The Best Ever World Cup Finals

Often finals can be a disappointment. Teams can be scared of making the mistake that costs them victory, have peaked too soon or just bottle it. Thankfully, the vast majority of the 18 World Cup Finals played so far have had more than their fair share drama, intrigue and classic football. Read about our favourites here…


A clip from our favourite, the Fateful Final of 1950.

1930 – The First Ever Final

1934 – Italy are the World Champs

1938 – Win or Die!

1950 – The Fateful Final

1954 – The Miracle of Berne

1958 – Pele Announces his Arrival

1966 – Three Lions Roar to Victory

1970 – The Greatest Team Ever

1974 – Don’t Mention the Score

1978 – The Shame of Argentina ’78

1982 – The Tardelli Scream

1990 – West Germany Win Italia ’90

1994 – Baggio’s Penalty Pain

1998 – Ronaldo-gate

2006 – ZZ Top

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England At The World Cup

England have a spectacular knack of putting their fans through an emotional World Cup mixer every four years (if they qualify) more so than any other nation. Hell, we even managed to write a whole book on it. Click here in shamless plug action:

Here’s a run through of some of the most memorable Three Lions matches from the World Cup in chronological order. Click on the links for the full stories and clips of the match action.

June 29th 1950 - The Miracle on Grass, as the USA hand England perhaps the most humiliating loss in their history. Expect to hear this game mentioned one or two times before the sides face off again this weekend in Rustenburg.

July 2nd 1950 – England go crashing out of their first World Cup, probably wishing they hadn’t bothered with it all.

June 10th 1962 – England lose to a Garrincha-inspired Brazil in a match more fondly remembered (by us at least) for Jimmy Greaves playing Pet Rescue with a stray dog.

June 7th 1970 – Classic Brazil versus England in a game that had just about everything. Apart from an England win, obviously.

June 14th 1970 - West Germany get their revenge for 1966, as the Three Lions blow a 2-0 lead with 25 minutes remaining in their quarter-final.

June 16th 1982 - After twelve years in the World Cup wilderness England roar back, scoring after just 27 seconds in their ’82 opener against France, with Bryan Robson remarkably managing to stay fit long enough to score the early opener.

June 26th 1990 – David Platt’s 119th-minute volley remains my favourite ever England goal. As an over-excited eight-year-old, for me it didn’t get any better than this wonder goal against Belgium in the second round of Italia ’90.

July 1st 1990 - More Italia ’90 goodness, as England end Cameroon’s fantastic tournament in the quarter-finals.

July 4th 1990 – Germans! Penalties! Goal off Paul Parker’s backside! Gazza’s tears! Argh!

July 7th 1990 – England’s most capped player Peter Shilton and manager Bobby Robson bow out in the Italia ’90 3rd/4th place game against Italy.

June 30th 1998 – On of the most epic England games of recent years, as Argentina break English hearts in St Etienne.

June 7th 2002 – Redemption day for Beckham, as his winning penalty banishes the demons of his red card against Argentina in ’98.

June 15th 2002 – England set up a quarter-final clash with Brazil and the nation starts to believe.

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about that sunny day in 1966. Join us tomorrow for our favourite World Cup Finals.

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Greatest Ever World Cup Games

We’ve had a trawl through the OTFD archives to bring your some of our favourite World Cup games. We’ve got some of the greatest teams, the biggest upsets and most bitter rivals from the first ever game. Click on the dates for a link to the full stories. Coming later this week: England’s greatest ever games and the best ever Finals.

July 13th 1930 - The first ever World Cup games as France beat Mexico and the USA take on Belgium.

Footage from the first ever World Cup.

June 19th 1958Pele announces his arrival to send John Charles and Wales home.

July 19th 1966 - The greatest ever World Cup upset? North Korea shock Italy.

June 17th 1970 – The ‘game of the century’ as Italy and West Germany contest an epic semi-final.

June 11th 1978Archie Gemmill scores Mark Renton’s favourite ever goal.

