We’ve put together a collection of photos that show the most iconic moments in World Cup history. Whether they were for better or worse, these memorable moments will forever influence the game of soccer for players, coaches, and fans.
Weathering The Storm
After the final whistle blew in the 1978 World Cup championship match, Argentina emerged victorious over the Netherlands, winning by a score of 3-1 in extra time. Exhausted and elated, Daniel Passarella and his teammates rejoice as they hoist the coveted trophy.
A Once-In-A-Lifetime Volley
Mexico played Argentina in an elimination match during the 2006 World Cup. After regulation, the score was tied at 1-1. Thanks to an incredible volley from Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez in extra time, Argentina pulled out the victory. A decade later, Rodriguez spoke of the goal, saying that it “remains in the memory of everyone. More because it happened in a World Cup… I think of a hundred equal attempts, and only one went in. I still get excited about it today. It marked my career.”
Victory For Italy
In 2006, Italy beat out France in an extremely close match to take home the World Cup trophy. Both teams managed to score a goal apiece within the first 20 minutes, but the game remained scoreless for the remainder of the regulation 90 minutes. Neither side was able to score throughout extra time, and with Zidane missing thanks to the infamous headbutt, Italy won the penalty shootout 5-3. When it was all said and done, Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro hoisted the trophy.
Down Goes Ronaldo
Back in 2006, France faced off against Portugal in a heated FIFA World Cup Semi-final match. This photo shows the moment when Patrick Vieira, a midfielder from France, went in for an aggressive challenge and took out the legs of Portugal’s star forward, Cristiano Ronaldo. Throughout his career, Vieira came to be known for his reputation of making questionable or controversial tackles. France would eventually take down Portugal 1-0, but lose in a penalty shootout to Italy in the Finals.
Maradona’s Hand Of God
The 1986 World Cup Quarterfinals between rivals Argentina and England was one for the ages. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona scored a goal that will forever live in infamy. After England’s Steve Hodge failed to clear the ball, Maradona swatted the ball into the net with his left hand. The referee never saw the handball, and it was ruled a goal. Maradona later stated that the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
Beckham Sees Red
During England’s 1998 Round of 16 match against Argentina, David Beckham hit the ground hard following an aggressive foul from Argentina’s Diego Simeone. Beckham then retaliated by flicking his leg and tripping Simeone. Thanks to some Simeone theatrics, Beckham was sent off with a red card. England would ultimately lose the match in a penalty shootout after David Batty (Beckham’s replacement) missed the final shot. Who knows if the final results would have been different had Beckham stayed on the pitch.
The “Tardelli Cry”
Marco Tardelli spoke of his celebration after scoring in the 1982 World Cup Final by saying, “After I scored, my whole life passed before me – the same feeling they say you have when you are about to die, the joy of scoring in a World Cup final was immense, something I dreamed about as a kid, and my celebration was a release after realizing that dream. I was born with that scream inside me, that was just the moment it came out.”
Following a controversial challenge in the 2006 World Cup quarterfinal match between rivals England and Portugal, pushing and shoving ensued between British superstar Wayne Rooney and his Portuguese counterpart (and former teammate), Cristiano Ronaldo. Ultimately, Rooney was sent off with a red card, and the Brits were forced to finish out the match without one of their most important players. After finishing extra time in a 0-0 draw, the game was decided in a penalty shootout, which Portugal ended up winning 3-1.
Escobar’s Own Goal
Colombia might have gone into the 1994 World Cup slightly over-confident. After losing 3-1 to Romania in the first round, the Colombians were facing elimination as they took on the United States, a team they would surely defeat. At one point during the game, American midfielder John Harkes sent a cross into Colombia’s box. Colombian defender Andres Escobar reacted poorly and accidentally put the ball in the back of his own net. Colombia lost 2-1, and Escobar was murdered five days later.
Bend It Like Beckham
There’s a reason someone coined the phrase “Bend it like Beckham.” 1998 proved to be the breakout year for David Beckham on the international stage. During England’s 1998 World Cup Group G match against Romania, Beckham put on an impressive performance, including this free-kick, which he was able to curl over a wall of jumping Romanian players. Unfortunately, Beckham and the Brits came up short in this match. Beckham would later redeem himself, putting away a 30-yard free kick in their 2-0 win over Colombia.
