The twenty-first World Cup Final will be played on 15th July in the imposing Luzhniki Stadium is Moscow. Much has already been made about who the favourites are, and what we can expect from them over the next four week’s worth of football.
Most neutrals will be hoping that this tournament’s final will be a little better than the last few we’ve had to endure. The past three final games have yielded just four goals in three hundred and sixty minutes of football. Hardly gripping and exceptionally dull affairs, we have all been left pining for better occasions when nations actually fought tooth and nail to win against their rivals.
There have been some excellent meetings in final last hurdle before the Jules Rimet trophy is given and immortality beckons for the victors. Here are five of the best from the past twenty tournaments.
1930 Uruguay v Argentina 4-2
The original and still one of the best – this game had so much drama, it’s a real shame there is only a couple of minutes of grainy footage of it. It literally had everything, goals, disputes over the ball, armed guards with fixed bayonets on the touchline and a boat waiting in the harbour for the Belgian referee in case things got a bit nasty after the final whistle.
It was a fitting end to the first competition. The two South American Super Powers that had wowed a global audience in the 1928 Olympics battled each other for the title in 1930. Uruguay cemented their name in history and will forever have a special connection to the tournament, as Hector Castro’s 89th minute goal ended the game amid jubilant scenes in Montevideo.
France 3 – 0 Brazil
France ’98 was a genuinely memorable and enjoyable tournament. The likes of Croatia and The Netherlands were wonderful entertainers, while France lit up the world as hosts. Their golden generation were rightful champions on home soil as they did away with a very talented Brazil, who were defending champions.
Captained by Deschamps but powered by the legendary Zinedine Zidane, France dominated the match. Their individual talent was there for all to see but this was Zindane’s moment. The game itself was an open affair with both teams taking risks, but in effect Zindane’s brace of headers killed the final by half time.
Brazil huffed and puffed against ten men in the second half, but were undone by a breakaway goal as Emmanuel Petit tucked away a tidy finish to seal a dramatic win and jubilation in Paris.
1966 England 4 – 2 West Germany (AET)
Had to be in here didn’t it!? England’s only tournament win from our one final to date, came after an entertaining match at Wembley. A staggering 96,924 people turned up to the capital to attend the match as Sir Alf Ramsey’s men saw off a plucky German performance. In a world first as well, over four hundred million people tuned in to watch it live on TV as well.
An action packed match saw a hat-trick, a late equaliser, a controversially given goal for the hosts and one epic piece of football commentary. Geoff Hurst’s three well taken goals were even more impressive when you think of the pressure put on him in a final where he was replacing Jimmy Greaves. England also recovered well from Weber’s 89th minute equaliser; lesser sides may have wilted in the circumstances.
England dug in for extra time and got their reward as Hurst received a ball from the superbly gifted Alan Ball, to swivel and hammer a shot which thundered off the bar and was scooped off the line as England’s player’s celebrated and Tofiq Bahramov became the most popular linesman in England as he signalled for a goal.
This knocked the stuffing out of West Germany and they finally fell away, succumbing to a long ball from Bobby Moore which got through to Hurst to apply another tidy finish as Kenneth Wolstenholme issued his immortal worlds. England were World Champions. Nice.
1958 Brazil 5 – 2 Sweden
This one goes in there, not just for the score line, but for its historical significance. This was the tournament and the final to cap it off, which gave the world its first view of the spellbinding talents of a seventeen year old Pele. Seventeen years old and leading his nation to its first ever World Cup – that’s a ridiculous feat that may never be eclipsed.
The final itself was one hell of a game. Brazil were still mentally scarred from losing the 1950 tournament in their own back yard, so to go a goal down inside five minutes must have been a nasty shock.
Cue a brace each from Vava, a beautifully taken goal from the left flank scored by Zagallo and two from the teenage sensation that had taken the world by storm. Sweden fought hard but were undone by a brand of football that was light years ahead of them. Pele’s first goal, is still, one of the best ever scored in a final. Such audacious football became Brazil’s thing, but just to reiterate, this was a seventeen year old chipping balls over defenders before volleying it past a keeper in front of fifty thousand people, wonderful!!
1970 Brazil 4 – 1 Italy
Had to be this one! Universally acclaimed as the best ever tournament, Mexico 1970 was given a fitting send off. This was a tournament made famous by the wonderful attacking football played by so many of the sides, and Brazil were worthy winners.
Have they ever eclipsed that one to eleven that took to the field in Estado Azteca on 21st June 1970? The names role of the tongue, Pele, Gerson, Rivellino, Tostao, Jaizinho and Carlos Alberto to name but six, they were all blessed and all winners that day.
The samba had never been sweeter; it was always going to be tough for Italy to beat a Brazil side with so much talent and a rejuvenated Pele. His header on 18th minutes was met by one of his most joyous celebrations, as his pain of ’66 faded away.
There was a thing of beauty about each of their next two, as Gerson received the ball following some wonderful build up play before lifting the ball from his feet and drilling a low shot in from just over twenty yards. Jaizinho’s tap in five minutes later from a wonderfully cushioned Pele header killed the contest.
There was room for one more work of art though. It must be one of the most perfect goals ever scored, seven outfield players, ten passes, Pele’s lay off and that beautiful site of Carlos Alberto steaming in like a gazelle to smash a shot, with both with practically both feet of the round as the trigger is pulled. With football at its best, and perhaps never bettered, Brazil were the World Champions and showed us all how it should be done.