The Most Epic Moments In World Cup History

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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
    475 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
    207 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. 

  • 3
    277 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.

  • 4
    113 VOTES

    2018: Iceland Stuns In Argentina Tie

    Argentina has a long history as one of the top soccer countries in the world. In 2018 they faced Iceland, the smallest country to ever play at a World Cup, in the group stage. Their status as underdogs compared with Argentina's soccer history is exemplified by what Iceland's manager said to the media the night before the game: "Before anyone asks, I’m still a dentist, and I will never stop being a dentist." Iceland's coach wasn't the only one working a normal job. Player Birkir Mar Saevarsson worked at a salt-packing factory in Reykjavik while also playing semi-professional soccer. 

    Needless to say, Argentina, with superstar Lionel Messi on their team, was expected to win the game with ease.

    But Iceland held their own against Argentina, answering a first-half goal with one of their own to level the game at 1-1. But the big moment of the match came in the 63rd minute, when Messi lined up to take a penalty kick. The Iceland goalkeeper saved Messi’s shot, keeping the underdogs in the game. 

  • 5
    91 VOTES

    1974: Gerd Müller Leads West Germany To Victory At Home

    1974: Gerd Müller Leads West Germany To Victory At Home
    Photo: Bert Verhoeff / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Going into the 1974 World Cup Final, West German player Gerd Müller thought their opponents, the Netherlands, had the title in the bag. Muller admitted his team was scared of the Netherlands, a sentiment that wasn’t helped by news that a fortune-teller predicted a Dutch victory. Müller revealed, “I’m not superstitious but I almost couldn’t sleep because I kept on thinking of the Dutch and the fortune-teller and I thought, ‘This can’t be true.’” When the Dutch were awarded a penalty kick in the first minute of the game, it looked as though the fortune-teller was right.

    The Netherlands essentially steamrolled their way through the tournament to the final and were heavy favorites to win the whole thing. In contrast, West Germany wasn’t playing well - a fact Müller admitted himself. However, West Germany was also determined to prove that fortune-teller wrong, and they did just that when Muller scored the game-winning goal, rocketing West Germany to their second title and stunning both the Dutch and global soccer fans.

  • 6
    127 VOTES

    1982: Paolo Rossi Wins Italy The World Cup After Scandal

    1982: Paolo Rossi Wins Italy The World Cup After Scandal
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In 1980, Italian striker Paolo Rossi became embroiled in a match-fixing scandal that saw him banned from playing for three years - through the 1982 World Cup. Though his ban was later reduced to just two seasons, the chances of Rossi returning to the Italian national team in time to meaningfully contribute to their World Cup campaign were slim. When he made the team, fans and the media were quick to point out that after not playing competitively for so long, Rossi was in no shape to play at the tournament. They had a point - but Rossi also had dreams of redeeming himself.

    Through the first three games of the tournament, Rossi was a shell of his former self. However, he found stellar form in Italy’s game against Brazil, scoring all three goals in Italy’s 3-2 victory. Rossi went on to score two more goals against Poland in the semifinal and the opening goal in their 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final. Rossi’s six goals in just three games lifted Italy to the title and sealed his name in the history books as the hero of Italy and the top scorer of the 1982 tournament