Taking One For The Team
Luis Suarez took one for the team during Uruguay’s match against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup. Ghana was closer than ever to becoming the first African team to make it to a World Cup semi-final. In the last seconds of extra time, Suarez used his right hand to deflect Dominic Adiyah’s goal-bound header. Suarez was sent off the pitch, and Ghana was rewarded with a penalty kick. Unfortunately for Ghana, the resulting penalty kick was saved, and they lost in a devasting shootout.
Maradona Hoists The Trophy
The 1986 FIFA World Cup Final saw Argentina matched up against West Germany. Jose Luis Brown scored early for Argentina, followed by a second-half goal from Jorge Valdano. West Germany would bounce back, with back-to-back goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller, evening the score. Then, in the 84th minute, a perfect pass from Argentina’s star, Diego Maradona, resulted in a Jorge Burruchaga goal. In this photo we see an ecstatic Maradona hoisting the trophy from the shoulders of his teammates.
The Devastation Of Defeat
In the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final, the defending champions of Brazil took on France, the host nation appearing in their first-ever World Cup Final. Zinedine Zidane scored twice for France before half-time, and Emmanuel Petit put the nail in the coffin in the 90th minute. The Brazilians were heartbroken after their 3-0 loss. In this photo, we see Bebeto consoling a devastated Ronaldo after the final whistle sounded. Brazil would bounce back four years later, winning the 2002 World Cup.
A First Time For Everything
After years of falling short of a World Cup qualification, the 1994 Nigerian team, led by Manager Clemens Westerhof, finally made it to the big stage. In their opening match, the Nigerians put on an impressive performance in the 3-0 victory over Bulgaria. This photo captures the moment when Rashidi Yekini scored Nigeria’s first-ever goal in a World Cup match. Nigeria went on to lose 1-2 to Argentina and defeat Greece 2-0. They eventually lost 2-1 in a close game against Italy in the second round.
An Unsportsmanly Moment
While it’s been a customary tradition of sportsmanship for players of opposing teams to swap jerseys at the end of a soccer match since the 1930s, the ritual didn’t reach the FIFA World Cup until the 1950s. During the 1966 World Cup, after England beat Argentina in the quarterfinals 1-0, two players attempted to exchange jerseys, but England’s manager, Alf Ramsey, had other plans. Ramsey believed that Argentina played dirty and cheap, so he decided to prevent the jersey exchange from happening.
Many sports experts consider Argentina’s Diego Maradona to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Maradona became known for his incredible ball control and superior dribbling skills. This photo, captured during the 1982 World Cup, shows Maradona using his extraordinary footwork to take on six Belgian defenders at once as he goes coast-to-coast, ultimately putting the ball in the back of the net. Many have considered this goal to be one of the most impressive in soccer history.
De Jong’s Karate Kick
In 2010, Spain was set to face the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup Final. During the match, Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands delivered what many considered to be a brutal and unnecessary karate kick to the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. De Jong picked up a yellow card for the foul, but the referee in charge later admitted that he should have been sent off. De Jong later spoke of the incident, saying, “I don’t regret anything. I never intended to hurt him.”
No Pay, No Play
This was just one of many Yugoslavia goals scored during their 1974 World Cup match against Zaire, which has been remembered as one of the most lopsided contests of all time. Following their opening loss to Scotland, members of the Zaire national team were notified that they would not be paid for their poor performance. Mwepu Ilunga later confessed that the team refused to play. They ended up taking the field against Yugoslavia incredibly unmotivated, and ultimately lost 9-0 in embarrassing fashion.
Brazil Takes Down Germany
Germany took on Brazil in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final, held in Yokohama, Japan. Legendary Brazilian striker Ronaldo put on an impressive show in this match, netting two goals in the second half. Ronaldo’s first goal, shown in this photo, came during the 67th minute. After German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn mishandled an attempt by Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira, Ronaldo was there to put the ball in the back of the net. Brazil ousted Germany by a score of 2-0.
Ronaldinho’s Magic Free Kick
In the 2002 FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals, Brazil knocked England out of the tournament thanks to an impressive free-kick from Ronaldinho in the 50th minute. From 40 yards out, Ronaldinho shocked British goaltender David Seaman with a perfect strike that somehow curled its way into the top left corner. Caught off his line, all Seaman could do was watch as the ball reached the back of the net. Ronaldinho’s free-kick gave Brazil a lead which they would maintain through the rest of the match.
