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The Finals that made history

With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to grip the world, it is hard to plan even a few days ahead, let alone the coming weeks and months.

One date you can put into your diary, however, is 18 December 2022, when the Final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ takes place and the eyes of the world will be fixed on Lusail Stadium in Doha.

FIFA.com marks the start of the two-year countdown by recalling some of the greatest World Cup Finals of them all.

16 July 1950: Brazil 1-2 Uruguay

Technically speaking, not a Final but the last match of the four-team final phase and a game Brazil only needed to draw to lift the Trophy. The match should have been remembered for Uruguay’s achievement in winning the World Cup for a second time – 20 years after triumphing at the inaugural world finals – at a Maracana packed with 200,000 home fans.

Instead, however, it has gone down in history as a Brazilian trauma, not just for A Seleçao but the whole country. “Brazil is Dead” announced the daily newspaper Mundo in dramatic fashion, though there was some truth in it: two fans threw themselves from the stands and three succumbed to heart attacks.

On the pitch, the Uruguayans were not so much assassins of a dream but footballing heroes, chief among them Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia, La Celeste’s scorers on the day. Their goals had turned around a match that Brazil led 1-0 courtesy of Friaça. Miles away from the stadium, his ear glued to the radio, a nine-year-old boy saw his father burst into tears on the final whistle, and offered him these consoling words: “Don’t cry, Daddy. I’m going to win it, the World Cup, for you.” His name? Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pele.

4 July 1954: West Germany 3-2 Hungary

The question on everyone’s lips when the Final of Switzerland 1954 kicked off was not if Hungary would win but how many they would win by. Thanks to the myriad talents of Ferenc Puskas, Zoltan Czibor, Nandor Hidegkuti and Sandor Kocsis, the Magyars had gone unbeaten for more than four years and had thrashed Final opponents West Germany 8-3 in the first round. With the rain falling hard in the Swiss capital of Berne, the stage seemed set for another day to forget for the Germans, an impression that appeared to be confirmed when Puskas and Czibor scored in the opening eight minutes.

Yet instead of wilting, Die Nationalmannschaft fought back straightaway, with Fritz Walter proving inspirational. Within just ten minutes they were level and brimming with confidence, though only the woodwork – on two occasions – and a disallowed goal for Puskas stopped the Hungarians from retaking the lead.

With six minutes remaining, the Germans broke the siege on their goal and launched a counter-attack that ended with Helmut Rahn firing a shot across Gyula Grosics and into the back of the net. The invincible Magyars had been toppled, as the Germans claimed the first of their four world titles to date.

30 July 1966: England 4-2 (aet) West Germany

Playing in front of their own fans and their most illustrious supporter in Queen Elizabeth II, England were in a similar position to the one Brazil had found themselves in 1950, with a World Cup to be won on home soil, at Wembley. Though determined to avoid a Maracanazo of their own, they were facing the West Germans, who enjoyed upsetting the odds, as they showed against Hungary in 1954.

Wolfgang Weber deprived the hosts of the Trophy in normal time, scoring in the last minute to make it 2-2. A goalscorer in the regulation 90 minutes, Geoff Hurst struck twice more in extra time, the first of those two goals the most controversial in World Cup Final history: a powerful drive that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the goal-line – according to the Germans – or just over it – according to the English and, crucially, the Soviet linesman. Victory gave England their only world title to date, while Hurst remains the one and only player to score a hat-trick in a Final.

21 June 1970: Brazil 4-1 Italy

In the eyes of many, A Seleçao’s defeat of La Squadra Azzurra in Mexico was the crowning achievement of the greatest team in history at the greatest World Cup of all time. Tied on two world titles with the Italians going into the game, Brazil became the first country to win three after a match lit up by Pele’s individual brilliance and some collective Canarinha magic. O Rei scored with a header and Jairzinho and Gerson both got on the scoresheet before Carlos Alberto, latching on to a sublime pass from Pele, rounded off a wondrous move to put Brazil on top of the world. Italy defender Tarcisio Burgnich, the man who had the unfortunate job of marking Pele that day, later commented: “I said to myself before the match: ‘He’s just flesh and bone, like anyone else.’ But I was wrong.”

29 June 1986: Argentina 3-2 West Germany

When the World Cup returned to Mexico in 1986, another classic tournament ensued, capped by a gripping decider. Inspired by a Diego Maradona at the peak of his powers, Argentina stormed into the Final. Waiting for them there were a West Germany side anxious to atone for their defeat in the Final at Spain 1982.

The 115,000 capacity crowd at the Azteca Stadium saw the South Americans take a two-goal lead, only for the tenacious Germans to prove their expertise in putting the champagne back on ice, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller both striking in the space of seven minutes late on.

With just six minutes remaining, Maradona conjured up one more piece of genius to flick a perfect pass into the path of Jorge Burruchaga, who strode away from the German defence and slid the ball past Harald Schumacher. The 3-2 win gave La Albiceleste their second world crown and ensured eternal glory for their peerless No. 10.

12 July 1998: Brazil 0-3 France

Staging the World Cup for the second time, France reached their first Final, against four-time champions and hot favourites Brazil no less. Denied the services of the suspended Laurent Blanc, Les Bleus could have been forgiven for feeling apprehensive, especially with the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Bebeto and Roberto Carlos lining up against them.

Nevertheless, coach Aime Jacquet won the tactical battle against opposite number Mario Zagallo, and Zinedine Zidane was at his imperious best. Thanks to his brace and a late goal from Emmanuel Petit – when they were down to ten men – Les Bleus finally achieved their moment of glory.

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