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World Cup: 101 most memorable tournament moments


Over the span of 92 years and 21 tournaments, the World Cup has had so many memorable moments.

So every day until Qatar 2022, which will air exclusively on FOX networks starting Nov. 20, Jenny Taft and Doug McIntyre are counting down the 101 most memorable moments in World Cup history. Find out where your favorite moment ended up on our countdown.

101: Messi magic vs. Nigeria

Lionel Messi showed Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho that his right foot is just as lethal as his left, and reminded the world why he’s considered by many as the greatest of all time.

Lionel Messi’s miracle

Messi led Argentina back from a disappointing start to the 2018 World Cup.

100: Wynalda’s colossal curler

It would have been hard for Eric Wynalda to place his free kick more perfectly than he did; it helped that it came at the perfect time, too.

Eric Wynalda’s free kick

The USMNT’s deepest World Cup run was made by possible by Wyndala’s wonder strike.

99: Jürgen’s famous flick

Long before he coached the United States men’s national team at the 2014 World Cup, Jürgen Klinsmann scored a ton of goals for Germany, including this stunner against South Korea.

Jürgen spins and scores

Jürgen Klinsmann set himself up for a perfect goal.

98: Cuauhtémoc’s arrival

South Korea’s defenders didn’t know what to do when Cuauhtémoc Blanco broke out the Cuauhtemiña at the 1998 World Cup. 

The Cuauhtemiña

South Korea didn’t do their homework on Blanco.

97: Laudrup’s sneaky scoop

A no-look scoop pass over the top of the defense with the outside of the boot? Michael Laudrup didn’t play fair.

Michael Laudrup’s assist

Ebbe Sand was on the receiving end of one of the greatest assists in World Cup history.

96: Chilavert makes history

José Luis Chilavert didn’t convert his free kick against Bulgaria at the 1998 World Cup, but he came as close as any keeper has since.

Chilavert’s historic free kick

Make or miss, Chilavert made goalkeeper history.

95: Japan’s thoughtful fans

Who do you think appreciated the support of Japan’s fans more in 2018: Japan’s men’s national team or the stadium staff in Russia?

Japanese fans take fandom to the next level

These Japanese fans did their part to keep the stadium clean.

94: Oh my, Oliseh

The power and precision of Sunday Oliseh’s shot stunned the Spanish giants of 1998. I mean, how do you stop that?

Oliseh’s screamer vs. Spain

Nigeria upset Spain 3-2 at the 1998 World Cup.

93: Matthäus’ individual brilliance

Yugoslavia paid the price of giving Lothar Matthäus ample space to operate in the midfield, and his German teammates watched him collect.

Matthäus’ run and rocket

Matthäus’ long-range effort was one of his two impressive goals in Germany’s 4-1 victory.

92: El Tri tops Die Mannschaft

Mexico’s fans were hoping for a draw against Germany; what they got was arguably El Tri’s most surprising result on the World Cup stage.

Mexico upsets Germany

Chucky Lozano was the hero in Mexico’s 1-0 win over Germany.

91: Pelé’s magical miss

It’s safe to say this would have landed higher on our countdown had Pelé stuck the landing.

Pelé’s runaround

Even Pelé’s are highlight worthy.

 90: Letchkov’s heroic header

West Germany were the favorites to repeat as world champions in 1994 … until Yordan Letchkov decided they weren’t.

Letchkov’s header stuns Germany

Yordan Letchkov’s goal completed Bulgaria’s unlikely win against Germany.

89: No era penal

This one’s pretty self-explanatory for Mexico fans: It wasn’t a penalty.

Mexico’s battle cry

Arjen Robben drew a controversial foul call in the box and then the Netherlands scored on a penalty kick.

88: Bebeto rocks the baby

In 1994, Brazil’s Bebeto gave his newborn son the best birthday present ever: a celebration at the World Cup.

Bebeto’s birthday gift

Brazil’s Bebeto scores against the Netherlands and celebrates by rocking the baby for the birth of this newborn child.

87. First goal wins

There have been two golden goals in World Cup history; Laurent Blanc’s sent his team to the quarterfinals, where they’d win en route to their first-ever World Cup trophy.

First golden goal

French defender Laurent Blanc scored the first golden goal to eliminate Paraguay in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

86. Italy goes back-to-back

Pelé’s Brazil teams are the most famous to win back-to-back World Cups, but they weren’t the first.

Italy becomes first back-to-back winner

Italy won the World Cup in 1934 and 1938.

85. Salenko’s five-goal frenzy

Oleg Salenko already had the golden boot secured when Russia were eliminated in the group stage of the 1994 World Cup.

Salenko bags five goals

Russia’s Salenko scores five goals against Cameroon in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

84. The Secretary of Defense

Tim Howard did everything he could to save the United States from elimination at the 2014 World Cup, and his record-setting performance in the USMNT’s loss to Belgium earned him the nickname “Secretary of Defense.”

Tim Howard sets saves record

Tim Howard set the WC saves record for the USA against Belgium.

83. Record scoreline set

Hungary showed no mercy for El Salvador in their record-setting 10-1 win at the 1982 World Cup. 

Hungary embarrass El Salvador

Hungary scored 10 goals against El Salvador, making it the most lopsided result in World Cup History.

82. USMNT robbed of semifinals

The United States men’s team would have had a fair chance of making their first World Cup semifinal appearance since 1930 had it not been for a missed call.

Germany get away with handball

The USMNT could have evened the score with a converted penalty.

