Paolo Armando Masterchef

There are just days remaining until the 2018 World Cup gets underway in Russia

  • Here, Sportsmail ranks the 10 greatest World Cup matches of all time 

  • WORLD CUP NEWS: Click here for the latest ahead of the tournament in Russia


    In the build up to Russia, we're looking at the best World Cup moments, match and more.

    You can check out the rest of the series so far right here: 

    - The World Cup's most controversial moments 

    - The greatest World Cup kits ever

    > >

    The countdown is well and truly on to Russia 2018, with football fans around the globe waiting with bated breath for the tournament to get underway next week.


    With that in mind, Sportsmail has decided to count down the best ever World Cup games, picking out the most exciting clashes from the 20 previous editions of the tournament, including England's 1966 triumph and Brazil's 7-1 humiliation in front of their own fans in 2014.

    i-amphtml-sizer">>Show Player

    Here is the full list...

    Bobby Moore hoists aloft the World Cup in '66... but where does that final rank on our list?

    10) Portugal 5-3 North Korea, 1966

    1966 is best remembered on these shores for England's one and only World Cup triumph, but there was another incredible match in that tournament on home soil, fought out between Portugal and debutants North Korea.

    template type="amp-mustache"">

    Portugal's team featured some of the greatest players in the world at that time, with the spine of the team made up of Benfica's back-to-back European Cup winners. Eusebio was leading the line, and the Portuguese were huge favourites to thrash the minnows and reach the semi-finals… but it was certainly not plain sailing.

    In one of the most incredible starts to a World Cup match, North Korea were 3-0 up inside 25 minutes, and the crowd at Goodison Park were in complete awe. Portugal were shellshocked, but went on to complete one of the greatest comebacks in tournament history – with one man front and centre.

    Eusebio scored an incredible four goals in 32 minutes to turn the tie on its head, before Jose Augusto finished off the match to take Portugal through 5-3, where they eventually lost 2-1 to eventual winners England in the semi-final.

    Eusebio only played in one World Cup but made his mark with four goals against North Korea
    > Click here to resize this module >

    9) Uruguay 2-1 Brazil (Maracanazo), 1950

    'Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and I.' 


    The words of Alcides Ghiggia, the scorer of Uruguay's winning goal in the 1950 World Cup that stunned not only those in the crowd, but the entire nation.

    Books have been written about Brazil's infamous defeat, such was its impact on the nation's psyche. 

    To say they were favourites going into the game would be an understatement. The Selecao breezed to the final while their opponents struggled. Midfielder Zizinho even admitted that he was signing autographs as 'Brazil, champions of the world' the day before the game. 

    Related Articles

    • amp-img src="" width="85px" height="85px" i-amphtml-layout="fixed"">>FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 SQUADS: All the players called up by every nation for football's greatest event in Russia
    • amp-img src="" width="85px" height="85px" i-amphtml-layout="fixed"">>PICTURE SPECIAL: Sportsmail's guide to the 12 stunning stadiums in use at the 2018 World Cup
    • amp-img src="" width="85px" height="85px" i-amphtml-layout="fixed"">>From the £250,000 Australian steal to the £40m rising Uruguayan star... six unheralded talents capable of kicking up a storm at World Cup 2018
    • amp-img src="" width="85px" height="85px" i-amphtml-layout="fixed"">>World Cup dilemmas: From England's unproven midfield to Brazil relying on an unfit Neymar... problems facing the eight leading contenders in Russia

    Brazil even took the lead but that seemed to only add to their complacency as a rugged Uruguay side clawed their way back into the game through Juan Schiaffino just after the hour mark before winger Alcides Ghiggia silenced the crowd for the first time that afternoon. 

    By the time English referee George Reader blew the full-time whistle, all joy from the home side had gone. They'd entered the field to fireworks and confetti and chants of 'Brazil! Brazil!', but left feeling a seismic shift in world football.  

    Ghiggia scores the winning goal past the dive of Brazilian goakeeper Barbosa to stun the world
    Chaotic scenes at the final whistle as Uruguay players are mobbed on the Maracana pitch

    8) Argentina 2-1 England, 1986

    This is perhaps one to forget for those of an English persuasion.

    In the 1986 tournament so far, England had scraped through Group F with a defeat by Portugal, a draw with Morocco and a win over Poland, before a rousing 3-0 Round of 16 victory against Paraguay. Heading into the quarter-finals in Mexico City, the sense of anticipation was palpable.

    There were political undertones with the Falklands War still fresh in the memory, but the match was billed as two of the best forwards in world football coming face-to-face… it was Diego Maradona vs Gary Lineker, and both of them got on the scoresheet in a match that would go down in history.


    The opening goal provided one of the most famous moments the game has ever seen, as Maradona produced his 'Hand of God' shocker to score past a helpless Peter Shilton in the England goal. Furious Three Lions protests were waved away by the referee in the blistering Mexico heat, and Argentina's path to the semis had been paved.

