The best World Cup finals ever

James Cormack
Jack Gallagher
Pele is held aloft after the 1970 World Cup final
Pele is held aloft after the 1970 World Cup final / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages
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The Lusail Iconic Stadium in Doha plays host to the 22nd FIFA World Cup Final as two nations attempt to inscribe themselves into football history.

For first timers or regulars, the occasion is just as grand; just as significant.

Football's ultimate game, however, has often disappointed over the years. With the two finalists so close to reaching the pinnacle, the primary focus is typically avoiding defeat as opposed to winning the game.

Nevertheless, some finals over the years have bucked that trend. Here are 90min's top 10 World Cup finals of all-time.


10. France 3-0 Brazil - 1998

Soccer - 1998 World Cup - Final - France vs Brazil
Zidane bagged two / Dimitri Iundt/GettyImages

The final that was supposed to be the 'Ronaldo vs. Zinedine Zidane final' ended up being the 'Zinedine Zidane final' thanks to Ronaldo's health issues pre-game and Zidane's two goals.

The French midfielder headed home two fantastic goals in the first half, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Ronaldo would have his moment four years later, scoring a brace in the 2002 final.


9. West Germany 2-1 Netherlands - 1974

Franz Beckenbauer, Helmut Schoen
West Germany won the World Cup / Getty Images/GettyImages

The first post-Jules Rimet trophy winners were West Germany, who bested a brilliant Johan Cruyff-led Netherlands team in the final.

And what a final it was.

Cruyff's mazy run in the first minute led to the Dutch winning a penalty which was scored by Johan Neeskens. In true German fashion however, they came roaring back through a Paul Breitner spot kick and the most Gerd Muller goal you'll ever see in your life.


8. Argentina 3-1 Netherlands - 1978

Ruud Krol, Mario Kempes, Daniel Bertoni, Wim Suurbier
Kempes celebrating / STAFF/GettyImages

Was the 1978 World Cup fixed? That's not for us to say, but it's a bit suspicious that Argentina needed to beat Peru by four clear goals in order to advance to the final in their General Jorge Rafael Videla led country and won the game 6-0...

That 'win' set up a final meeting with the Netherlands at Estadio Monumental, and it proved to be a rather brilliant final.

Argentina, as they tend to do in finals, took the lead and then were pegged back by a late Dick Nanninga goal.

In extra time Argentina would then find two crucial goals to earn the win - one coming from the legendary Mario Kempes.


7. Italy 1-1 France (Italy win 5-3 on pens) - 2006

Zinedine Zidane, Horacio Elizondo, Gennaro Gattuso
Zidane was sent off in his final game / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

Looks, let's call a spade a spade: from a pure footballing perspective, this wasn't a particularly brilliant game.

What it did have, however, is memorable moments.

The main one was obviously Zinedine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi and getting sent off in his final game ever.

That's one of those 'where were you when...?' football moments that we all remember gawking at, being amazed at what had just happened.


6. Argentina 3-2 West Germany - 1986

Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona lifting the trophy / El Grafico/GettyImages

The image above is of one of the most significant moments in footballing history - Diego Maradona's crowning achievement.

The Argentine legend was in otherworldly form in 1986, perhaps the greatest form we've ever seen from a footballer, scoring the two most famous goals ever in the quarter-final vs. England and then adding another two in the semi-final clash with Belgium.

Although he didn't score in the final itself, he did set up the dramatic winner scored by Jorge Burruchaga in the 84th minute.

Argentina had taken a 2-0 lead in the final before being pegged back with two quickfire goals from West Germany (sound familiar?). With the game in the balance, a wonderful through ball from Maradona to Burrachaga and the midfielder's cool finish would make it 3-2 and win the Argentine's their second of three World Cups.


5. Brazil 4-1 Italy - 1970

Tarcisio Brugnich, Pele
Pele takes on Tarcisio Brugnich / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

The 1970 final wasn't much of a contest, but the footballing world was treated to the purest of exhibitions by one of the all-time great international sides.

There was no stopping Brazil at the Azteca as they laid the sword down on a stubborn Italy outfit.

Pele, in his final World Cup appearance, opened the scoring with an emphatic header before Roberto Boninsegna equalised six minutes before half-time following a sequence of errors in the Brazilian defence.

The Selecao turned on the style after the break and their imperious second-half showing was ignited by a Gerson strike from distance just after the hour. Brazil, who purred from then on, were simply too much for the cautious Italians as Jairzinho poked home a third before Carlos Alberto netted one of the most iconic goals in World Cup history.

The sequence, which culminated in Alberto's strike, encapsulated this magisterial Brazil side that was blessed with superstars all over the pitch.


