Fifa World Cup: Revisiting the good, the bad and the ugly

Here are the 10 iconic moments in the event’s glorious history since it began in 1930



by

Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Tue 6 Dec 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 6 Dec 2022, 4:07 PM

Through the years the Fifa World Cup has had its iconic moments - some of them colossal, some simply subline, and some of them out-and-out unsavoury.

From the great Pele to the magical Maradona, football has never been short of star quality and unforgettable performances.

But what about the ugly outbursts and incidents that took the shine off Pele’s ‘beautiful game’.

It is said that with the good comes the bad and soccer is no exception as France’s graceful playmaker Zinedine Zidane demonstrated in the 2000 final with his horrendous head butt.

At the end of the day, the objective is to win.

How sometimes does not matter.

But let’s celebrate the good with the bad as we look at 10 iconic moments in the event’s glorious history since it began in 1930.

An epic team goal

In this June 21, 1970 file photo, Brazil's Pele holds up his team's Jules Rimet Trophy, or the Fifa World Cup Trophy, following Brazil's 4-1 victory over Italy at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. - AP file
In this June 21, 1970 file photo, Brazil's Pele holds up his team's Jules Rimet Trophy, or the Fifa World Cup Trophy, following Brazil's 4-1 victory over Italy at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. - AP file

The greatest goal in World Cup history helped demonstrate that football is a team sport. where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Led by the peerless Pelé, Brazil scored a defining goal against Italy at the 1970 finals which, even half a century later, is held in the highest regard.

In front of 10,000 screaming fans in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, Carlos Alberto Torres, an outstanding attacking full-back put the finishing touches to a masterly executed raid where all but two of the Brazilian team played a part in setting up the finish.

Forward Tostão initiated the move and after a brilliantly choreographed sequence of passes between Brito, Clodoaldo, Gérson, Rivellino, Jairzinho, and Pelé, Alberto met the ball inside the Italian box to effortlessly slot into the net.

It was mesmerizing.

Goal of the century

Argentinian forward Diego Armando Maradona (3rd L) runs past English defender Terry Butcher (L) on his way to dribbling goalkeeper Peter Shilton (R) and scoring his second goal, or goal of the century, during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Argentina and England in 1986 in Mexico City. - AFP file
Argentinian forward Diego Armando Maradona (3rd L) runs past English defender Terry Butcher (L) on his way to dribbling goalkeeper Peter Shilton (R) and scoring his second goal, or goal of the century, during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Argentina and England in 1986 in Mexico City. - AFP file

If Brazil is credited for the team goal of our generation, then the ‘Goal of the Century" award goes to Diego Maradona who swathed through the England defence like a knife cuts through butter for an unbelievable finish in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup.

Significantly, the timing and sheer artistry of this goal gave the England players something to remember all their lives.

Despite being boxed in Maradona waltzed past four defenders to be confronted by an unarmed Peter Shilton in the goal. The little man caught his breath, skillfully sold the keeper a dummy, and slotted the ball home to the untenanted part of the goal.

It was sheer magic and something that was never repeated, even by Maradona himself.

Divine intervention

Diego Maradona, left, beats England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to a high ball and scores his first of two goals in a World Cup quarterfinal soccer match, in Mexico City, in1986. - AP file
Diego Maradona, left, beats England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to a high ball and scores his first of two goals in a World Cup quarterfinal soccer match, in Mexico City, in1986. - AP file

Diego Maradona was at the pinnacle of his career during the mid-nineties, having made the complex art of goal scoring look like child’s play.

Time and again the tiny genius demonstrated that he could score with both feet, but it was at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico that he displayed another brazen skill - scoring with his hand in the quarterfinals against England.

After a scoreless first half Maradona leaped high to intercept an aerial ball before England goalkeeper Peter Shilton could get to it and in the process managed to deftly punch the ball into the net.

Shilton didn’t see the infringement and neither did the Tunisian referee Ali Bennaceur, who after a brief discussion with his assistant, signalled a goal.

This was before the era of VAR (video assistant referees, which was formally written into the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) on March 3, 2018.

After the match, which Argentina won 2-1following a magical second goal by Maradona again, the cocky striker made a shocking comment about his first goal describing, it as ‘a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the Hand of God."

A legend is born

Pele (L) dribbles past Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich during the World Cup final in Mexico City in 1970. - AFP file
Pele (L) dribbles past Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich during the World Cup final in Mexico City in 1970. - AFP file

The 1958 World Cup was a landmark event in Brazil’s domination of world football for it would introduce to the world a a17-year-old prodigy from Sao Paulo who would go on to become one of the greatest players ever.

Pelé made history by becoming the youngest player in World Cup history when he debuted for Brazil and scored the only goal in a quarterfinal win over Wales. He would then record a hat trick in Brazil's 5-2 semi-final win over France and in the final against Sweden Pelé scored two more times, including an incredible solo goal which is still regarded as one of the greatest goals in World Cup history. This would be the first of five World Cup titles that Brazil would bag.

Pelé, who wept with joy after the match, was destined for global stardom as he soon became the first Black athlete to become a household name around the world. He is also the only player in history to win three World Cups.

An ‘extra’ special match

Germany's Gerd Mueller scores the decisive third goal for Germany during the World Cup quarter-final match between Germany and England in Leon, Mexico. - AP file
Germany's Gerd Mueller scores the decisive third goal for Germany during the World Cup quarter-final match between Germany and England in Leon, Mexico. - AP file

There is always a first time for everything and Italy and Germany ensured that history would be made at the 1970 World Cup when they traded five goals in extra time just like boxers do in the closing rounds.

