100 Most Memorable World Cup Moments (60-51)
The beautiful game returns to its spiritual home with the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. We at Goalden Times are revisiting the 100 most memorable moments from the past editions. Some are inspirational, some are controversial. Some will leave a smile on your face, some will make you wanting for more. You will find everything here. The first installment: Moments 60 –51.
Match: Brazil vs Uruguay
Venue & Date: Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico, 17th June, 1970.
Brazil were desperately trying to shake off their torrid campaign from the last World Cup held in England, 1966. They arrived in Mexico with somewhat diminished expectations, and that worked wonders for the team. Key players peaked at just about the right time, they appointed the recently retired Mario Zagalo as their coach, and Brazil turned the 1970 World Cup into a carnival of their own.
They breezed through a tricky group winning all their matches against a valiant Czechoslovakia (4-1), the reigning champions England and a silly Romania side.
In the first match, Pele had tried to lob the keeper in that match from inside his own half, missing the target by a matter of inches. That single moment itself somewhat gave the world an indication of what was about to follow. Skill, flair, along with immense footballing brain were Brazil’s forte. With Pele at his peak, and players like Jairzinho, Rivelino, Tostão, Gerson, Clodoaldo and Carlos Alberto around, this was to become the best team ever from Brazil.
In the knockout phase, Brazil brushed past a defiant Peruvian outfit 4-2, displaying some amazing attacking flairs leading to it being helmed one of the best matches in the tournament history. Then in the semis, Brazil was pitted against another South American giant in the form of Uruguay. The last time these giants played each other was the 1950 final at Maracana – a story to be covered in one of our future installments – where Uruguay handed over Brazil the most painful defeat in their history.
Before the match, Brazil players were afraid that their flawless attacking display might not cover up for their shambolic defense. This match was more than a mere match – a mouthwatering prospect for two two-time World champions fighting for the ownership of the lucrative Jules Rimet trophy. And Brazil could not afford the pain of losing to a resolute Uruguay again.
Uruguay was playing with a different style altogether. They lost to Sweden in their last group match and edged past them only by a solitary goal difference. They had to toil hard again and eventually defeated then Soviet Union by a single goal deep into extra time. But to their credit, that goal in the Sweden game was the only goal this strong defensive unit had conceded before the semis. Uruguay’s best player was their shot stopper, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, who was also the best goalie in the world at the time. He too had to come up with the game of his life to stand a chance against the Brazilian attacking menace.
Uruguay reignited the painful memories as they took the lead through Luis Cubilla in the 19th minute. The crowd was jubilant with the prospect of Uruguay clinching the title after another hiatus of 20 years – they had won the first cup in 1930 and had to wait for 20 years to win their second in 1950! Brazil though equalized just before half time through the exquisite dribbler Clodoaldo – his only ever goal for Brazil and the moment couldn’t have been any better! Zairjinho put them ahead in the 76th minute, before Rivelino scored in the 89th minute from an assist by Pele.
During the match though, the moment that stood out, or defined the World Cup so as to speak, was this one! Marques da Silva snatched the ball from an Uruguayan player, passed it square to Tostão, who played Pelé through on goal. Mazurkiewicz rushed out but Pelé got there first. Pelé then in a moment of brilliance, fooled the best keeper of that time by not touching the ball, letting it roll to the keeper’s left, while he himself went around the goalie from the right. Pelé, with the empty net at his mercy, took a shot while turning towards the goal but inexplicably missed the target. It was a moment of magic that left the world in awe and finally gaping for more.
Match: Italy vs. others
Stage: Till final
Venue & Date: Spain, 13th June – 11th July, 1982
In football, being a striker means having authority. It means breathing down a defender’s neck throughout the 90 minutes, raising an air of expectancy around everyone in the stadium or at home in front of the tele, whenever you get the ball, and fear in opponents’ eyes. Some players control games, some are capable of outstanding pieces of skill, while others impose themselves through sheer physical strength. Paolo Rossi didn’t fit into any of these categories. He was quite simply a born goalscorer.