4. England 4-2 West Germany - 1966

Geoff Hurst
England's only World Cup glory came after a thrilling final with West Germany / Cattani/GettyImages

England's crowning glory came after a thrilling final with West Germany at Wembley in 1966. We've been hurt ever since.

This was a back and forth contest that had a dramatic opening and closing with a lengthy period of tense serenity in the middle. Helmut Haller and Sir Geoff Hurst traded strikes in the opening 20 minutes before Martin Peters gave England the lead with 12 minutes remaining.

Peters' effort looked for all money to be the winner until Wolfgang Weber scrambled home a last-gasp equaliser to take the game to extra time. Let the drama commence...

West Germany failed to capitalise on the momentum as the Three Lions roared back in the extended period. Hurst netted his second with an effort that probably didn't cross the line before he sealed England's triumph with an unforgettable sequence to round off the contest that was ably supported by Kenneth Wolstenholme in the commentary box.


3. West Germany 3-2 Hungary - 1954

1954 World Cup Goal
West Germany defeated the Mighty Magyars in the 1954 final / Keystone/GettyImages

Bern's Wankdorf Stadium was meant to be the theatre in which the team of the 50s were officially unveiled as the world's best.

Hungary's Mighty Magyars were as revolutionary an outfit as we've ever seen and they appeared destined to claim glory at the 1954 World Cup. Hungary blitzed through the group stage and first two knockout rounds to reach the final, where they took on West Germany, whom they'd thrashed 8-3 in the group phase.

But this would prove to be no coronation as the semi-professional Germans upset the odds after falling behind 2-0 in the opening exchanges. The spirited West Germany swiftly restored parity, however, before Helmut Rahn expertly netted the winner six minutes from time.

The victory was dubbed the 'Miracle of Bern' in Germany in what's regarded as one of the most significant events in the country's sporting history. As for Hungary, that generation-defining side would never come so close to achieving the feat their majesty deserved again.


2. Uruguay 2-1 Brazil - 1950

Just the 173,850 (officially) crammed into the Maracana to watch the 1950 World Cup final between Uruguay and hosts Brazil with every single onlooker expecting a comfortable Selecao triumph.

Uruguay had flattered to deceive on their way to the final while Brazil had purred. Such was the confidence of the host nation that many had declared them "future champions" in the build-up to the contest.

Brazil's arrogance inspired the Uruguayans, who were intent on roughing up their opponents as the game kicked off. After a goalless first half, Brazil took the lead two minutes after the restart through Friaça but it was this goal that completely altered the contest in the worst way possible for the hosts.

Uruguay took full control thereafter as Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalised 66 minutes in before Alcides Ghiggia's effort snuck under Barbosa to give Uruguay the lead 11 minutes from time. Silence descended upon the Maracana as the shell-shocked Brazilians failed to muster any sort of momentum in the closing stages.

The defeat, until 2014, was regarded as the most traumatic in Brazilian football history.


1. Argentina 3-3 France (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties) - 2022

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi fired Argentina into the lead twice / Julian Finney/GettyImages

It's rare in sport that two absolute goliaths of the game go at it with everything on the line and the game itself lives up to the billing and more.

But when Lionel Messi and Argentina took on Kylian Mbappe and France in the final of the 2022 World Cup it felt like peak Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final. It felt like Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen in the final race of the 2021 Formula 1 season and it felt like Ben Stokes and England vs Australia in 2019 Ashes. Unbelievable theatre from the absolute best in the business.

Messi and Mbappe were the two standout players - one the greatest player to have ever lived and the other the young pretender to the throne, primed to become the greatest striker to have ever walked the Earth - for Argentina and France, both carrying the weight of their nation on their shoulders.

Messi struck first from the penalty spot, coolly sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way, before a filthy flick with the outside of his left boot set Argentina on their way to a 2-0 lead.

But with 10 minutes to go, Mbappe channelled his inner Nadal. First, he scored from the penalty spot after a needless foul from Nicolas Otamendi, before he rifled in a quite sensational volley past the despairing dive of Emi Martinez just a minute later. Cue pandemonium.

Not to be outdone, Messi restored the lead in extra-time, sending the thousands of Argentina supporters inside the stadium, and indeed around the world, into a frenzy. But Mbappe, like all great champions, reached down from within and slotted home yet another penalty with a calmness and quality that defied his tender years.

Both scored their penalties in the shootout that followed, before Martinez cemented his own status as an Argentine hero by saving Kingsley Coman's penalty in addition to doing enough to get into the head of young Aurelien Tchouameni, who screwed his penalty wide.

Gonzalo Montiel sealed the deal with Argentina's fourth penalty, ending the greatest World Cup final ever played.

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