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The greatest games in World Cup history

The World Cup throws up some of our most memorable moments as football fans, whether it be a goal, a piece of skill, or perhaps an entire game that you’d just love to relive.

With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar just around the corner, here’s a look at the top games in tournament history and the standard we’re hoping to see once again this year.

Marco Tardelli

Italy came out on top amid the chaos / Steve Powell/GettyImages

This semi-final in 1970 seemed like a fairly normal one for much of the game. Italy took the lead eight minutes in, but a stoppage time equaliser pushed the game to extra-time.

That is when five goals were scored in 13 minutes and it was Italy who got the winner, heading to the final in the process.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez made a lot of enemies that night / Michael Steele/GettyImages

This is a game that still boils the blood of so many fans, even over a decade later. The quarter-final was 1-1 late into extra time, which is where the drama really came.

Ghana were looking more likely to score when a header destined for the back of the net was beaten off the goal line by Luis Suarez… with his hands. He was immediately sent off, but Asamoah Gyan hit the bar with a penalty that would have made history not just for Ghana, but for Africa.

The emotional battle was lost for Ghana in that moment and the Uruguayans went on to win the shoot-out 4-2, with Suarez celebrating in the tunnel.

Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Ray Wilson, George Cohen, Bobby Charlton

England’s only ever triumph came in a dramatic fashion / Evening Standard/GettyImages

This game needs little explaining for the English audience, but it really was a thrilling story.

The match was in extra-time at 2-2 when Sir Geoff Hurst hit a shot into the underside of the crossbar and it was ruled to have crossed the line. It later became clear that it very much did not.

West Germany pushed everyone forward and England ended up clinching the victory and the World Cup when Hurst scored again to make it 4-2.

Shin Yong Kyoo, Chan Myung, Eusebio

Eusebio’s Portugal were almost embarrassed by North Korea / Central Press/GettyImages

While the expected team did win this game, the manner in which it happened makes it one of the greats.

North Korea had already shockingly beaten Italy earlier in the tournament, and they then found themselves 3-0 up inside 22 minutes against Eusebio’s Portugal. The legendary striker wasn’t having any of that though, and he scored four goals to make sure Portugal progressed.

Paolo Rossi, Leovegildo Lins da Gama Júnior

Paolo Rossi was Italy’s key player that summer / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

These two teams have been at the centre of so many thrilling World Cup games over the years, but this one was special.

The quarter-final in Spain was packed full of drama and it featured Paolo Rossi scoring a hat-trick and leading Italy past a Brazil side that had been touted by many as the best ever seen.

Fabio Grosso, Alessandro Del Piero

‘Gol di Grosso’ has become an iconic World Cup moment / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

Sticking with Italy, their semi-final against Germany in Berlin’s Olympiastadion was the perfect example of ecstasy and despair being experienced side by side in a football stadium.

The game was 0-0 in extra-time when Fabio Grosso curled in a 119th-minute winner, sparking one of the most incredible moments of commentary ever as the Italian commentator shouted ‘gol di Grosso’ repeatedly.

Alessandro Del Piero then sealed the win soon after with another great goal, and Italy were into a final that they would later win.


West Germany defied the odds in 1954 / STAFF/GettyImages

This was a great World Cup underdog story. Hungary had beaten West Germany 8-3 earlier in the tournament, so everyone expected one outcome when they met in the final.

Hungary went 2-0 up in eight minutes, but the Germans dug deep and fought back to win the game 3-2 in thrilling style.

Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie

Robin van Persie scored one of the most memorable World Cup goals / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

This game was the first of the 2014 group stage for both teams, having done battle in the 2010 final previously. Spain were certainly the favourites having won three major tournaments in a row.

That confidence was misplaced though, as the Oranje produced a stunning display that saw Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben score twice each, with Stefan de Vrij also getting in on the act.


The West Germans won one of many penalty shoot-outs / -/GettyImages

Despite being a thrilling World Cup semi-final between two great sides that featured six goals and a penalty shoot-out that was won 5-4 by West Germany, this game is remembered for one controversial moment.

French forward Patrick Battiston was through on goal when he was clattered by German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher.

The striker was left unconscious with two teeth missing, cracked ribs and damaged vertebrae. No foul was given and Schumacher was not given a card. It is widely regarded as one of the worst challenges ever seen.

Andre Schurrle

The watching Brazilians were horrified by the defeat / Chris Brunskill Ltd/GettyImages

Purely for the shock factor alone, this game has to be there. A World Cup in Brazil, with a very good-looking Brazil side that had made it to the semi-finals.

Thousands of adoring fans watching in Belo Horizonte, all across Brazil and globally saw their team go 5-0 down in half an hour. The Germans were ruthless and cruel. The Brazilians were hapless and in disarray.

Andre Schurrle added two more goals for fun in the second half, before Oscar got a consolation for the Selecao. Fans of all ages were left in tears, and Germany looked like they couldn’t believe what they had accomplished.

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