With a ticket to the final at stake, both teams played their hearts out in the 30 minutes of extra-time after the semifinal ended 1-1. The 100,000 fans at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City were treated to one of the best half-hours ever played in history with outstanding two goals by Gianni Rivera, including the last-gasp match-winner after legendary German striker Gerd Muller struck two outstanding goals.

River’s second goal saved the match from being decided by a draw of lots as FIFA didn’t introduce the penalty kick tiebreaker until the 1974 World Cup.

North Korea do Asia proud

The North Korean soccer team line-up before their match against Portugal, at Goodison Park, Liverpool, England, in 1966. - AP file
The North Korean soccer team line-up before their match against Portugal, at Goodison Park, Liverpool, England, in 1966. - AP file

Before Saudi Arabia’s stunning upset of Argentina at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, the biggest victory by an underdog was delivered by North Korea when they defeated multiple champions Italy at the 1966 World Cup in England.

Making their official debut in the tournament after tasting a baptism of fire with a 3-0 thrashing by the Soviet Union in their opening game the Koreans bounced back in their next group-stage game with a tenacious draw against Chile. In their final first-round match against two-time champions Italy, North Korea did the unthinkable, defeating the Azzuri and knocking them out of the tournament.

After becoming the first Asian team to advance to the knockout stage they almost pulled off another shocker in the quarterfinals, when they led Portugal 3-0 only to concede five consecutive goals and exit the tournament, however, with their heads held high.

England’s penalty jinx

England's Paul Gascoigne cries as he is escorted off the field by team captain Terry Butcher, after England lost a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final match of the World Cup against West Germany in 1990. - AP file
England's Paul Gascoigne cries as he is escorted off the field by team captain Terry Butcher, after England lost a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final match of the World Cup against West Germany in 1990. - AP file

Be it bad luck or just skills England had a thing about penalty shootouts where they lost their first three World Cup tiebreakers.

The Three Lions’ jinx with spot kicks from the 12-yard marker repeated itself through the years and one of their most famous botched penalty shootouts happened in the 1990 semi-finals against arch-rival West Germany.

Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, and David Platt made no mistakes with their attempts from the spot while Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed to convert.

England lost 4-3 and exited the tournament while the Germans would go on to win the Cup for the third time.

It was only as recently as 2018 that England stemmed the rot when they defeated Colombia 4-3 on penalties after a bad-tempered draw in Moscow.

Zidane loses his head

Zinedine Zidane (L) gesturing after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup 2006 final football match between Italy and France. - AFP file
Zinedine Zidane (L) gesturing after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup 2006 final football match between Italy and France. - AFP file

Strange things have happened in sport but perhaps none more bizarre than the legendary Zinedine Zidane’s ‘moment of madness in the 2006 final when he head-butted abusive Italian defender Marco Materazzi

At 34, Zidane was at the peak of his powers and Materazzi was tasked with marking "Zizou" like a shadow, which he did quite successfully to some extent until things got out of hand during the penalty shootout.

Zidane, a Fifa World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winner, missed from 12 yards for the second time in the game after which he was seen arguing and then knocking Materazzi to the ground with a deadly head butt to the chest.

Zidane was shown the red card and only several years later Materazzi admitted that he had provoked the French great. When Zidane told him that he’d give him his shirt after the match Materazzi laughed and said that he’d rather have his sister.

Milla turns back the clock

Roger Milla celebrates after scoring a goal against Russia in 1994 at Stanford stadium in San Francisco during their World Cup match. - AFP file
Roger Milla celebrates after scoring a goal against Russia in 1994 at Stanford stadium in San Francisco during their World Cup match. - AFP file

It only took a short phone call to convince Cameroon forward Roger Milla, who was two years into his retirement, to return to international soccer for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. However, that was not an ordinary phone call, it was made by Paul Biya, the president of the Central African country, who called to request Milla to come back and play for the Indomitable Lions at the 1990 World Cup.

Milla, then 38, agreed and went on to become a sensation in the tournament, scoring both his team’s goals in a league stage win over Romania that helped Cameroon to top a group that also featured defending champion Argentina.

Milla then scored two extra-time goals against Colombia that catapulted Cameroon into the quarterfinals and make history as the first African country to reach the last eight stages of the world’s great tournament.

Milla’s style of celebration, where he danced next to the corner flag became one of the most enduring images of Italia ’90.

The Indomitable Lions would be eliminated by England but Milla returned to the side in the USA four years later where he made more World Cup history by scoring a goal at the age of 42 — a record that stands to this day.

Suares bites off more than he can chew

Luis Suarez holds his teeth after colliding with Italy's Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder during the group D World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay in 2014. - AP file
Luis Suarez holds his teeth after colliding with Italy's Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder during the group D World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay in 2014. - AP file

Toward the end of their 2014 group stage match against Italy Uruguay striker Luis Suarez and Giorgio Chielline were involved in a tussle that had a strange ending with Suarez biting the Azzuri’s shoulder.

Chielline was not amused and reported the cannibal act to the

Suárez, realising what he had done, began to play-act where he tried to fake that he was injured himself.

There were no televisions inside the stadium and the ref was unsure what to do but Fifa’s disciplinary committee moved in to ban the Barcelona and Uruguay forward for four months and nine international matches. Suarez responded by saying he will never attend any Fifa galas because of the 'unfair' biting punish.


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