still had a chance in the penalty shootout. Forlan, Gyan, Victorino, Appiah, and Scotti all scored. Then John Mensah missed, as did Pereira and Adiyiah. Sebastian Abreu needed to score to beat Ghana — and did.
Next: This 2014 match went down in history.
14. Netherlands-Spain, 2014
- Final score: 5-1
Spain’s first match in the 2014 World Cup was a rematch of the 2010 final, against the Netherlands. Spain was the defending champion, and nobody expected what World Soccer characterizes as “the Dutch onslaught.” Arjen Robben scored on the 53rd minute. Stefan de Vrij scored 11 minutes after that. Then Robin Van Persie made it 4-1, and Robben scored again in the 80th minute.
Next: Fans also loved this 2014 match.
15. Germany-Brazil, 2014
- Final score: 7-1
World Soccer reports that in Brazil’s home World Cup in 2014, the result of Brazil’s semi-finals match against Germany was clear after 30 minutes. “For sheer destruction of an opponent, at this point in the tournament, this has to be up there with one of the greatest performances in World Cup history,” World Soccer reports. “It can be argued that Brazil‘s defense was suspect, but it was also due to German brilliance too.” Thomas Muller scored after 11 minutes, and Germany scored four more goals in just 6 minutes. Andre Schurrle took the total to seven in the second half.
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