    There was nothing England could do about the second goal either, as Maradona weaved his way through to score what has been labelled one of the greatest goals of all-time. Picking up the ball inside his own half, the legendary Argentinian weaved his way through the entire England team before prodding past Shilton to complete the victory.

    Lineker pulled one back for England with nine minutes left, but there was just one name on the lips of football fans in the aftermath… Diego Armando Maradona.

    Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal against England in 1986 has gone down in infamy

    7) Sweden 2-5 Brazil, 1958

    The final of the 1958 World Cup saw Sweden come agonisingly close to winning the tournament on home turf in Solna. Nils Leidholm opened the scoring early on to give the hosts hope, but the match will forever be remembered as the day a 17-year-old Pele announced himself to the world.

    Such was his talent unknown at that point, Pele didn't even feature in Brazil's opening two games at the tournament, before being unleashed in the latter stages. He scored the winner against Wales and a hat-trick against France, and was named in the starting line-up for the final, with all eyes firmly upon him.

    Not one to back down, Pele produced one of the most incredible solo performances, scoring twice – including one of the best goals ever seen at a World Cup – and he was still just a child.

    Brazil's third goal was when it all changed for Pele. He controlled the ball on his chest, lifted it over a defender's head, and fired home on the volley to put his side 3-1 up on the way to a 5-2 victory. There were tears from the great man at the final whistle… and 29 June 1958 was the day that kickstarted the greatest career of all time.

    A 17-year-old Pele is left in tears after his two goals helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958

    6) Brazil 1-0 England, 1970

    It was, according to those who played in the game, the 'real final'. Sadly, fate conspired to make it a group game. 

    The fact that Brazil would go on to stroll past the Italians in that final is a testament to both the quality the Three Lions possessed, however they came up just short in this gruelling encounter. 

    Reigning champions England were perhaps even better than the team that emerged victorious in 1966; they were taking on the great Brazil and Pele, the winners in 1958 and 1962.

    Played in the searing heat at the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, the first half saw Gordon Banks pull off perhaps the greatest save of all time from Pele's low header.


    The action continued with chances for both sides. Bobby Moore, then at his absolute peak, produced his iconic tackle to stop a charging Jairiznho. Calmly ushering the great man to the edge of the area, the West Ham man expertly poached the ball before danger could develop. His casual stroll up the pitch and simple pass afterwards were a testament to his easy genius.

    It was Jairzinho who broke the deadlock and fired home the winner in the 59th minute after a flowing Brazil move.

    Ultimately the Selecao had won, but one image summed up the respect they held for their opponents. At full-time, the great Pele sought out his adversary Moore and the pair shared a moment of mutual admiration, displaying their respect for one another both on and off the pitch. 

    Bobby Moore and Pele share an exchange and swap shirts after the full-time whistle in 1970

    5) West Germany 3-3 France, 1982

    There were goals aplenty at Espana 1982, and the semi-final clash between West Germany and France was no different… although most of them came very late on. The Germans went into the tie without their star man Karl-Heinze Rummenigge, on the bench nursing a hamstring injury, but they still managed to take an early lead through Pierre Littbarksi, before Michel Platini levelled things up.

    As the game entered its final stages, there was nothing to suggest it would live long in the memory, but then everything changed and it turned seriously sour with half an hour to play. Patrick Battison was through on goal, with a real chance of delivering the World Cup to France, when he was clattered by Germany's goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. The ball was nowhere near the player, and to many it looked like a deliberate, and brutal, attack.

    Incredibly, despite two lost teeth, three cracked ribs, a damaged vertebrae and half an hour unconscious, Battison was deemed not to have been fouled and Schumacher remained on the field of play until the end of the match.

    In extra time, a furious France had their backs up and raced into a 3-1 lead before West Germany came back to level at 3-3 with goals in the 102nd and 108th minute. Incredibly, villain of the piece Schumacher then saved two penalties in the shootout to help his side through to the final.

    In France after the tournament, a national newspaper ran a poll to decide Germany's least popular person… Schumacher edged out one Adolf Hitler to claim the prize. Ouch.

    Klaus Fischer celebrates hauling West Germany back into the game in incredible fashion after his team went 3-1 down in extra-time against a Michel Platini-led France 
    German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher collides with Patrick Battison, who lost two teeth

    4) Brazil 1-7 Germany, 2014

    The most recent of all the games in this countdown, and one that caused more than a few Brazilian tears at the 2014 World Cup. When the two sides walked out for their semi-final match at Belo Horizonte, Brazil's home advantage made them the favourites to not only beat Germany, but to win the entire tournament.

    What happened instead was truly remarkable, and we are unlikely to see another game like this for a long, long time. Germany produced an incredible display and stunned the world with five first-half goals, including four in just six minutes midway through the opening period.

