1930 Montevideo Uruguay vs. Argentina
Tiny Uruguay, with a population of a mere two million, had majestically won the previous two Olympic football tournaments in Paris and Amsterdam. As first ever World Cup hosts they generously paid the travelling expenses of all competitors, though most of the major European sides snubbed the competition. Uruguay duly won this first ever World Cup though it was felt that their Olympic wining sides were stronger. They found a dazzling new centre forward in Peregrino Anselmo, though injury kept him out of the final. Across the River Plate, Argentina, eternal foes, made their way to play Uruguay in the final which elicited tremendous passions though in the event the match passed off peacefully. 80,000 fans in the newly built stadium saw Argentina 2-1 ahead at half-time. Uruguay led through Pablo Dorado on 12 minutes. Swift winger Carlos Peucelle equalised, young centre-forward Guillermo Stabile shot Argentina into the lead. But the second half brought Uruguayan goals from Pedro Cea, a glorious solo, young Santos Iriarte made it 3-2 and right at the end Castro made it 4-2 with a fearsome drive.
1950 Rio Brazil vs. Uruguay
This astonishing game wasn’t even officially the World Cup final since a daft dispensation had divided each round into mini groups. Brazil’s devastating attack had scored 13 goals in its previous two group games and in front of a 200,000 crowd at the Maracana, needed only to draw to take the title. For much of the game they exerted huge pressure but Uruguay inspired by their resilient captain and centre half Obdulio Varela with Roque Maspoli super in goal, held out till early in the second half when Friaca scored. But Uruguay steadily improved with Juan Schiaffino an inventive inside left. In one of Uruguay’s increasing counter attacks, he was unmarked to a Alcides Ghiggia right wing cross and equalised. Ghiggia himself, served by a persistent Julio Perez who hung on to the ball till he found the former, stunned the vast crowd by striking the winner.
1958 Stockholm final, Brazil vs. Sweden
The virtual apothoesis of the amazing 17-year-old Pele. He had already got a hat-trick in the semifinal but that was against a depleted France. In this final Sweden’s little Yorkshire manager, George Raynor, had predicted that if Brazil conceded an early goal, “They’d panic all over the show. Well, they did and they didn’t. Nils Liedholm strolled through to put the Swedes ahead. But two glorious runs by the remarkable Brazilian outside right Garrincha demolished Sweden's left side defence, his crosses making two easy goals for Vava. After this the Brazilians dominated the game. Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored a phenomenal goal. Surrounded by defenders he coolly hooked the ball over his head then pivoted to let it bounce on his thigh, then smashed it home. With Brazil’s backs, the Santoses, subduing Sweden’s wingers Hamrin and Skoglund, Brazil dominated. With Zito and the inventive Didi commanding the midfield, Brazil’s 4-2-4 formation (4-3-3 when Zagalo dropped back from left wing) was in total command. ‘Samba, samba!’ shouted their delighted fans watching as Zagalo beat two men before netting Brazil’s fourth. Liedholm cleverly made a Swedish second goal for Simonsson, but Pele properly had the last word just before full time when he jumped high to head in a centre from Zagalo.
1966 Wembley final, England 4 West Germany 2
Under the dominant and inspiring managership of Alf Ramsey, England despite playing every match at Wembley really struck form only in the semifinal, against Portugal.
It is arguable that they would have lost the quarterfinal against Argentina had the opposing captain Antonio Rattin not foolishly got himself sent off. Geoff Hurst, coming into the team for the injured Jimmy Greaves, headed a fine winner. In the final, he would score three, one of them off the crossbar which has been ever disputed by the Germans. In the final two potential stars England’s Bobby Charlton, used as a deep lying centre forward and Franz Beckenbauer tended to cancel each other out.
Ray Wilson’s error enabled Haller to put Germany ahead. Hurst glanced in Bobby Moore’s free kick to equalise. On 78 minutes England led. When Weber blocked a shot by Hurst the ball rose, enabling Peters to score. With less than a minute left, Held’s cross was driven home by Weber. In extra time, with Alan Ball dynamic, England led again when Hurst shot powerfully against the underside of the bar. The linesman Bakhramov gave a goal and Hurst would score again. Moore sent him through and he drove in England’s fourth.
