The biggest spectacle in world football is coming to a close later tonight with France looking to defend its title against Lionel Messi-led Argentina at Lusail Stadium.
In the lead-up to the Qatar 2022 final, Sportstar takes a look at the best five unforgettable summit clashes in the quadrennial showpiece.
1. 1966 (England 4-2 West Germany AET)
It is difficult to look past the 1966 World Cup final when one is shortlisting the most memorable matches of the quadrennial showpiece.
It was game that saw everything - from a comeback, to added extra time and a controversial goal. The title-decider at Wembley was attended by 96,924 people. Needless to say, most of these were home fans, there to witness England for the very first time in the final of world football’s biggest stage.
The atmosphere grew increasingly tense after Helmut Haller handed the visitors the lead only after 12 minutes. Six minutes later, however, English striker Geoff Hurst rose unchallenged to nod the ball in. The players headed into the tunnel at half-time, with the scores levelled at 1-1.
The outcome was similar in the second half, with England’s Martin Peters and Wolfgang Weber of Germany finding their name on the scoresheet.
A 2-2 scoreline meant the match trickled into extra-time, where Hurst’s shot hit the bar in the 101st minute, bounced and then rolled out of the goal. The German players immediately went up in appeal even as the England players celebrated. The referee consulted his linesman, who seemed confident the ball had gone in.
Hurst struck again, with five minutes remaining on the clock, to bring up his hattrick and in turn seal a special victory.
2. 1998 (Brazil 0-3 France)
The enormity of the occasion put aside, it was Ronaldo’s illness which made headlines ahead of the title clash.
It was reported the Brazil striker suddenly “started shaking a lot” moments ahead of the kick-off.
“I don’t know if it was a seizure, an epileptic fit,” his teammate Roberto Carlos recalls in The Phenomenon, the movie on Ronaldo. The title of the film was the moniker given to Ronaldo, who on his day, could probably take on all 11 players of the opposition team.
After the medical report found nothing amiss, it was assumed that whatever it had been, it came to be due to excessive emotional stress.
The whole Brazilian unit and especially Ronaldo looked like a shadow of their former selves during the game, which France went on to win 3-0, with the legendary Zinedine Zidane scoring a brace.
To put things into perspective, Ronaldo had only 20 touches in that game!
3. 2002 (Germany 0-2 Brazil)
Brazil and Ronaldo had their redemption in the very next edition.
In 2002, not only did the Selecao Canarinho stay undefeated en route to the final, but its ace striker also won the Golden Boot (then Golden Shoe) for scoring eight goals.
The unstoppable triumvirate of Rs up front - Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho - put up a performance for the ages in that edition.
In the final, however, it was Ronaldo, who bagged the Player of the Match award for scoring a brace, having slotted twice into the bottom corner.
4. 2006 (Italy 1-1 France; 5-3 on penalties)
This is yet another final, which is remembered for something beyond just the realm of the sport. In this game, Zidane was famously sent off with a straight red after he headbutted Italy’s Marco Materazzi, sending the centre-back crashing down onto the deck.
Apparently, Materazzi had made some unsavoury remarks about Zidane’s sister, which had enraged the latter.
Earlier, Zidane opened the scoring in the seventh minute via a penalty awarded by referee Elizondo when Florent Malouda was seemingly fouled by Materazzi in the box. Materazzi, however, redeemed himself only moments later, pulling things level with a scintillating header coming off an Andrea Pirlo corner.
Later, Zidane’s absence hurt France dearly in the shootout as David Trezeguet missed even as all five Italians found the back of the net.
5. 2010 (Spain 1-0 Netherlands AET)
Just when it seemed the match was heading towards the penalty shootout, midfield great Andres Iniesta brought joy to the 84,490 fans in Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Spain was denied continuously despite having multiple efforts on goal, including Sergio Ramos’ two brave attempts, once in the first half followed by another header in the 77th minute.
Spain’s pass-heavy tactics did not work in the ongoing edition at Qatar unlike in the World Cup 12 years ago and the 19th edition of FIFA’s grandest stage remains one of La Furia Roja’s brightest moments in the sport.
Though Qatar 2022 won’t see a new winner, the final between Argentina and France has all the ingredients to be a cracker.
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