After a great season with Vincenza in Serie B scoring 21 goals, and 24 the next, Enzo Bearzot gave him his first international cap in 1978. The Rossi bandwagon was rolling. Aged just 21, he had an excellent tournament at Argentina 1978, displaying his poacher’s instinct to the watching world. His tally of three goals and two assists boded well for the future.
He had a physical presence to be honest. He was lanky, and being 5 feet 10 inches tall he was not really big. But he had the knack of being in the right place at the right time.
However, after things started to look up for him in 1979, and he moved to Peruggia, he found himself at the wrong end of a match fixing scandal. He was banned for three years, which was reduced to a two year sentence later. It seemed, and the world assumed, that his career was over. Enzo Bearzot had other ideas though.
Italy had begun the 1982 World Cup campaign slowly, progressing through the first group. In a group with Peru, Poland and Cameroon, they drew all three of their games, managed to score only two goals, and barely made it through because they’d scored a goal more than Cameroon, who also drew all three of their matches. Not many fancied Italy to progress further when they ended up in the same group as Brazil and defending champions Argentina. Paolo Rossi, returning after the ban, looked far from his best, rhythm and touch sorely lacking. He became the target of fierce criticism in the Italian media, which claimed that he shouldn’t have been taken to Spain. Team coach Enzo Bearzot gave him a last chance to impress in the deciding match against Brazil, a call that proved decisive.
The tifosi, like the media, were sceptical, even more so after the first round. Italian journalists and tifosi lamented he was in very poor shape. Italy scraped through on goal difference, having garnered just three draws and a paltry two goals. Rossi, a starter in all three, failed to make his presence felt. In Italy’s first round of appalling three matches, he was allegedly described as a ghost aimlessly wandering in the field.
In the second round, Rossi again fired blanks in the Argentina game, but Italy defeated Argentina 2–1 on the defensive work of Gentile and Scirea, who shut down Diego Maradona. Despite the intense media criticism, Bearzot elected to give the Tuscan one last chance and thus came Rossi’s moment of glory.
Italy needed a win against Brazil, while the Seleçao only required a draw to progress. The Azzurri emerged from an extraordinary match 3-2 victor, but it was “Pablito” who stole the limelight with a stunning hat-trick delivered in his own inimitable style — a header and two opportunistic strikes in the area. The Rossi goal machine was activated, and it was to blaze a path all the way to the final.
The match had everything. There were moments of magic from the likes of Falcao and Bruno Conti. There was controversy with a disallowed goal from Giancarlo Antognoni and some vicious man-marking by Claudio Gentile on Zico. And there was a miraculous goal-line save by 40-year-old Dino Zoff on an Oscar header.
The greatest World Cup game ever? Probably; although Hungary’s 1954 victory over Uruguay will always have its devotees. It certainly had an epic feel, something enhanced by overcrowding, as far more than the official 44,000 squeezed in. Had Brazil scored an early goal, Italy could easily have wilted, their system and their mentality not equipped for chasing a game. But it was the Italians who took a fifth-minute lead, as Bruno Conti, having been allowed to advance almost 40 yards down the right, cut infield and released the attacking left-back Antonio Cabrini, who crossed for Rossi to repay the faith of his manager, Enzo Bearzot, with a fine header.
And so was set in motion the pattern for the game: Brazilian attacking, and Italian resistance. Within seven minutes, it was level, as Sócrates played a one-two with Zico, and advanced to drive the ball in at Dino Zoff’s near post. Then surely, it seemed, Brazil would kick on to win. Perhaps they would have done, had it not been for a dreadful error from Cerezo after 25 minutes, casually knocking a square pass in the vague direction of Júnior. Rossi, suddenly a poacher again, stole in, and beat Peres. This time the lead lasted, and Brazil became increasingly edgy. Rossi, with the chance to make it 3-1 midway through the second half, sidefooted badly wide, and when, two minutes later, Brazil equalised through Falcão’s ferocious drive, it looked once again as though they would prevail.
