The World Cup is the most prestigious prize in international football and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. With some of the biggest names in football appearing at each tournament, it attracts billions of viewers every four years.
In 2018, a record 3.572 billion people watched the Russia World Cup with a further 3,031,768 attending the matches live. With nations from every continent taking part in the tournament, all eyes truly are on the even when it is taking place. World Cup Odds currently have Brazil as favourites for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The first ever World Cup tournament was held in 1930 and had just 13 nations involved. Uruguay won the inaugural event, beating Argentina 4-2 in the final. There have been many changes to the format in the last 92 years and fast forward to 2022, there are now 32 teams taking place from all around the globe.
With such a long and storied history, the World Cup has been host to some of the greatest and infamous matches in football history. Here are some of the most memorable World Cup matches of all time.
Portugal 1-0 Netherlands – 2006 World Cup Germany
This match has become so infamous that it has even earned itself a nickname. Remembered as ‘The Battle of Nurnberg’ by fans, this match took place in the Round of 16 and is most known for being the dirtiest match in tournament history. Referee Valentin Ivanov issued a FIFA World Cup record four red cards and 16 yellow cards in this match and the tackles were flying virtually from the first whistle.
(Battle of Nuremberg | Germany 2006 | FIFA World Cup)
Mark Van Bommel opened proceedings by committing a foul in just the second minute, earning the first card of the game and by the 20th minute there had already been three yellows and Cristiano Ronaldo was forced off the pitch through injury as a result of Khalid Boulahrouz’ challenge. With two red cards a piece, both teams finished the game with 9 men on the field and to this day it is still the most ill-disciplined game in World Cup history.
Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (Uruguay win 4-2 on Penalties) – 2010 World Cup South Africa
Let’s set the scene. It is the first ever tournament to be held in Africa. Ghana had captured the hearts of football fans all around the world, playing with vibrance in just their second ever tournament. They had reached the Quarterfinals for the first time in their history and are 1-0 up at half-time to match favourites Uruguay. After a Diego Forlan equalizer, it heads into extra-time and Ghana are dominating in their search for a winner.
It finally looks like they have their chance at a fairy-tale ending late in the final minutes of the game when a free kick is sent into the penalty area and Stephen Appiah shoots from the six-yard box. Enter Luis Suárez. The polarizing forward blocked the shot with his hands in the air on the goal line, getting himself sent off in the process. However, Ghana would miss the resulting penalty sending the game to penalties, before eventually losing there. Suarez had stopped what should have been a fairy-tale ending for the Black Stars, and the image of him celebrating hands aloft down the tunnel when Sulley Muntari missed what should have been the winning penalty is etched in infamy.
Germany 7-1 Brazil – 2014 World Cup Brazil
This was one of the most anticipated semi-finals in recent memory. Two teams with such a rich history in the World Cup, with 10 trophies between them at the time, it was sure to be a tight game of chess between two of the best footballing nations in the world. Well, that could not have been further from the truth. Instead, Germany demolished host nation Brazil seven goals to one. Die Mannschaft were 5-0 up at half time and the stadium had near on cleared out of Brazil fans. They would score another two in the second half with Brazil earning a consolation in the 90th minute. Germany would go on to win the tournament and it would go down as the most embarrassing moment in World Cup history for Brazil.
Argentina vs England – 1986 World Cup Mexico
England had gone 20 years without a trophy at this point but finally looked to have a team capable of winning once again. Gary Lineker was firing for club and country; Peter Beardsley was electric and manager Bobby Robson had finally instilled belief into the nation. However, Argentina had the best player in the world at the time on their side in Diego Maradona. The tricky forward had been setting the tournament on fire.
Everyone expected him to score, but maybe not in the way he did. Six minutes into the second half, a misplaced clearance from Left Midfielder Steve Hodge looped in the air, back towards Goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The 5-foot-5 Maradona ran onto the loose ball, outjumped the 6-foot-1 Shilton and punched the ball into the net. Referee Ali Bin Nasser of Tunisia said he did not see the infringement and allowed the goal. Argentina would go on to win the game 2-1, knocking England out of the tournament. The goal is now infamously referred to as the ‘Hand of God’ and is one of the most memorable moments in World Cup History.
Founder and editor of Footiecentral. A voracious reader who loves reading anything and everything related to the history of football. He’s an ardent supporter of Manchester United and rarely misses a match.