Saturday, February 4 2023

Hopefully, the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup will provide a moment that will be recalled for years to come. One that lands squarely in our collective memory and the history books.

Whether it was Landon Donovan’s late winner in 2010 or Diego Maradona’s “Goal of the Century” for Argentina in 1986, the World Cup has delivered memorable moments on a global stage for over 90 years.

Going into this year’s tournament in Qatar, for the first time in the Middle East, these are the top 10 best moments (plus a bonus honorable mention!) from the World Cup’s illustrious history:

Honorable mention: USMNT at 2002 World Cup

Heavy underdogs going into the tournament, the U.S. team — featuring Brad Friedel in goal, current USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter in defense, captain Claudio Reyna (and father of current player Gio Reyna), and a pair of dynamic 20-year-olds in DeMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan — went on a thrilling tournament run.

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The USMNT shocked almost everybody by upsetting a “golden generation” Portugal team in the opening game. A draw with host South Korea in the second game was enough to push the USMNT into the knockout rounds. In a dramatic Round of 16 showdown with rival Mexico, the U.S. pulled off the most famous of the “Dos a Cero” victories.

The U.S. was knocked out by Germany, 1-0, in the quarterfinals, but not without controversy. An apparent handball by Torsten Frings was not called, and it was Germany that eventually reached the final while the USMNT went home.

Landon Donovan scores the United States' second goal passed goalkeeper Oscar Perez of Mexico.Landon Donovan scores the United States' second goal passed goalkeeper Oscar Perez of Mexico.
Landon Donovan scores the United States’ second goal passed goalkeeper Oscar Perez of Mexico.

10. Uruguay beats Brazil

World Cup: 1950

Round: Final

The “final” of the 1950 World Cup was a round-robin tournament, and its penultimate game just happened to be the decisive one: host Brazil vs. Uruguay. Brazil needed only a draw to win the tournament, but Uruguay shocked the 170,000-plus in attendance at the Estádio do Maracanã with a 2-1 win. This was considered the worst loss in Brazil’s soccer history … that is, until losing 7-1 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, which was also held in Brazil.

9. England crowned champs at home

World Cup: 1966

Round: Final

Going into every World Cup, England is hailed as an international elite. Every four years, England falls short of expectations. It’s the most consistent thing about the World Cup … that, and Germany reaching at least the quarterfinals.

England did get its moment of glory in 1966, when it hosted the tournament. Behind Geoff Hurst’s hat trick — the first and only hat trick in World Cup final history — England defeated Germany, 4-2, at Wembley Stadium. Outside of the 1966 tournament, England’s best-ever finish was fourth place in 1990 and 2018.

8. Zinedine Zidane leads France to glory

World Cup: 1998

Round: Final

Eight years before suffering the embarrassment of receiving a red card in a World Cup final, Zinedine Zidane emerged as one of the game’s greatest-ever players with a performance that made him a national hero. Zidane led France to its first World Cup triumph in 1998, when the nation hosted the tournament. With two first-half goals from Zidane, France cruised to a 3-0 win in the final vs. Brazil. Until that 7-1 demolition by Germany in 2014, the 1998 final had been Brazil’s largest loss in a World Cup game.

7. Cameroon upsets Argentina

World Cup: 1990

Round: Group stage

Cameroon kicked off the 1990 tournament in Italy with one of the biggest upsets ever, taking down Diego Maradona and the defending World Cup champions from Argentina. Cameroon went on to win the group — which also included Romania and the Soviet Union — and advanced to the quarterfinals. This game helped validate African soccer on the international stage. Twelve years later, another African team — Senegal — opened the World Cup with an upset of the reigning champions, France.

6. Robin Van Persie’s flying header

World Cup: 2014

Round: Group stage

In a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, the Netherlands wiped out the defending champions from Spain, 5-1. The key moment was Robin van Persie’s sensational flying header goal in the 44th minute that tied the game at 1-1 right before the half. Spain didn’t recover from this debacle, losing its second game to Chile and bowing out of the tournament without advancing to the knockout round. The Netherlands, meanwhile, advanced to the semis, losing to Argentina and then went on to defeat host Brazil in the third-place game.

5. Miracle of Bern

World Cup: 1954

Round: Final

Hungary’s “Golden Team” was a heavy tournament favorite, but Germany pulled off a shocking upset in the final. Considered one of the greatest matches in World Cup history, Germany rallied from an early two-goal deficit to pull off the stunning win. As with many epic sporting moments, the “Miracle of Bern” was made into a movie, Das Wunder von Bern. This game is considered a seminal moment in the rise of German fußball.

4. Landon Donovan’s winner

World Cup: 2010

Round: Group stage

Having drawn in its first two group matches, the U.S. needed a win over Algeria in order to reach the knockout stage. The USMNT waited until the game’s final moments to generate the most dramatic goal in its history. In stoppage time, Landon Donovan scored and lifted the U.S. to a 1-0 win. It became one of the greatest YouTube videos of all time. It was also the first time since the inaugural World Cup in 1930 that the U.S. won its group.

3. Carlos Alberto’s goal

World Cup: 1970

Round: Final

Brazil punctuated its 4-1 win over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final with a goal for the ages. Six different players touched the ball and meandered around the bewildered Italians before Pele collected the ball and passed it off to Carlos Alberto, who scored the famous goal. The 1970 Brazil team is often cited as the greatest team of all time.

2. Pele comes of age

World Cup: 1958

Round: Final

This served as the coming-out party for the one many consider the greatest player ever, Pele. As a 17-year-old, he scored two goals as Brazil won the final over host Sweden, 5-2. In all, Pele scored six goals in four games, a tally that included a hat trick in the semifinal against France. Pele pushed Brazil into the international soccer stratosphere it enjoys to this day as a perennial World Cup title contender. With Pele, Brazil won three of four World Cups from 1958-1970.

1. Goal of the Century

World Cup: 1986

Round: Quarterfinal

Diego Maradona had himself quite a day. Moments after scoring the famous “Hand of God” goal, Maradona scored the “Goal of the Century.” Maradona executed a 60-yard scamper through perplexed England players en route to beating goalkeeper Peter Shilton to give Argentina a two-goal lead in what was a 2-1 quarterfinal win. Galvanized by Maradona’s play, Argentina won its second World Cup.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Top 10 most iconic World Cup goals, from Maradona to Donovan


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