The Most Epic Moments In World Cup History

List Rules
Vote up the stories that capture the drama and spectacle of the global soccer tournament.

Baseball has the World Series, football has the Super Bowl, and soccer (or football everywhere except the US) has the World Cup. Every four years, nations from all over the world send their teams to the biggest tournament the sport has to offer. Over the years, the monthlong tournament has featured classic FIFA World Cup moments that are exciting, tense, and at times, devastating. 

The 21 men's and eight women's tournaments have provided plenty of iconic moments in World Cup history. Here, we've compiled some of the most famous World Cup moments ever, including the time a legendary forward had to play goalkeeper, one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game, career-defining performances, and more. Vote up the most epic moments.

  • 1
    211 VOTES

    1958: Pelé Leads Brazil To Their First World Cup Title

    1958: Pelé Leads Brazil To Their First World Cup Title
    Photo: El Gráfico / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    At 17 years old, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé - widely regarded as one of the best to ever play the game - was essentially a nobody at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. He didn’t even appear in the tournament until Brazil’s third game, but from that point on, he proved indispensable to the team’s World Cup hopes. He scored the lone winning goal in Brazil’s 1-0 quarterfinal win against Wales, scored a hat trick in their semifinal against France, and scored two goals in Brazil’s final win over host nation Sweden. That is six goals in just four games at the 1958 World Cup.

    To say he was a key factor in securing Brazil's first World Cup title (at 17 years old, remember) would be an understatement.

  • 2
    140 VOTES

    1986: Diego Maradona Scores The 'Goal Of The Century'

    1986: Diego Maradona Scores The 'Goal Of The Century'
    Video: YouTube

    Four minutes after Diego Maradona’s controversial “Hand of God” goal (where he seemingly used his hand to put the ball in the net), he scored another goal for Argentina that went down in soccer history as the “Goal of the Century.” Maradona received the ball from a teammate while still in his own half of the field. He then went on a solo run toward England’s goal, deftly avoiding challenges from four defenders before dribbling around the keeper and slotting the ball into the net.

    It was the exactly this kind of goal that cemented his soccer legacy.

  • 3
    89 VOTES

    2014: Germany Thrashes Brazil 7-1

    2014: Germany Thrashes Brazil 7-1
    Video: YouTube

    After five previous victories, Brazil were heavy favorites to win the 2014 Men’s World Cup - in their home country, no less. But their hopes of a sixth title at home were dashed in one of the most jaw-dropping games in the history of the tournament. Brazil faced Germany in the semifinal round, and though both teams were ranked highly, the scoreline of this match said otherwise.

    Within 30 minutes, Germany was up by 5 goals to 0 - a deficit not often seen between two top world teams. Germany’s dominant performance continued, and by the end of the game, they had put seven goals past Brazil. Though Brazil scored a goal in the 90th (and final) minute of the game, it was nothing more than a consolation. 

  • 4
    69 VOTES

    1950: USA Beats England In Miracle On Green


    Three words you don’t hear too often in the soccer world: USA beats England. England, though World Cup winners only once, in 1966, are bona fide giants of the game - it is where the sport was invented, after all. The US men’s national team has never made it past the quarterfinal of the World Cup and failed to even qualify in 2018. It goes without saying that the two teams are - and always have been - worlds apart in terms of quality. 

    In 1950, the USA and England squared off in Brazil. Some of the best players in the world at the time made up the English squad. In contrast, the US team included a teacher, two mail carriers, and several other blue-collar workers on their team. Even the American coach knew they stood zero chance against England, saying, “We have no chance.” 

    So when the US goalkeeper, a former minor league catcher and hearse driver, kept every single England shot out of the net, and Haitian-born Joe Gaetjans scored a diving header for the Americans, sending them to a 1-0 victory, the game was rightfully dubbed the “Miracle on Green.”