The FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 is almost upon us with barely a week to go before the big kick-off, as SportzWiki takes a dip into the vault and runs down the top five title matches the tournament has witnessed in its 84-year history. The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro hosts this edition’s final, and it remains to be seen how far it goes along the lines of the following five.
- Brazil 1950: Maracanazo
Brazil hosted its first ever World Cup, and expectedly reached the final in 1950. They celebrated throughout the course of the tournament all over the country, which culminated in a title clash with former winners and fellow South Americans Uruguay. The stage was set for the spectacle, and celebrations were already in order as the entire nation waited in bated breath for the final whistle at the grand Maracana in the heart of Rio. But as if Jesus himself tore apart the script, Brazil suffered a body blow as Uruguay planted knocks on the favourites by triumphing 2-1, and in the process lifted their second World Cup. An entire nation was left in tears, and the famous final booked a place for itself in footballing folklore as the ‘Maracana Blow’ or simply ‘Maracanazo’ which is talked about to this day even.
- England 1966: The ghost goal at Wembley
The Old Wembley Stadium in London witnessed extraordinary scenes in the summer of 1966 as the World Cup finally came to rest in the supposed home of football: England. And it was one of the more controversial World Cup finals, with talks of the Geoff Hurst ‘ghost goal’ dominating pub talks till this day. The final score line of 4-2 to England is rather exaggerating, but the incidents that defined that final happened to occur beyond normal time. After a pulsating 2-2 score line in normal time, extra time was required, and England had the heavens to thank for as a controversial goal in the 101st minute put them ahead. Hurst shot via the crossbar seemed to have crossed the line, which the Germans protested but the referees awarded England the goal and the lead. Hurst completed his hat-trick with the game’s last kick and put an end to one of the most fascinating finals till date.
- Switzerland 1954: Das Wunder von Bern
West Germany came of age in 1954 and announced themselves as a footballing superpower when they won the 1954 World Cup final, a game they entered as the underdogs. They came up against Hungary’s ‘Magical Magyars’, the team unbeaten for five years heading into the tournament and were many people’s winners even before a ball was kicked, such was their dominance. And that dominance showed when they took a customary early 2-0 lead. But the Germans pegged the favourites back and cancelled their lead well inside the first half. Hungary poured forward, while the West Germans thwarted them. And they offered the clichéd sucker punch when striker Helmut Rahn scored the winner deep into regulation time, and sealing perhaps one of world football’s biggest ever upsets. The impact of the match was immense; it changed the German football landscape forever, and put Hungary spiralling downwards. It is famously talked about even today as ‘The Miracle of Bern’ or ‘Das Wunder von Bern’.
- Sweden 1958: The Pele Final
Sweden’s famous Rasunda Stadium in Solna hosted the final of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, and home team Sweden locked horns against favourites Brazil, who still hadn’t won a World Cup at that time. And it had to coincide with the emergence of perhaps the greatest footballer the planet has ever seen: Pele. The 17-year-old prodigy from Santos took the 1958 World Cup by storm and scored two goals in the highest scoring final in World Cup history. Pele’s two goals were not the matter of focus; it was the way he took his first goal that captivated the world and exhibited that Brazilian football was heading for greatness with Pele’s historic bow. His first goal is one of the best World Cup goals ever; Pele controlled the ball inside the box, then chipped a defender and smashed an unstoppable shot past a hapless Swedish goalkeeper Kalle Svensson. The 1958 World Cup had other records to its name too; it holds the record for both the youngest and the oldest goalscorers in a World Cup Final.
- Mexico 1970: The Brazilian juggernaut
The 1970 World Cup final had a tough time getting into this list, but eventually creeps in because of a number of factors. Records being one, and the impressive Estadio Azteca being another of myriad reasons. Two time champions Brazil faced two time champions Italy, the first instance of such a thing happening. Pele became the first and only player till date to win three World Cups, while Brazil coach Mario Zagallo became the first player to win the Cup both as a player and a coach. But it wasn’t all about records either. Captain Carlos Alberto’s goal of a generation will play on forever as it gets covered more and more in tints of sepia. Italy had to lose, and they lost 1-4 to the steamrolling Brazilians. The wonderfully named Samba boys danced their way to the title, epitomised by Alberto’s rocket which was an exhibition of what Brazil stand for: skill, endeavour, intelligence and celebration. Brazil with this win became the permanent recipients of the Jules Rimet trophy, and became the first nation to win three World Cups.