Perhaps, needing only a draw to progress, they should have tightened up and held what they had, but that was not the Brazilian way. They kept attacking, and paid the price. A Conti corner was half-cleared, Marco Tardelli half-hit his shot from the edge of the area and Rossi, played onside by a dozing Júnior, hooked the ball past Peres.
Twice Brazil equalized through Socrates and Falcao, but Rossi, in turn, struck twice to complete an incredible hat trick and a 3-2 victory. First pouncing on a Cerezo error to lash the ball past Waldir Peres and then, with 16 minutes remaining, instinctively turning a loose ball home from a corner to send the seemingly unbeatable favorite home.
He started in the semis from where he’d left off in the Brazil game, and continued to impress against Poland and scored both goals in the 2-0 victory. In the final, he nodded the first in in the 3-1 victory over West Germany. With that goal, and six in total, he also secured the top-scorer title of the tournament.
Two more goals came his way in the semi-final against Poland, before he chalked up his sixth strike in the final against Germany. He finished the tournament as top scorer. Rossi’s hour of glory had arrived at last. The icing on the cake came with the European Footballer of the Year award later that year.
Match: Argentina vs Brazil, Italia 90.
Stage: Round of 16
Venue & Date: Stadio Delle Alpi, Turin, Italy, 24th June, 1990
Considered as one of the prime reasons a large chunk of football lovers got hooked to the beautiful game, Brazil and Argentina epitomizes rivalry on the football pitch and is on a level that continues to defy reason and belief. From Pele and Maradona sweating it out, cancelling each other in the field to Neymar and Messi stringing one touch passes at La Masia, once the blue white stripes and the yellow shirt are donned, even a friendly draws in more crowd than a competitive match of a major tournament.
Mostly labelled a boring World Cup which produced very little goals, this match featuring the reigning World Cup champions Argentina and pre-tournament favourites Brazil in the first knock out stage was going to be a classic. It was a match involving several fouls, several Brazilian shots which hit the post, a red card and a sublime pass from one Diego Armando Maradona to Claudio Caniggia.
Brazil’s objectives were obvious from the get go. Attack, attack, attack and foul a certain Diego Maradona at every opportunity. Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo’s tactics was quite the opposite. Defend, defend, defend and attack on the counter using Maradona. Brazil dominated the first 80 minutes of the match commanding the lion’s share of possession with dangerous shots on goal from Careca, Dunga and Alemao. But the precious goal eluded them.
In the end, Bilardo won, thanks to a moment of magic by, arguably the greatest player ever, Diego Armando Maradona. On the 80th minute mark, Maradona ran through a throng of Brazilian defenders toward the right flank before providing a left diagonal through ball to fast sprinting Claudio Caniggia. Caniggia aptly rounded Taffarel and scored to send the Brazilian’s packing and Argentina into the quarter-finals. The goal, the victory was seen as a huge upset, as Brazil was pre tournament favourites at the time, and had a decent run in the World Cup till then. But Argentina prevailed and this goal would help carry the team into the final of the World Cup for the 2nd consecutive campaign.
The match subsequently became famous for the “holy water scandal”. Brazilian right back Branco claimed that he had been given a water bottle laced with tranquilizers during the game from the Argentine support staff while attending to an injured player. Branco had been central to the marking of Maradona and, amidst his lethargy, Maradona was able to break free and dish the killer pass to Caniggia. Years later Maradona accepted that the allegations were true on Argentina television, but Argentina coach Bilardo denied of the conspiracy completely.