    Miroslav Klose scored to become the World Cup's all-time leading goalscorer, Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle netted twice each, Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira got in on the act… it was a truly humiliating defeat for Brazil which left the entire country distraught and the entire world in a state of shock.

    The enduring memories of the match are with David Luiz, being walked off the field in tears at full-time, shots of the crowd covering their faces with their scarves in embarrassment at the result. In fact, four years on and the current Brazil side still have a lot to make up for when they reach Russia later this month.

    Miroslav Klose celebrates scoring in one of the most shocking World Cup results ever
    David Luiz was in tears as a Neymar-less Brazil suffered a humiliating defeat against Germany
    David Luiz was in tears as a Neymar-less Brazil suffered a humiliating defeat against Germany

    3) England 4-2 West Germany, 1966

    For English football fans, it doesn't get any better than the 1966 World Cup final. Hurst, Peters, Hurst, Hurst — a 4-2 victory over West Germany on the most famous of all afternoons at Wembley Stadium.

    Of course, it didn't come without controversy, as Geoff Hurst's second goal provided years and years of questions about whether the ball really did cross the line. First, though - back to the start.

    England went 1-0 down early on as Helmut Haller scored for the Germans, but Hurst quickly grabbed his first of the afternoon before setting up Peters to put the home side in front. With just seconds remaining of the match, Wolfgang Weber provided the first moment of real drama as he equalised for West Germany and took the tie to extra time. There were questions over a potential handball in the build-up that England goalkeeper Gordon Banks never let lie.

    It was in extra time that it really got going though, as Hurst crashed a shot off the crossbar, watching it bounce down and then out of the goal. The Soviet linesman Tofiq Bahramov gave the goal, but the Germans were - and still are - furious and claim that the ball didn't cross the line.

    In the last minute of the game, with Germany pressing for another late equaliser, Hurst raced through and was one-on-one with the goalkeeper with the chance to put the game to bed. Some fans ran onto the pitch as he sprinted through, and the moment was best described by commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme. I'll leave it to him to take you home...

    'And here comes Hurst! He's got... Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's four!'

    England celebrate their historic World Cup victory in 1966 on the famous Wembley turf
    The debate over whether England's third goal went over the line continues to this very day

    2) Italy 3-2 Brazil, 1982

    Perhaps surprisingly, No 2 in our ultimate countdown isn't a final, or a semi-final, or even a quarter-final... but a second round group stage encounter between two incredible footballing sides at the now-demolished Estadio Sarria in Barcelona.

    It was the ultimate attack vs defence, with Brazil's samba stars coming up against an Italian wall that had scraped through to this stage with three draws in their opening three games. With hindsight, these two sides could be regarded as two of the best in their country's history.

    All eyes were on Paolo Rossi heading into the game, Italy's star striker having endured a difficult tournament up to that point. No goals, three poor performances, and he needed to turn up... but turn up he did.

    Rossi opened the scoring inside five minutes, before Socrates levelled things up for Brazil just a few minutes later with the goal of the game. Rossi was back at it inside 25 minutes, but still Brazil fought back in an incredible match in Barcelona. Falcao made it 2-2 with 22 minutes left to play, but it was all set up for Rossi to save his side once again. A hat-trick on the biggest stage to really kick-start his country's tournament.

    Rossi went on to score the most goals in the tournament and was voted best player, while Italy lifted their third World Cup title in the final against West Germany. Eccellente!

    Rossi scores against Brazil on his way to winning the Golden Boot for the 1982 World Cup

    1) Italy 4-3 West Germany, 1970

    How could the so-called 'Game of the Century' be anywhere other than top of the pile? Seven goals, five of them in extra time, and the two teams producing comeback after comeback in front of over 100,000 fans in Mexico City. Football doesn't get any better than this.

    The Italians went ahead through Roberto Boninsegna and looked destined to reach the final until the 90th minute when Karl-Heinz Schnellinger equalised for West Germany. Until this point, the game was good - but nothing overly special and certainly not destined to become the greatest match in World Cup history. But bear with me...

    Franz Beckenbauer dislocated his shoulder late on in normal time, but Germany manager Helmut Schon had already used up his substitutes, meaning the country's star man had to stay on the pitch for the entirety, battling through severe pain with his country's hopes resting heavily upon him.


    Despite them essentially being a man down, Gerd Muller put West Germany 2-1 up in the opening minutes of extra time, but it lasted just four minutes before Italy levelled things up. Not willing to go behind again, Gigi Riva then gave Italy the lead for the second time in the match, completing their comeback to make it 3-2.


    Germany still weren't done though, and in the 110th minute Muller again got on the scoresheet to level things up for his side. 10 minutes to play at the Estadio Azteca... but this is where Germany's luck ran out. Just seconds after the restart, with TV cameras still showing Muller's equaliser, Gianni Rivera went up the other end and made it 4-3 to Italy, firing them into the World Cup final.

    Source :