Seven magic SWC moments
With the 2014 World Cup just days away, here is a look
at seven of the most memorable moments from past editions of the tournament.
There's nothing quite like the Soccer World Cup finals
to stir one's soul and with such a special tournament comes plenty of special
We could hardly pick a favourite, though, so in no
The 'Hand of God'
Already folklore in world football, Argentina legend
Diego Maradona's hand-ball goal during the 1986 quarter-final against England
continues to reverberate around the globe, and chimes loudest in the United
Kingdom where few have, or ever will, forgive the man for his blatant act.
The match was tied at 0-0 after half-time, but that
would all change in a moment that lives on in infamy as Maradona leapt in the
air to meet a miscued clearance, only to use his hand to deflect the ball past
goalkeeper Peter Shilton and into the back of the net.
Cue the furious protests from the England players,
although they fell on deaf ears as referee Ali Ben Nasser awarded the goal, and
Argentina would go on to net another just four minutes later, Maradona this
time dancing through the defence to score a wonderful effort. Gary Lineker
managed to pull one back with nine minutes remaining, although they were unable
to complete a comeback and have been haunted ever since.
Zidane loses his head
Although memorialised for all the wrong reasons,
Zinedine Zidane's headbutt during the 2006 World Cup final between France and
Italy is something people will probably never stop talking about.
The two teams were level at 1-1 in extra-time, with
Marco Materazzi having canceled out Zidane's early penalty, although it was a
moment of madness from the latter that proved most memorable as he charged the
Italian with his head lowered like a bull, flooring the defender to spark
raucous reactions from players and technical staff.
Referee Horacio Elizondo had not actually seen the
incident and needed to consult with several of his assistants before flashing
the red card and sending the midfielder down the tunnel for an early shower.
Salt would soon be rubbed into the wounds as Italy went
on to win the final on penalties, leaving Zidane with only regrets and a
tarnished legacy that would overshadow the rest of his career.
Indomitable Lions roar proudly
It was the year African football made its mark on the
global stage. Italia 1990. The opening game of Group B. David versus Goliath in
every sense as Argentina, defending champions, took on Cameroon. The
Indomitable Lions would eventually finish the match with nine men after Andre
Kana and Benjamin Massing were both sent off, although the only number that
mattered to the Africans after full-time was the 1-0 scoreline in their favour.
Francois Omam-Biyik, brother of Kana-Biyik, got the
all-important goal after 67 minutes, and it would propel them to a first-place
finish in the group and eventual quarter-final berth as they made the deepest
ever run by an African side.
The team would eventually crash out to England in the
last-eight, although Cameroon's, and indeed African football's history, would
be forever altered, paving the path to belief that so many from the continent
have since relied on at the global showpiece.
A mammoth gulf in class
Qualifying through to a World Cup finals does not a
great team make, something El Salvador know all too well following their
showing at the 1982 spectacular hosted by Spain.
Making only their second appearance at the global
event, La Selecta had traveled to the showpiece as local heroes, but returned
with their tails very much between their legs after losing all three of their
Group 3 matches.
It was not only their return of zero points that irked
the Salvadorans, though, as they had to watch on - along with the rest of the
world - as Hungary tore them to shreds in their opener to claim a 10-1 victory,
the highest ever scoreline at a World Cup finals.
El Salvador have not featured at the tournament since,
arguably out of sheer embarrassment, and it will probably be a very long time
still until they get the chance to redeem themselves on the world's biggest
From top to flop
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa produced some
awe-inspiring moments, starting off with that Siphiwe Tshabalala thunderbolt to
kick off proceedings in the opening game, right up to Andre Iniesta's
116th-minute winner for Spain in the final against the Netherlands.
What happened to Italy and France in the group stages,
though, was truly unforgettable. The Azzurri headed to Africa as defending
champions, while Les Bleus were hoping to make it back-to-back World Cup
finals, having finished as runners-up in 2006.
However, any dreams of achieving glory were swiftly and
abruptly ended as both failed to make it out of the first round as each
finished rock bottom of their respective groups.
For Italy, draws against Paraguay and New Zealand in
their opening two matches left their place in the last-16 in doubt, and the
knockout punch came against Slovakia, who earned a 3-2 win to put the Italian
Stallions out to pasture.
France had an even worse time of it, drawing against
Uruguay in their opener - which granted wasn't a bad result for either - but it
meant their 2-0 defeat to Mexico and 2-1 loss against hosts Bafana Bafana would
seal their woeful exit from the tournament
'That goal' from Dennis Bergkamp
There have been some truly glorious strikes down the
World Cup years; Diego Maradona's stupendous second against England in '86,
Carlos Alberto's rasping piledriver in the 1970 final win over Italy, and many,
many more. However, one arguably sticks out more than others, mainly for the
combination of unbelievable skill and talent Dennis Bergkamp showcased in 1998.
The Netherlands were up against Argentina for a place
in the semi-finals and the score was delicately poised at 1-1 with just 60
seconds of normal time remaining. What happened next has since been hailed as a
defining moment in the evolution of the game, with Bergkamp showing one of the
silkiest touches you will ever see to bring down Frank de Boer's 50-yard pass,
before flicking the ball up and over the on-rushing defender with his right
boot and curling an unstoppable drive into the top corner with his left.
The Dutchman may have been unable to help his side
through to the final, despite scoring in the penalty shoot-out defeat to Brazil
in the semis, although his goal in the last-eight will go down in history as
one of the greatest ever in the game.
One for the underdog
The World Cup was celebrating its 20th birthday when
Switzerland hosted the event in 1954, but it was West Germany who were doing
all the celebrating by the end following a phenomenal showing from start to
Most goals scored (25) and most goals scored per game
(4.25) are records the team set at that year's tournament to highlight their
cut-throat approach, although most goals conceded (14) and most goals conceded
per game (2.33) were also statistics they owned, all of which added up to some
It was in the final, though, where they shone
brightest. Hungary were the opponents, and with the Magical Magyars having not
lost a game for four years, West Germany were very much the underdogs.
However, they capped off a stunning tournament with
another all-or-nothing performance, coming back from 2-0 down after just eight
minutes to eventually secure a famous 3-2 victory, with Helmut Rahn completing
his brace with six minutes remaining to complete a fairytale ending in