Soccer is the world’s favorite sport, and the biggest event in the sport’s calendar is the World Cup. The World Cup pits the best soccer nations on the planet against each other every four years to determine who is the best. With so much on the line the World Cup final can be a tense game, but these finals proved to be the most exciting in history.
England 4 – 2 West Germany, 1966
This was England’s home World Cup as the nation was hosting the tournament. Soccer is recognized for being invented in the United Kingdom, so it was a big deal that it had finally come home for all those English fans. England made it all the way to the final but were up against formidable opponents in West Germany.
The thing that made this game so great was that it was a constant struggle for power from the first kick until the last. The lead changed hands many times, and there was even a controversial goal for England, which didn’t seem to cross the goal line. Even at the very end of the game, West Germany had the opportunity to make it 3-3 before England countered and scored the winner, while some fans were on the field.
West Germany 2 – 1 Netherlands, 1974
This was meant to be the moment that ‘Total Football’ won its first World Cup to prove it was the best way to play the beautiful game. The Netherlands were famed for their style of play and were the pre-tournament favorites, but in soccer, there is a rule that you should never rule out the Germans.
West Germany didn’t seem to break a sweat in getting to the final, but it was thought that the Netherlands would be too much to handle. The Netherlands scored in pretty much the first minute with a penalty kick before Germany spent the remainder of the first half fighting back. Legendary German player Gerd Muller scored the winner for West Germany and broke the hearts of many ‘Total Football’ fans in the process.
Argentina 3 – 2 West Germany, 1986
This tournament in Mexico was where Diego Maradona scored his legendary solo goal and the ‘Hand of God’ effort too. The Argentine playmaker had been running the show for Argentina, and he helped his team lead 2-0 in the final.
German teams should never be ruled out when it comes to the World Cup, and Argentina almost found that out to their peril. West Germany fought back to tie the game at 2-2. Momentum was with the Germans, but Argentina dug deep, and Maradona set up the winning goal with just minutes to spare.
Italy 1 – 1 France, 2006
This game was set to be the last ever played by French legend Zinedine Zidane. The midfielder was regarded as the best in the world, and after leaving Real Madrid before the tournament, his last game came in the World Cup final. It was fitting for such a player, but the game will be remembered for the moment Zidane lost his cool.
Zidane was controlling the game for France, and even scored a penalty to get his team on track. Marco Materazzi then scored an equalizer shortly after, and it would be these two players who would make the headlines later in the match. Materazzi said something to Zidane, who lost his temper, and headbutted the Italian defender in the chest. Zidane was sent off, and Italy went on to win the World Cup on penalties.
The World Cup final isn’t always an exciting game, but these matches definitely got the fans’ hearts pumping as their nerves were tangible in the arenas.