Match: Brazil vs. Netherlands
Venue & Date: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, USA, 9th July, 1994
When the draw for 1994 World Cup came out in 1993 December, the quarter-final match-up between Brazil and Netherlands were predicted by football experts around the world, as both the teams did not have any major opposition till quarter-final. The predictions came true and Brazil faced the Dutch in the quarter-final. Brazil topped an easy group B of Sweden, Russia and Cameroon, and subsequently overcame the host United States via a hard-fought 1-0 win in the round of 16. Netherlands stumbled to a 1-0 loss against Belgium in the group stage, but wins against Saudi Arab and Morocco ensured their pole position in group F. They defeated Republic of Ireland in the round of 16 match-up by 2-0 to meet Brazil in the match of the tournament.
It did turn out to be not only the best match of 1994, but one of the best matches in World Cup history. The first half of the match was a barren one, though Romario tried to break the compact Dutch defence a few times. Following the lull in the first half, storm arrived after the break. In the 52nd minute, Romario broke through a tangle of defenders to connect a cross from Bebeto in the left wing and opened the scoring for Brazil.
Brazil was in search for more and Dutch keeper Ed de Goey saved a goal from a one-to-one situation against Romario in the 62nd minute. The clearance by the Dutch keeper fell to Branco deep inside Brazilian half, who made a long clearance, and the ball was looping towards Dutch defence line. Romario was behind the Dutch defenders, and realising he was in offside position, did not attempt to chase the ball. Bebeto was standing between Jan Wouters and Stan Valckx. The ball landed between them who were confused by a retreating Romario. Realising the situation fast, Bebeto ran for the ball and received it near Dutch penalty area. Sensing the danger, Wouters chased down Bebeto but stumbled on the pitch. de Goey advanced to tackle Bebeto, but the Brazilian forward kept his calm and dribbled past the Dutch keeper to slot the ball in an empty net. Brazil were up 2-0, and the whole stadium along with millions of viewers in front of television around the world were celebrating the goal. But none so dramatically than the scorer himself. A jubilant Bebeto ran towards the sideline and started swinging his arm folded sideways, as if rocking a baby in a cradle. He was soon joined by teammates Mazinho and Romario who also started swinging their arms in form of a cradle. The famous cradle celebration was to honour the birth of Bebeto’s son Mattheus who was born two days ago in Rio de Janeiro.
Cradle celebration became very famous later around the world for players who became father and wanted to dedicate the goal to their children.
Incidentally, EA sports launched its famous football game FIFA for the first time in 1994 October, and this type of cradle celebration was imitated in the video game as well. Bebeto‘s name got immortalized with these type of celebration. Brazil had to fight hard for their victory though as the Oranje made it 2-2 via goals from Dennis Bergkamp and Aaron Winter . Then in the 81st minute, Branco scored one of the best goals of the tournament from a direct free-kick 30 yards out to win it 3-2 for Brazil. Brazil went on to win the World Cup for a record fourth time by defeating Italy in the final.
Bebeto’s famous “cradle-rocking” son Mattheus de Andrade Gama de Oliveira, or more popularly known as Mattheus (named after the former World Cup winning German captain Lothar Matthaus) , currently plays his club football for Flamengo, and has already played four matches for Brazil U-20 national team.
Match: France vs. Senegal
Round: Opening match, Group Stage
Venue & Date: Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea, May 31, 2002
France and Senegal faced each other in the opening match of 2002 World Cup, and football pundits predicted an easy victory for the defending champions France in the opening match. Zinedine Zidane, the inspirational French superstar who scored a brace in the final four years ago against Brazil, was going to miss the first two matches of the tournament due to a thigh injury he picked up in a warm-up match against South Korea. However, France had enough firepower in their line up in the form of of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Viera, Sylvian Wiltord and Captain Marce Desailly to defeat any opponent, let alone the tiny Senegal – ranked 40 places below them.