July 5th 1982Paulo Rossi silences the naysayers in one of the greatest personal comebacks since Lazarus.

July 8th 1982Harald Schumacher commits the worst foul ever as West Germany and France clash in the semi-finals.

June 25th 1986 – Days after scoring perhaps the greatest ever World Cup goal against England, Diego Maradona does it again against Belgium. Also on that day in 1990 David O’Leary blasts home from the penalty spot against Romania.

June 8th 1990 - The greatest ever upset part two? The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, led by Roger Milla, aged 84, stun World Champions Argentina in the Italia ’90 opener.

June 24th 1990 – Forget the Anglo-German rivalry, the Dutch really hate Die Mannschaft. Frank Rijkaard in particular, as he gobs into Rudi Voller’s horrific perm.

June 23rd 1998 – Believe it or not, in the olden days Scotland used to qualify for the World Cup, but never troubled the knockout stages. Here’s the story of their last World Cup match when Morocco sent home.

June 12th 2002Sweden sent pre-tournament favourites Argentina crashing out in the group stage.

This is by no means anywhere near an exhaustive list, so let us know your favourite World Cup matches below.

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OTFD’s World Cup Archives

It’s nearly time. You can’t open a newspaper or turn a television on without being deluged with World Cup fever, so we thought we’d better jump on the bandwagon and trawl through the On This Football Day archives to bring you some of our favourite World Cup stories.

Coming this week we’ll bring you the most captivating games, the best Finals, the most controversial moments and a greatest hits of England’s efforts on the world stage.

In the meantime all you England fans can order our latest book, England On This Day, a day-by-day history of the Three Lions:

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England v Brazil: Our Top Five Moments

‘The English invented it, the Brazilians perfected it.’

As England and Brazil head east to lock horns in the Doha desert this weekend, we thought we’d run down the top five moments between the Seleção and Three Lions. All of these stories and a whole lot more can be found in our new book England On This Day, available here and in all good (and some bad) bookshops.

1970: The greatest save ever made

It may not have been immortalised in song form by Baddiel and Skinner like his skipper’s famous tackle that day, but Gordon Banks’ diving save from Pele’s first-half header in the pulsating 1970 World Cup clash is about as good as it gets. As the Santos striker nodded the ball down he began to turn away, shouting ‘Gooooal’, but Banks flung himself across his goal ‘like a salmon leaping up a waterfall’ as Pele himself later put it when the Stoke ‘keeper managed to tip the ball over the bar. ‘At that moment I hated Gordon Banks more than any man in soccer,’ explained Pele, before obviously remembering he never slags anyone off in case he risks losing a sponsorship deal. ‘But when I cooled down I had to applaud him with my heart for the greatest save I have ever seen.’

1984: Barnes Out-Brazils Brazil

Seasoned football spectators at the Maracanã are no doubt used to seeing players score after mazy 50-yard dribbles every other week, but not surely from young Watford midfielders. Having failed to qualify for Euro 84 England had nothing better to do than to turn up in Rio for an end of season friendly against the Seleção. Picking the ball up just inside the Brazil half Barnsey slalomed his way through the entire Brazilian defence before slotting past the ‘keeper to put England ahead. The Three Lions triumphed 2-0, handing Brazil their first defeat at the Maracanã for 27 years. Barnes said later: ‘I don’t remember much about my goal – I always liken it to an out-of-body experience. I look at it on TV now and I can’t remember doing any of it.’

1992: Lineker misses from the spot

England hosted Brazil at Wembley in a pre-Euro 92 friendly looking for a morale-boosting win before heading out to Sweden. Graham Taylor’s skipper Gary Lineker was eyeing up one last England swansong before his move to Japan’s Grampus 8 after the tournament, with the Spurs striker one short of equalling Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 England goals. When the Three Lions were awarded a penalty with the score at 0-0, up he stepped, but fluffed his chance to equal the record as his weak effort was saved by Carlos in the Brazilian goal. Things didn’t get any better for Lineker that summer, as he failed to find the net in England’s woeful Euro 92 campaign before being infamously subbed off against Sweden and being forever marooned on 48 international goals.

