TOP 10 WORLD CUP FINALS OF ALL TIME
The 2022 World Cup final is just around the corner, and Argentina await the winner of France vs Morocco for a chance to lift the most prestigious trophy in football.
Lionel Messi has inspired the Albiceleste throughout this tournament, and a face-off with Kylian Mbappe would be a mouth-watering prospect. If Morocco prevail in the semi-final, however, a match between the South American giants and the comparative African minnows would also be a compelling watch.
Lusail Stadium will be the setting for the 22nd World Cup final and, down the years, the fixture has thrown up some truly unforgettable encounters.
10. Spain 1-0 Netherlands, 2010
In terms of goalmouth action, Spain’s meeting with the Netherlands in the 2010 showpiece was nothing particularly special – each side managed just four shots on target.
However, the tension bubbled under the surface and often overflowed throughout, as both teams looked to make their mark on their opponents. Spain picked up five yellow cards, but that was nothing compared to the Oranje’s nine, while Johnny Heitinga was dismissed for two bookable offences.
There were key moments throughout, and Arjen Robben was ultimately made to rue his miss when one-on-one with Iker Casillas midway through the second half when, in the last minute of extra-time, Andres Iniesta volleyed into the corner to clinch Spain’s first-ever World Cup.
9. France 1-1 Italy (Italy won 5:3 on penalties), 2006
Even though France lost, this was very much the Zinedine Zidane final. Les Bleus’ number 10 had been sublime throughout the whole tournament, producing world-class performances in the quarter-finals and semi-finals against Brazil and Portugal respectively, and when he delivered a panenka to give France the lead within seven minutes versus Italy, it felt like it was going to be the perfect end to his career.
The Azzurri, however, are made of stern stuff, and Marco Materazzi equalised 12 minutes later. The game’s lasting image involved the two goalscorers, as Zidane headbutted the Italian centre-back in extra-time. That incident earned him a red card, and there are few photos more iconic than watching the Frenchman walk past the World Cup trophy on his way down the tunnel.
A penalty shoot-out was needed to decide the winner and David Trezeguet, the man who had scored the golden goal when the two sides met in the European Championships final six years prior, missed from 12 yards as Italy netted all five of their spot-kicks.
8. France 4-2 Croatia, 2018
France were amongst the pre-tournament favourites in Russia, but Croatia’s progress to the final was a huge surprise. In the end, the French came out on top in a game of firsts, unfortunately for the Balkan nation.
Mario Mandzukic’s own goal was the first in a World Cup final, while a penalty had never been awarded via the use of VAR before referee Nestor Pitana pointed to the spot having adjudged Ivan Perisic to have handled in the area.
Antoine Griezmann subsequently scored to give France lead at half-time and, after the interval, Mbappe became the first teenager to score in the World Cup’s last match since Pele in 1958. Griezmann and Co eventually won a high-scoring encounter, with only one final in the history of the competition providing more goals – we’ll get to that later.
7. France 3-0 Brazil, 1998
The controversy in 1998 started well before kick-off. The star of the tournament had been Ronaldo, who had arguably dragged the Selecao to the final on his own. However, his name was a glaring omission from the starting line-up, with him having been in hospital during the day.
The story took another twist when he was later reinstated to the first XI with less than 45 minutes to spare. That uncertainty clearly had an impact on both Ronaldo and his teammates as France ran out 3-0 winners.
Zidane ended up being the game’s main protagonist, scoring two headers, with Emmanuel Petit adding the third. As France lifted the trophy for the first time, at their own Stade de France, the Champs Elysees celebrated while the Copacobana wept.
6. Brazil 5-2 Sweden, 1958
In 1958, the wider footballing community first heard the name Pele. The teenager had already become Brazil’s youngest-ever goalscorer in 1957, a record he still holds, and he took the World Cup by storm a year later.
He had already become the youngest player to a score hat-trick at the tournament by the time the final against Sweden came around. Pele was again instrumental, scoring twice, including one wonderful volley, as Brazil cantered to victory.
Sweden’s progress to the last two, albeit on home soil, was admirable, but they had nowhere near enough to deal with Pele and Co. despite taking the lead, although they did contribute to the highest-ever scoring final. It proved to be a seminal moment for both Brazil and the youngster, with this the first of three World Cups the two would win together.
5. Brazil 4-1 Italy, 1970
By 1970, Pele’s Brazil career was coming to a close, and the World Cup in Mexico was expected, and proved to be, his last. He could not have picked a better way to go out.
The South Americans had looked like winners from their very first match, and they proved in the final why they are considered to be the greatest international side of all time. The clash wasn’t particularly competitive, but spectators could only marvel at how Brazil picked off their opponents with ease.
arguably the greatest in World Cup final history, and there have probably never been worthier winners.
4. Argentina 3-2 West Germany, 1986
While 1958 was Pele’s World Cup, 1986 was Diego Maradona‘s. His five goals, including stunners against England and Belgium, as well as the “Hand of God”, inspired Argentina as they progressed to the final, where they faced Lothar Matthaus’ West Germany.
Momentum ebbed and flowed, as Argentina twice took the lead before being pegged back on both occasions by Die Mannschaft, who refused to go away. Matthaus did a brilliant job of keeping Maradona quiet, but there was nothing he could do to prevent “El Pibe de Oro” from finding Jorge Burruchaga with an exceptional pass as the midfielder went on to score the winner.
Four years later, the two sides would meet in the final once more, although the 1990 encounter was nowhere near as captivating as its predecessor.
3. West Germany 3-2 Hungary, 1954
Possessing the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis, Hungary’s “Golden Team” of 1954 were heavily tipped to win the tournament in the build-up and, by the time they were set to face West Germany, many thought their triumph was a foregone conclusion.
That outcome appeared even more likely when the Mighty Magyars went 2-0 up within eight minutes. However, in a match fondly referred to in Germany as the “Miracle of Bern”, the underdogs came back to win 3-2.
The West Germans were equipped with potentially game-changing Adidas boots, which allowed them to change studs to adapt to the torrential rain. While the winners went on to become one of the world’s biggest powerhouses, the losers never reached those heights again.
2. England 4-2 West Germany, 1966
The 1966 clash between old enemies England and West Germany was their first-ever meeting at an international tournament. It proved to be an unforgettable one, for a number of reasons.
Of course, the match was the greatest in the history of English football as the “Three Lions” won the World Cup for the first, and only, time. Geoff Hurst‘s hat-trick also made him the only player to score three times in a World Cup final.
One of those strikes, however, was controversial, with Hurst’s second effort bouncing down close to the line. Not that England fans cared and, regardless of what it meant for football in the country, it was one of the best finals ever.
1. Uruguay 2-1 Brazil, 1950
Few, if any countries have supporters as passionate as Brazil’s, and when they were awarded the rights to host the 1950 World Cup, many saw it as a homecoming.
For the first, and only, time, there was no official final, with a four-team group stage deciding the winner. However, given Uruguay and Brazil were the only two sides who could finish on top before the tournament’s last encounter between the two sides, their meeting became the de facto final.
As many as 200,000 people crammed inside the Maracana to see Brazil romp home. Uruguay, though, had different ideas, and caused one of the shocks of the century despite going a goal down just after the interval. As the Celeste players celebrated upon the final whistle, the thousands of home supporters were distraught, and the country went into national mourning. Who said football was only a game?