Five thrillers - no explanation is necessary.
1970 (Group Stage) England 0-1 Brazil
Brazil were the tournament favorites, holding in their team Pele and Jairzinho, although the England were the championship defenders, and boasted Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks, who were arguably the best defender and goalkeeper at the tournament respectively. These four would go on to to define the match. Jairzinho scored the goal that won it but Pele, thwarted first by Banks, who in the process of doing so produced one of the greatest saves ever, plunged to his right to tip a header around the post and then by Moore, whose tackle on O Rei has since then entered into the annals of soccer history.
1950 (Final) Brazil 1-2 Uruguay
The stage for Brazil’s first World Cup victory was set. Requiring only a draw (the format in 1950 had two group stages instead of a knockout round) to win the tournament, the Brazilians were so confident that the local papers had already printed editions announcing their success. Uruguay, however, was determined the overturn this, symbolized by their buying copies of the newspapers which had told of Brazil’s assumed victory and urinating on them. In front of a world record crowd of over 200,000 in the Maracana, they encountered the completely unexpected. Brazil’s Friaca scored early in the second half, but in fashion similar to Belgium's victory over Japan in this World Cup, Uruguay fought back to win 2-1 and to take the cup back to Montevideo.
1958 (Final) Brazil 5-2 Sweden
A huge reason for this match to be on this is its showcasing of an extraordinary young achievement. Such young achievement is scoring twice within the match, including one of the greatest goals of all time in the history of the sport, at the age of 17. The hero was on the Brazilian side, and his name is Pele. Pele hadn’t even played until the third game of the tournament, before exploding in the knockout rounds, scoring the winner against Wales and a hat-trick against France. Pele was by no means thought of as Brazil’s best player, with Garrincha and Vava considered the stars. This changed in the final.
1986 (Quarter-final) England 1-2 Argentina
This match was perhaps the most politically-charged match in history. The two nations had only just recently signed the peace that ended the Falkand Wars, and tensions were no doubt not even close to being fully squashed. Although England had Gary Lineker, the tournament’s top scorer, but Argentina had Maradona. El Diego exploded the tie open with a piece of cheating that still enrage England supporters and then closed it again with arguably the finest goal in World Cup history. It started with no deception palpable - a pass, a deflection into the air and presumably simple claim for Peter Shilton – but as the ball looped towards the England keeper, an outstretched fist, “El Mano de Dio,” the “Hand of God,” appeared, punching the ball over the stranded Shilton and into the England net. The referee gave the Argentinians the goal.
The Game of the Century
The title right above says it all. This game is soccer drama at its highest. The Italians went ahead of the Germans after eight minutes and much as Germany pushed for an equalizer, they were thwarted by the catennaccio, a defensive tactic perfected by the Italians. It failed though, when in the final minute, when Karl-Heinz Schellinger sent the game into extra-time. Gerd Muller gave the Germans the lead but was unfortunately pegged back by Burgnisch. Then, Riva put the Azzurri in front and Muller popped up again to level the scores. While the TV cameras were replaying Muller’s goal, Rivera met a cross at the other end to regain the lead for the Italians, which they were to hold on to. The five goals scored within extra-time remains the World Cup record and the game was honored by a plaque on the wall of the Estadio Azteca, thanking the two nations for their efforts and proclaiming it “The Game of the Century.” What a thriller!
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