1962: Jimmy Greaves plays Dr Doolitle

England’s World Cup quarter-final against Brazil in 1962 wasn’t a particularly good day at the office, as a Garrincha-inspired Brazil team eased to a 3-1 win, but it did produce one of the more amusing on-pitch moments in England history. A stray dog ran on to the pitch and evaded everyone until Jimmy Greaves got down on all fours and beckoned the canine. He then grabbed the pooch who promptly urinated all over him. ‘I smelt so bad, but at least it meant the Brazilian defenders stayed clear of me,’ he said. Garrincha thought the whole thing was hilarious and kept the dog as a pet.

2002: Sven’s Half-time Team Talk

It was looking good for England. The nation had done the usual trick of being whipped up into a patriotic frenzy, convincing herself that 38 years of hurt was soon to be gone and England would romp to the 2002 World Cup title. As half-time approached England were 1-0 up against Brazil in their quarter-final clash in Shizuoka and keeping the Brazilians at bay. But in stoppage time Rivaldo popped up to equalise, and it was time for Sven-Göran Eriksson to start earning his money with a rip-roaring team talk. However, five minutes after the break England were 2-1 down thanks to a freak Ronaldinho goal, who lofted a 40-yard free kick over a flailing David Seaman after spotting the Arsenal stopper off his line. The lad had obviously done his homework. Even a 56th-minute red card for Ronaldinho didn’t stop the Brazilians, who held on to a 2-1 win on their way to winning a fifth World Cup. Gareth Southgate pointed the finger of blame solely at the Swede: ‘When we needed Winston Churchill, we got Iain Duncan Smith.’

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Manchester United: Big Game Bottlers?

Around Christmas time last year the plaudits started coming thick and fast for the current Manchester United side. ‘Best squad ever’, ‘better than the 1999 side’ we were all told.

But if United proved anything at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night it was that they don’t have the bottle for the big occasion.

Can you remember seeing ever such a lacklustre performance for an Alex Ferguson side in a major game?

And it’s not the first time this season that United have gone missing when the pressure has been on.

A loss in the Uefa Super Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg back in August didn’t get the alarm bells ringing but two months later they had only picked one point in three games against their Big Four rivals.

A series of narrow wins – 16 of their 28 Premiership victories were by a single goal – ensured that the defending Champions had made their way to summit by the end of January, but warning signs over their big-game temperament were there.

Four draws in the group stage of the Champions League was followed up by a non-appearance against a Spurs side, still trying to find their feet after their calamitous start to the season, in the Carling Cup final, where only Ben Foster’s iPod prevented Harry Redknapp’s unbalanced side of underachievers from winning at Wembley.

With everyone begin to talk quintuple United continued to stutter on the big stage, stuttering past Porto in Europe before losing to an injury-hit Everton side in the FA Cup.

Back in the Premier League Liverpool inflicted United’s worst home loss since 1992, winning 4-1 as they did the double over their bitter rivals and then needed a late goal from Italian teenager Federico Macheda to squeeze past an out-of-form Villa side.

Judging on Fergie’s recent signings it’s obvious he has an eye on the future, but big-money players such as Anderson, Carrick and Nani have all failed to deliver when the going has got tough this season, with only a single win this term against the Premiership’s Champions League sides.

With the likelihood of Ronaldo and Tevez both leaving the club this summer increasing by the day and the old heads of Giggs, Scholes, Van der Saar and Neville getting ready to call time on their careers is it squeaky bum time for the fans?

Throw in the Glazer’s mountain of debt and interest payments that are sucking away United’s profits each season and even one bad season could prove to be disastrous for the club, with their free-spending city neighbours and the likes of Aston Villa and Everton ready to grab any Champions League spot that comes up for grabs in the future.