1982 Barcelona, Italy 3 Brazil 2
In a second round group qualifier, the football was superb. Notable for the accomplished hat-trick by Italy’s Paol Rossi who had been amnestied from suspension shortly before the tournament. Brazil’s glorious midfield, with Falcao supreme, wasn’t matched by their defence and attack. Brazil needed only a draw to qualify but didn’t get it.
Brazil’s ’keeper Waldir Peres had said his fear was that Rossi would come to life: which he did. After only five minutes, Rossi’s head guided in Cabrini’s fine cross. Socrates equalised with a bullet inside a post. But Cerezo’s careless pass let Rossi score again only for Falcao to equalise with an inspired solo. On 75 minutes, Falcao scored but when Tardelli’s drive rebounded to Rossi, Italy, with Zoff defiant in goal, had prevailed.
1974 final, Munich, West Germany vs. Holland
The game which Holland, inspired by astonishing Johan Cruyff, allowed to slip out of their grasp. In the event it was the other Titan, Franz Beckenbauer, who would command the winners. The Dutch made a sensational beginning. Initially almost casually retaining the ball, the rhythm suddenly changed when Cruyff took possession and set off at phenomenal speed towards the German goal. Going round Berti Vogts, his marker, as though he weren’t there, he was tripped by Uli Hoeness and forceful Johan Neeskens converted the penalty. For some 25 minutes the Dutch kept taunting possession. But their defence without the injured Hulshoff was known to be vulnerable and when young left winger Holzenbein put into the Dutch box was tripped by Jansen, Paul Breitner equalised from the spot. Holland at length attacked, Cruyff served Rep a goal on a plate, Rep allowed Maier to plunge and save. So, it was that the prolific Gerd Muller on 43 minutes who won the final with his 68th goal for West Germany.
1978 Buenos Aires final, Argentina best Holland
No Cruyff for Holland alas, but they still managed to reach a final which seemed theirs to take only for Mario Kempes to run wild in extra time. Argentina then was under the control of a brutal military junta. Holland had lost several stars notably Wim Van Hanegem, the Orchestrator. Argentina’s amiable manager El Flaco Menotti had key men left in Spain; where Kempes had matured into a formidable attacker. Shocking decisions by the Swiss referee enabled Argentina to win their second match against France. Under the dour Austrian coach Ernst Happel, with Ruud Krol a fine centreback, Holland laboured through their group games. They sprang to life in the second phase, Austria being thrashed 5-1, with winger Rob Rensebrink on fire. Holland were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Italy in an ill-tempered, poorly refereed game, while their game against West Germany ended in a 2-2 draw.. In group B Argentina qualified after a scandalous 6-0 win over flaccid Peru. In the final, fine goalkeeping by Fillol and three glorious slaloms by Kempes brought Argentina unexpected victory in extra time. But it was a tarnished success.
1982 Spain: An Italian Success
Italy’s was a popular victory against a German team disgraced in the semifinals. In the 57th minute, with the score 1-1, the French back Patrick Battiston chased a beautifully flighted pass. Out of the German goal thundered the burly ’keeper Schumacher. Battiston was first to the ball but Schumacher smashed him to the ground with a blow of his forearm. There he lay for several minutes because the Seville police had banned the Red Cross from the pitch. The ’keeper should plainly have been sent off but referee Corver hadn’t seen the incident and his linesman did not advise him. Schumacher made a coarse joke about it. The game was even after extra time. The Germans, following a late rally, would win on penalties. The final went to Italy, the football world at large professed its delight.
1986 World Cup Final, Mexico City, Maradona’s dramas
Diego Maradona, supremely gifted and elusive, had punched a goal against England and scored another with a dynamic solo.
To show that this was no fluke he scored another such solo masterpiece in the subsequent game against Belgium. In the Azteca final, the German opponents surprisingly fought back from behind. Inspired by Voeller, the German team packed with defenders somehow managed to cancel their two goal deficit. Rummenigge scored after a corner, another corner enabled Voeller himself to score a stunning equaliser. But on the 84th minute, Maradona, somewhat below his best on the day, cleverly sent Jorge Burruchaga through for a merited winner.