It was an emotional affair for many. Patrick Viera had migrated to France from Senegal at the age of 8, and incidentally during the national anthem before the match, decided not to sing either French or Senegalese national anthem. On the other hand, Senegal’s coach – and the most successful one in their history – late Bruno Metsu was of French nationality. French coach Roger Lemerre had mocked the Senegal team as a “junior French side” as most of them were playing in mediocre clubs from France, and none of them was aged more than 28. But this joke would come back to haunt him dearly.
The match began with French forward line firing on all cylinders. The Senegalese fielding a packed 4-5-1 team were having a hard time coping up with the speed of Henry and Trezeguet. But slowly Senegal took control through the combative midfielder and their Captain Aliou Cisse who stood firm in front of his back four and took charge of the middle third. French attacks became predictable after a while, and Senegal was able to cut down on the attacks through wing. The supply line between Viera and Trezeguet was stopped several times effectively by Papa Malick Diop.
Soon after surviving a fierce Trezeguet shot which hit the cross bar from left side in the 23rd minute, Senegal created history. On the half hour mark, Omar Daf snatched the ball from Youri Djorkaef on the left side of the pitch near centre of the field and passed it on the left wing to El Hadji Diouf, who ran down fiercely to beat an ageing Frank Lebouf. Diouf entered the penalty area from the left hand side, and when he was about to center the ball, Petit and Lizarazu were backtracking towards the goal line and goalkeeper Fabian Barthez was positioning himself to block the centre. Desially was also running towards the goal along with two other French defenders.
Surprisingly, none of these French players noticed Papa Bouba Diop, who silently arrived in the penalty area and met the cross by Diouf. Barthez blocked Bouba Diop’s first shot but the rebound fell again on Bouba Diop’s feet, and this time he made no mistake, taking advantage of momentary misunderstanding between Barthez and Petit. Senegal was up 1-0. Bouba Dioup called all his teammates towards the corner flag, laid down his Jersey, and Senegalese players started dancing around the jersey near the corner flag. It was quite a celebration and quite a start to the 2002 World Cup.
France could not bounce back from the shock, and as the match progressed, Senegal seemed to take control of the match. Diouf – who later went on to become African Player of the Year – deployed as the sole striker, often slipped wide and tormented the French defence, particularly the 34 year old Lebouf, with his sparkling runs through the wings. Khalilou Fadiga dodged past Lebouf again in the 64th minute and his shot skimmed the bar. France returned the favour immediately as Henry’s shot hit the post in the very next minute. France got a few more chances in the match with one Viera header collected cleanly by goalkeeper Tony Silva, and Henry’s shot in the 90th minute also being saved by the Senegal keeper. But overall they looked lethargic and missed Zizou big time.
Senegal held on to the lead, and like 1982 and 1990 when defending champions Argentina lost both their opening matches, France too lost their opening match of the World Cup. A French side boasting of veterans with a cumulative 652 international caps, but having an average age of 29 years, were simply not good enough.
Morning did show the day in the 2002 World Cup at least. Senegal went on to play the quarter-final, only to lose to Turkey by 0-1 margin, their only loss in the tournament. Defending Champion France went out of the competition from the group stages, failing to score a single goal in the tournament (0-0 against Uruguay, 0-2 against Denmark). This is, till date, one of the biggest upsets ever in World Cup football.
Match: Romania vs Argentina
Round: Round of 16
Venue & Date: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, USA, July 3, 1994
Argentina had entered the tournament following three World Cup final appearances in the previous four editions and an unbeaten streak of 33 matches. Their journey so far has been torrid with the superstar Diego Maradona testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs and subsequently getting banned from the tournament. Romania on the other hand, had survived a minor blip in the group stage against Switzerland where they were thrashed 1-4 but anyway topped Group A. Still they were drawn against the mighty Latin Americans and were underdogs in the round of 16 match.