Luckily for them Fergie appears to be more driven than the Terminator in his quest to overhaul Liverpool’s title record both domestically and in Europe, so you can count on him hanging around for a while yet.

Still, here at OTFD we’re looking forward to seeing how the Scot goes about United’s next few big games after the summer break, as a rejuvenated Chelsea, a Liverpool side with a new-found confidence and a more experienced Arsenal team will all believe they can prevent the title going to Old Trafford for a fourth consecutive time.

Nights such as the one witnessed in Rome this week may become all the more common for English football’s most spoilt set of fans.

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OTFD’s Top 5 Football Books

WE’RE going all Nick Hornby on your ass now – no, not by slagging off Gus Caesar for 250 pages – but by coming up with the top five football books we’ve read recently here at OTFD towers.

Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson

A book detailing the history of football tactics from Victorian Britain to the present day may sound like one of the stattos and anoraks out there, but Eastern European expert Wilson brings alive the developing forces that have shaped us with the game that we have today. Wilson takes the reader through the deep-thinkers of the 1920s Austrian coffee houses, Puskas’s Mighty Magyars, the suffocating Catenaccio, Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s scientific approach in the Soviet Union, Brazil’s samba-freestyling, Holland’s Total Football, English ‘pragmatic’ long-ball approach right through to what he sees as a centre forward-less future.

Read the thought-provoking study and hang your head in shame at how one-dimensional tactical football has been here in England ever since the rest of the world cottoned onto the beautiful game.

Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper

Remarkably, this William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner was Kuper’s first book, written in his early twenties. Looking at the game from an ‘anthropologic perspective’ he trekked across the world looking at football’s effect on politics, national and cultural identities, bringing us the skinny on the secret football mafia in the former Soviet Union, the shameful behaviour of the Argentine government when they hosted the 1978 World Cup, the internal bickering of the Cameroon team that came to prominence in Italia 90 and even has a stab at getting stuck into the Old Firm rivalry.

This book is the more incredible when you consider how much the game, and indeed the world, has changed since its publication in 1994. Any chance of a sequel Kuper? We’ve yet to find a better mix of football, politics and travel.

The Beautiful Game? By David Conn

If ever you need a slap in the face as to the direction that football has been heading for some time now, this is the book to read. Investigative reporter Conn delivers a stunningly in-depth look at how money, greed and failure from the game’s leaders is failing the average fan. Focusing on Hillsborough as football’s major turning point, Conn tells a tale of the rich clubs getting richer, while the wealth fails to trickle down and puts the very existence of the game’s lifeblood at risk. Among the doom and gloom stories from lower league-strugglers Conn restores your faith in the power of football to unite communities, particularly with his rousing story of York City being saved from property developers with designs on their ground. After reading this we firmly believe that Conn should be put in charge of football, rather than the collection of failed businessmen or politicians that are crowded around the buffet tables of the FA, Uefa and the sport’s other governing bodies.

The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt

An absolute beast of book, clocking in at nearly 1,000 pages and offering an epic story of how football has evolved from it’s Chinese origins over 2,000 years ago and into the world’s biggest form of entertainment. Tying in politics, economics, culture, Goldblatt has an acute eye for detail as he scours the planet leaving no stone uncovered, mixing in stories of the world’s greatest players, managers and those that have played their part shaped the game as it is today. Truly one to take away on that desert island with you.


Carra by Jamie Carragher

As the above selections can get a tad heavy at certain points, we thought it’d be rude not to include the old classic, the not-yet retired footballer’s autobiography. Normally we’d agree with Joey Barton’s critical musings (“‘We got beat in the quarter-finals. I played like shit. Here’s my book.’ Who wants to read that?”) on the genre, but Bootle’s finest son’s tome released in 2008 bucks the trend.

Carragher’s refreshingly honest look at his career brings up a good mix of amusing anecdotes such as nights on the lash with Didi Hamann or Sven’s dating advice and controversial confessions like him crunching Rigobert Song in training or calling off an attack on Lucas Neill in the Trafford Centre when his mates spotted the Blackburn defender soon after he broke Carra’s leg. Carragher isn’t afraid to offer his honest and blunt opinions about the game, singling out managers past and present for criticism.