A Controversial Collision
West Germany was matched up against France for the 1982 World Cup semifinals. With the on-field temperature reaching the upper 90s, the tension on the field was evident. After a breakaway attempt, Patrick Battiston of France met German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher head-on in a controversial collision that left Battiston unconscious with two missing teeth, three cracked ribs, and damaged vertebrae. Battiston would leave the game, and despite the severity of his injuries, the officials called no foul on the play.
Putting On A Show
This iconic photo, taken during the 1990 Final, shows the moment when Jürgen Klinsmann of West Germany utilized an eccentric theatrical performance to lure the officials into handing Pedro Monzon, an Argentinian defender, a red card after a challenge which many believe was fair play. This marked the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup that a player was sent off during a final. At the peak of his career, Klinsmann became known for his ability to draw penalties through diving.
A Scandal In South Korea
During Italy’s second-round match against the hosting nation of South Korea in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Francesco Totti was issued a questionable second yellow card after what many considered to be an entirely fair challenge. After Totti was sent off, South Korea would go on to defeat Italy by a score of 2-1, followed by Spain in their next match, prompting speculations of bribery and unfair officiating from South Korea and the referees who were elected to call the World Cup matches.
Jumping For Joy
The 1962 FIFA World Cup Final saw Brazil put on a dominant performance as they took down Czechoslovakia with a final score of 3-1. While the Czechs managed to put one away early on, the Brazilians would even the score just two minutes later. The second half was all Brazil, with goals scored by José Ely de Miranda (AKA Zito), and Edvaldo Jizídio Neto (AKA Vava). In this photo, we see the celebration Vava put on after sealing the Brazilian victory.
Socrates Scores An Equalizer
During the final second round group stage for Group C in the 1982 World Cup, Italy took on Brazil in what has been described by many as one of the greatest matches of all time. Although Brazil was considered the pre-tournament favorite, Italy came out on top in the incredible back-and-forth battle. After Paolo Rossi drew first blood for Italy, Brazil’s Socrates, shown here along with teammate Zico, put away an equalizer. Italy would eventually win 3-2, eliminating Brazil from the tournament.
There was clearly some bad blood during the 1990 World Cup match between West Germany and Holland. At one point during the game, Fran Rijkaard of Holland began to repeatedly egg on Rudi Voller of West Germany by spitting on him over an over again, earning himself the nickname “Llama.” This photo, which was captured just after both men were sent off with red cards, shows Rijkaard spitting into Voller’s hair one last time. Rijkaard would later apologize for his unsportsmanly behavior.
The Headbutt Heard Around The World
In the 2006 World Cup Final, Zinedine Zidane had scored on a penalty kick for France, while Marco Materazzi put away an equalizer on a header from a corner for Italy. It was tied 1-1 going into extra time, and tensions were high. The two goal-scorers had been chirping at each other throughout the entire match, and the drama reached its peak when Zidane ended his international career by delivering the headbutt heard around the world, earning himself a red card and getting sent off the pitch.
The “Battle Of Nuremberg”
In a match that later became known as the “Battle of Nuremberg,” Portugal faced off against the Netherlands in the Round of 16 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Valentin Ivanov, a Russian referee, was criticized for issuing a total of four red cards and 16 yellow cards throughout the match. Somehow, Lois Figo managed to stay on the pitch after butting heads with Mark van Bommel in this extremely tense moment. Portugal would go on to win the grudge match 1-0.
Spain took on the Netherlands for the finals of the 2010 World Cup. It would be the first time the two teams ever met in the main stage of an international tournament. Spanish midfielder Andrés Iniesta lead his team to victory by scoring the only goal of the match in the 116th minute. In an emotional celebration after the goal, Iniesta earned a yellow card for taking his shirt off to reveal a touching tribute to his late friend, Dani Jarque.
West Germany’s Andreas Brehme scored the only goal in the 1990 World Cup Final against Argentina on a penalty kick late in the game. With Argentina missing half their team as a result of injury or suspension, the odds were stacked against them. The match remained scoreless until the 85th minute when Roberto Sensini fouled Rudi Voller. The Argentinians protested the ref’s call to no avail. Germany was awarded a penalty kick and they were able to capitalize on the opportunity.