The team from East Europe had put up a strong team though. Their golden generation featured players vying their trades at Bundesliga and Serie A and was led by the Carpathians’ Maradona, Gheroge Hagi. They should have been better prepared for the occasion – having already played and won two of their group matches at the same venue – but it was Argentina who started the match on the front foot. After a couple of attempts at goal, Argentina should have been ahead but Abel Balbo missed a sitter.
Against the run of play, Romania took the lead in the 11th minute through a viciously curved free kick from Ilie Dumitrescu which exposed Luis Islas’ poor positioning. Argentina was still dominating the game and Ariel Ortega was causing havoc in the Romanian defence. His one such moment of brilliance released Gabriel Batistuta in the penalty box and he made the most of a challenge to earn a spot kick. Batistuta coolly converted it and Argentina was right back in the match. It was 1-1 after 16 minutes had just flown by.
Hagi then created magic. Fernando Redondo lost the ball in Romanian half and Hagi received the ball near right touchline. With two Argentines closing on him he set forward a delightful pass cutting through the Argentine midfield and taking out four players. It was for Dumitrescu who had moved in the open spaces left behind by Redondo in the central midfield. Hagi was continuing his run by the touchline to receive the return pass from Dumitrescu. Hagi moved even forward and when he reached beyond the edge of the penalty box the Argentine defence was expecting a cross. Instead, Hagi split through another gem of a pass across three defenders to Dumitrescu who finished with a gentle tapping. It was a wonderfully worked goal, one of the goals of the tournament, so flawlessly accomplished that it seemed like Romania was having a practice session.
The match then became a sensational affair of attacking football. Both the sides rampaged forward but were denied by indecisive finishing, fine goalkeeping display or sheer bad luck. Argentina, though, looked more likely to once again claw their way back into the match.
After the break Argentine dominance increased even more as Romania concentrated on protecting their lead by crowding near their own box and Argentina threw bodies forward in search of an equalizer. This made them vulnerable against the pacy Romanian counter attacks. On one such instance, in the 58th minute, Dumitrescu took the ball forward and waited for Hagi to catch up and then hit an unstoppable shot past the keeper.
However, Argentina pulled a goal back in the 75th minute via a poacher’s attempt from Balbo. The finale to the match was as insane as it could get with both the teams once again indulging in some awe inspiring attacking football. But the moment that stood out was Hagi’s 70-yard long perfect cross field pass for Dumitrescu which almost led to his hat trick.
Romania held on to their slender lead but would go on to lose against Sweden in the next match. Nonetheless it was the best result in their World Cup history. Hagi possibly played the match of his life. Not only had he attacked, he savoured his free roaming role while drifting to the wings, cutting inside, linking the midfield with front man Dumitrescu and even helping out his defence while not in possession of the ball. Hagi finished the tournament with three goals, four assists and was deservedly named in the FIFA World Cup 1994 All-Star team.
Argentina were firm favourites to progress to the last eight with the likes of Diego Simeone Redondo, Ortega and Batistuta in their ranks. But the only ‘Maradona’ weaved his magic from the other end.
Match: Argentina matches
Round: Entire Tournament
Venue & Date: Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, Uruguay, 13-30 July, 1930
The inaugural World Cup featured thirteen teams, of which Uruguay, the Olympic gold-medallist two years ago and Argentina, the runners-up, started as favourites.
First choice striker Roberto Cherro started for Argentina in the group opener against France but stepped down in the next match as he was suffering from an anxiety attack. Skipper Manuel Ferreira also opted out due to an university examination and in came 25-year old Italian, Guillermo Stábile. On 19th July, 1930, in the second group match against Mexico, Argentina stormed to a 6-3 victory where Stábile bagged a hat trick on his international debut. It was long thought to be the first ever hat trick in the World Cup history only for FIFA to clarify that the first one had actually been scored two days earlier.
After that game, Stábile, nicknamed ‘El Filtrador’, did not look back. In the next game, the final match of the group stages, Stábile scored a brace en route to Argentina beating Chile 3–1. After topping their group, the South Americans again breezed through another group topper USA in the semi final with a 6–1 victory. Stábile nonchalantly added two more goals to his tally.