Have you read any literary works of genius about the game we all love recently? Let us know your favourite reads below, and we can’t let this chance to plug our own OTFD book pass, so click yourself silly right here to get your copy.

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Podcast Review: The Game from The Times

Doing battle with Football Weekly at the top of the podcast charts is The Game from The Times. Fronted by the pair of respected journalists Gabrielle Marcotti and Guillem Balague, it ditches the free-flowing style of the Guardian for more grown-up journalistic fare. At worst this can mean it sounds scripted and forced, but usually the combative Marcotti succeeds in sparking up debate with whichever special guest they have got in. The calibre of it’s guests is what sets it apart from other pods, with Steve McClaren, David Moyes, Luca Vialli and Frank Lampard all appearing recently. Marcotti and Balague even managed to get Lampard talking a great deal of sense, which coming from a fully-paid up member of the anti-Lampard club is hard to admit. By covering more than just the obvious issues, The Game will certainly give you food for thought on your daily commute (or hanging from monkey bars if that’s where you prefer to listen – ah, the beauty of the technology).

If it was a member of the England 1990 World Cup Squad it would be: Terry Butcher – authoritative and always up for a fight.

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Podcast Review: World Football from the BBC

Although we were quick to diss the Beeb earlier, if you go looking hard enough you’ll find their excellentpair of World Football podcasts. Originally broadcast on 5Live and the World Service, the BBC’s team of reporters send in dispatches from all over the world on issues such as African television right disputes, international youth transfer regulations or even grass-roots football here in England. If you’ve only ever heard Alan Green getting over-excited on the commentary box or slagging off Fergie, then his reports come as a pleasant surprise.

Better still is the World Football Phone-In, a show for security guards and insomniacs that goes out in the wee hours of the morning. Presented by Dotun Adebayo and featuring, among others, the BBC’s authority on South American football, Tim Vickery, it covers football from every corner of the globe. Genuinely informative, it has a free-wheeling chatty style, offering the listener nuggets such as the fact that the game is slower in South America because they let the grass grow longer, and that the price of a goat in Somalia £15. Being a late-night phone-in you do get the occasional nutter who wants to let the world know that he can now do an impression of Carlton Palmer reading out Belgian football results, but it all adds to the fun. Being the BBC it’s professionally done and if you can listen to the 40-minute show without learning anything we’d be surprised.

If it was a member of the England 1990 World Cup Squad it would be: John Barnes – David Platt: classy, not afraid to try it’s luck abroad.

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In The Hands of The Gods

This true story of five young British freestyle footballers is a million miles away from the glory of the Bernabeu of the hype of the NASL. Sharing a common dream of meeting their hero Diego Maradona the group busk their way across the Atlantic and down into South America by showing off their impressive keepy-uppy skills as they hit the road with no funding or sponsorship.

Charting the quintets’ highs and lows, where they are often sleeping rough or going hungry, the under-stated style of the film succeeds in getting past their blokey-banter and false-bravado as the group are refreshingly honest with each other, leaving you as the viewer routing for them to make it down to Buenos Aries and shake that famous hand.

The group is extremely diverse, with a typical cheeky scouser, evangelical Christian and refugee from Somalia who has lead of life of crime since being rejected by his mother among their number. They’ve all got a story to tell and a different reason for being there. And there’s a couple of very daft contemporary haircuts in there too for added comic value.

The lads bond together through their shared ambition, but at it’s core this film is less about football and more a road movie about personal sacrifice and what it means to follow your dream. At times it gets a bit too reality TV for it’s own good, as tantrums, egos, tears and group hugs take centre stage, but it would take someone with a heart of steel not to be moved by the final scenes. As far as British football films go though, it certainly beats the likes of There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble and When Saturday Comes.

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