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FIFA World Cup – Most Unforgettable Moments

As the action heats up in Qatar, we take a trip down memory lane to look at the most brilliant, shocking and ultimately unforgettable moments in World Cup history.

Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ (1986)

Where else to start?

England versus Argentina, 1986 World Cup quarter-finals, with 115,000 rammed inside the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. With the backdrop of the Falklands War, this was always going to be a spicy affair. But what transpired made things controversial not just at the time, but for decades to come. Early in the second half, a failed clearance by midfielder Steve Hodge saw the ball loop back towards England’s goal as goalkeeper Peter Shilton scurried to punch. Shilton was a fraction too late, as the one and only Diego Armando Maradona beat him too it. Except he did so illegally, tapping through with his hand rather than head. Books have been written, documentaries made about this one moment of footballing folklore, perhaps better known than any other piece of World Cup play.

What made the moment all the more remarkable, was that just five minutes later, Maradona scored one of greatest (and in some people’s eyes, the greatest) goals in World Cup history. His twisting, turning, slaloming run after picking up the ball in his own half ensured a 2-1 Argentina win.

Baggio’s penalty miss (1994)

It was all set up for this moment. Italy’s Roberto Baggio, who had singlehandedly dragged Italy to the 1994 final in the US, stood just beyond the 18-yard box, to keep Italy in a penalty shootout against Brazil. For context, the playmaker was the reason Italy were there in the first place. His late goal against Nigera, and ensuing penalty in extra-time, got Italy over the line in a Round of 16 thriller. In the quarter final, his brace saw Italy knock off Spain 2-1. Then, in the World Cup semi-final, ANOTHER brace saw the Italians over the line against Bulgaria.

So it all came down to this. The reigning FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon D’Or holder, in front of the penalty spot. But, as we all know, he blasted it over the bar, and Brazil were crowned world champions. Oh the heartache.

Cahill’s five-minute brace (2006)

Look, it may not be an unforgettable moment outside these shores, but any football (or sports) fan in Australia will never forget Tim Cahill’s double against Japan in 2006.

Seven months after John Aloisi’s penalty against Uruguay sent the Socceroos to their first World Cup in 32 years, it was hard to think of a moment that could equal the collective national elation felt on that night in Sydney. But our Tim did exactly that. Cahill poached his first (Australia’s first ever World Cup goal) before a driving strike outside the box hit both posts inexplicably put the Socceroos ahead in the 89th minute. Australia were, for all money, staring down a first-up defeat late on in the clash. But Cahill’s strikes in the 84th and 89th minute – before Aloisi capped things off in extra-time – sealed a first ever FIFA World Cup victory. Goosebumps, still, every time you watch it back.

Zidane’s headbutt (2006)

Later that same World Cup in Germany, Italy — who knocked Australia out in we’re-still-dirty-16-years-later fashion — made it all the way to the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin against France. Both sides scored inside the first 20 minutes: the first from France legend Zinedine Zidane with an outrageous Panenka penalty before Italian defender Marco Materazzi headed home an equaliser. The game remained 1-1 until full-time and, in the 20th minute of extra-time, those same two goalscorers were jogging back alongside each other towards the halfway line. With words exchanged between the pair — the contents of which have been contested over the years — Zidane drove his chest into Materazzi to be sent off in what was his final act in football as a player. France went on to lose the ensuing penalty shootout 5-3, and Zidane was still named player of the tournament. Narrative, everywhere you look.



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