On 30th July 1930, the first ever World Cup final took place, between Argentina and Uruguay. Argentina finished the half strongly with the score at 2-1, thanks to Stábile who scored the second for them. Eventually though they went on to lose 4–2.
Despite losing the final, Stábile had made history in only four games, becoming the top scorer – and earning the Golden boot in the first ever FIFA World Cup. Injuries following the World Cup meant that Stábile would never be able to play for La Albiceleste. So he eventually hung up his boots after scoring in every game he played for his country, that too with an average of two goals per match!
Match: Italy vs Netherlands
Round: 2nd Group stage
Venue & Date: Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 21st June, 1978
Netherlands entered the World Cup with much less expectation after having reached the final four years ago. Main architects of their stunning side from the last edition – Johan Cruyff and Willem van Hanegem – had moved on. Dutch “total football” seemed incomplete – less imaginative, less threatening and less effective. Their journey through the first group stage was a stuttering one as they struggled to go past the first group stage and were able to edge past Scotland only on goal differences.
Italy and Netherlands were then drawn in Group A, the second round of group stages, along with Austria and West Germany. Netherlands thrashed Austria 5-1 in the group opener to gain a massive advantage. Going into the final round of matches, West Germany needed to beat Austria to have any chance of making it to the final. The Germans would however had no chance if a winner comes out from the other match featuring Italy and Netherlands. So the match actually was a virtual semi-final, with a winner-takes-all prize at stake.
The Dutch were now unexpectedly standing only one step away from reaching successive World Cup final. But they had to overcome Italy – by now being hailed as one of the strong contenders for the cup. Strong in defence, as usual, well-organised in midfield, and blessed with a couple of incisive strikers – Roberto Bettega and Paolo Rossi – the Azzuris were worthy enough champions themselves. They had proved themselves already by beating the host and favourites Argentina and then collecting maximum available points from the first group stage.
Italy fielded as many as nine players from the Juventus team which had beaten Dutch Champions Ajax on penalties in the European Cup quarter-Final just over three months ago.
The game was a vicious affair with tough tackles flying in and end-to-end action. Italy, so far adopting their ultra-defensive style in earlier matches, went for the kill from the onset knowing they needed to win this one, and attacked for all they were worth.
And they were rewarded in the 18th minute when in a desperate attempt to prevent Bettega from scoring, center-half Ernie Brandts propelled the ball into his own net. Brandts, though, redeemed himself as he scored on the right side of the pitch five minutes after the break following a goalmouth scramble.
The game now became more stretched, the fouls became nastier and tempers started boiling out. Italy threw bodies forward in search of the winner. With 15 minutes left, the moment of the match, or possibly the tournament arrived. Claudio Gentile had fouled Rob Rensenbrink off the ball and Dutch skipper Rudd Krol took the free-kick quickly to Arie Haan. Haan, a defensive midfielder who was not known for his scoring but he every now and then liked to try out his long rangers. Haan moved up the inside-left channel and then suddenly let fly from his customary 35 yards. The ball whizzed past the legendary goal keeper Dino Zoff. The goal turned out to be the winner and this strike has placed Haan permanently in the Dutch folklore.
Match: Soviet Union vs Colombia
Stage: Group Stage
Date & Venue: Estadio Carlos Dittborn, Arica, Chile, 3rd June, 1962
Soviet Union of the late ‘50s was a formidable football side for two long decades. They had won the European Championship in 1960 and entered the 1962 World Cup as one of the strong title contenders. Naturally they were overwhelming favourites in their first group match against minnows Colombia, making their debut in the illustrious tournament.
The match started in an expected manner. Soviet Union raced to a 3-0 lead within the half hour mark. Tricky winger Valentin Ivanov – who would top the scoring charts with four goals – opened the scoring in the 8th minute and then doubled his tally three minutes later. In between, Igor Chislenko had chipped in barely minutes after the restart of the match following the first goal. Spectators were embracing themselves for a goal feast. It was a question of whether the Russians would get bored of scoring or they would continue to pile up further agony for the World Cup debutants.
Colombia, awed by the occasion and the scoreline, slowly started getting a foothold in the match. In the 21st minute, Germán Aceros even managed to net one and the match went into the half time break with the score of 3-1. Still everyone thought normal proceedings would resume in the second half.
And it did so. 11 minutes after the restart, Viktor Ponedelnik scored the fourth goal for Soviet Union. It seemed quite clear that Colombia would be beaten hands down and they would, in all likelihood, simply defend for the remaining 34 minutes to avoid further embarrassment. But it was quite the opposite. The Latin American country showed great spirit and started scripting one of the fairly tales in the history of World Cup football.
It all started from the 68th minute, Colombia still trailing by 1-4. Marcos Coll, the midfielder etched his name forever in the history of World Cup when his curved corner made a fool out of legendary Lev Yashin and found shelter inside the Russian goal. This remains the only Olympic goal – goal scored directly from the corner kick – till date in the World Cup.
The Russians were self-shocked and Colombia made the most out of that. Buoyed by that stunning strike, Antonio Rada and Marino Klinger also added their name to the scoreboard in the 72nd and 76th minute respectively. In a span of eight minutes, the greatest comeback in the history of World Cup was performed and Colombia managed to change the scoreline to 4-4!
Colombians held on for a famous draw and returned home with that solitary point. But it was a momentary spark. Colombia had to make a long wait of 28 years to make their next World Cup appearance in 1990. Soviet Union managed to top the group anyway but their journey was cut short by the host Chile in the next round.
Match: Belgium vs Saudia Arabia
Round: Group Stage
Venue & Date: Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, USA, June 29, 1994
Saudi Arabia made their debut in the 1994 World Cup with very little ambitions and a 500-1 chance of lifting the trophy. Whatever little they had, had already taken a blow when after entering the tournament as one of the lowest FIFA ranked teams, they were drawn in Group F with European powerhouses like Netherlands and Belgium. As expected, they were beaten 2-1 by Netherlands in the first match, but only after taking the lead and grabbing their maiden goal in the tournament history-. They maintained their good showing and overcame Morocco by the same score line to register their first ever victory in the World Cup finals. Going into the last match, they had to win against Belgium to make it past the group stages.
The moment of the match arrived only five minutes after the kick off. Saeed Al-Owairan, a complete unknown at this stage as he played his entire career for the Riyadh-based club Al-Shabab, picked up a pass some 20 yards inside his own half and proceeded to dribble with carefree abandon. Al-Owairan was a pacy customer and easily went past Dirk Medved. Then he dribbled around Michel De Wolf and used his persistence to get past Rudi Smidts. Finally, he showed his clinical finishing skills by sliding a shot precisely beyond advancing goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme and thus concluded an unbelievable run of 70 odd yards. It was a goal children grow up dreaming and possibly one could score only in his backyards. That solo effort was fittingly the winning goal of the match and Saudi Arabia advanced to the last 16 in their first ever finals.
Saudi Arabia were beaten 3-1 by Sweden in their next match. That remains their best showing in the tournament so far. Praise, awards and rewards – a Rolls-Royce among them – were bestowed upon Owairan after his heroics in the World Cup and he was also chosen the best player in Asia that year. The goal was later voted the sixth best in FIFA’s Goal of the Century rankings.
This goal, however, later became a double edged sword for Saeed Al-Owairan. By his own admission, he was always put under the scanner for that audacious effort. This constant spotlight and frustration of not being able to accept offers from European clubs due to Saudi Arabian laws affected Al-Owairan’s career a lot. But even then, he will forever be known as the Maradona of the Arabs.