81. England come back in extra time

Cameroon nearly became the first African men’s team to advance to a World Cup semifinal, but they couldn’t stop England’s comeback.

Lions vs. Lions

England beat Cameroon 3-2 at the 1990 World Cup

80. Van Bronckhorst’s blast

Giovanni van Bronckhorst went from uncertain roster selection to national hero at the 2010 World Cup.

Van Bronckhorst goes top bins

Fernando Muslera didn’t stand a chance against this shot.

79. South Korea play spoiler

South Korea’s win over Germany wasn’t enough to push them through to the knockout stage, but it did eliminate the then-reigning champions of the world.

South Korea’s stoppage time thriller

Son Heung-min sent the Germans home in 2018.

78. England hold off Colombia

England’s misfortune with penalty shootouts took a brief break at the 2018 World Cup.

Dier ends England’s curse

The Colombians nearly upset England.

77. Iran’s gesture of peace

Although Iran beat the United States on the pitch, their gesture was the talking point of the game after the final whistle.

Iran sends a message

Members from Iran gifted the USMNT bouquets of flowers.

76. Just Fontaine’s 13 goals

Just Fontaine scored 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup, as many as the last two World Cup Golden Boot winners scored combined.

Fontaine fires record 13 goals

Just Fontaine scored 13 goals in six matches for France.

75. Rivaldo’s shameful dive

How did the sideline referee miss this one?

Rivaldo’s acting results in red card

Brazil’s Rivaldo was seen flopping, but it was Turkey’s Ünsal that got the red card.

74. The Flying Dutchman

With the flick of his neck, Robin Van Persie helped the Netherlands get a consolation prize against Spain, who beat them in the 2010 World Cup Final.

Flying Dutchman defies gravity

Robin Van Persie’s header helped Netherlands defeat Spain.

73. Maradona bests Brazil

Even when Maradona wasn’t scoring, he controlled the tempo of the match.

Maradonna and Caniggia send Brazil packing

Argentina sent Brazil home after Maradonna and Caniggia connected for a goal late in the match.

72. Three yellow cards?

Josip Šimunić was able to stay on the pitch after his second yellow due to a mental lapse by the referee.

One, two, three yellow cards

Josip Šimunić was famously awarded three yellow cards when Croatia took on Australia in 2006.

71. Luis Hernández comes through

Mexico needed every minute of stoppage time to upset the Dutch.

El Matador Magic

Luis Hernández scored a huge goal to give Mexico the victory.

70. Scotland vs. Germany ’78

Scotland couldn’t stop the Netherlands from scoring at Argentina ’78.

Gemmill’s goal not enough for Scotland

Archie Gemmill scored one of the best solo goals in World Cup history.

69. De Jong’s high kick

How did Xabi Alonso manage to stay on the pitch after this nasty challenge from Nigel de Jong?

De Jong’s kick starts wave of bookings

De Jong’s risky tackle raised tensions in an already-intense matchup.

68. Schillaci’s surprise scoring tear

Salvatore Schillaci is considered the most unlikely Golden Boot winner in World Cup history.

Salvatore Schillaci’s scintillating tournament

Salvatore Schillaci had a fantastic World Cup for the Italians.

67. Kuwait’s princely protest

Kuwait’s last World Cup appearance was a memorable one and not for anything the players did.

The Prince Protests

The Prince of Kuwait came onto the field to protest an errant whistle heard during France’s fourth goal.

66. France’s heated locker room

There were no winners in the fight between French striker Nicolas Anelka and coach Raymond Domenech.

France, Anelka crash out

Anelka had some choice words for France’s manager, which resulted in Anelka being sent home from the tournament.

65. Argentina fall short of back-to-back

Argentina were heavily criticized for not being more aggressive with their attack vs. West Germany.

Maradona falls to Germany

In 1990, Argentina lost to West Germany in the World Cup Final and became the first team to not score a goal in the championship game.

64. Red Devils rally

Japan thought they had punched their ticket to the World Cup semifinals, but Beglium had other plans.

Belgium’s comeback win vs. Japan

In 2018, Belgium came back from down 2-0 to bea Japan 3-2.

63. Baggio’s divine dribbling

Czechoslovakia’s couldn’t take the ball away from Roberto Baggio, and the keeper couldn’t stop him from putting it in the back of the net.

Baggio slaloms through the Czechs

Italy’s Baggio scored a beautiful goal by weaving through Czech defenders.

62. Best World Cup quarterfinal ever?

Before the 1998 World Cup Final, this was the most memorable matchup between Brazil and France.

Brazil, France go to penalties

It was close, but France won out in the end.

61. Maxi’s magical volley

This should have been named goal of the tournament the moment it left his foot.

Maxi Rodríguez stuns Mexico

Maxi Rodríguez put in a wonder goal off a volley to defeat Mexico.

60. Garrincha leads Brazil to glory

Garrincha steps up

With Pelé sidelined, Garrincha had to be Brazil’s star player.

59. Maradona’s inglorious goodbye

One of the greatest soccer players of all time didn’t get to leave his last World Cup on his terms.

Maradona sent packing

It was supposed to be Argentina’s Diego Maradona’s redemption tour, but he was booted from the world cup for doping.

58. Zaire time-waste for safety

Win or go home was’t an option for Zaire.

Zaire’s head-scratching defense

Mwepu Ilunga kicked the ball out trying to waste time because of a scary ultimatum.

57. Brazil make opening statement

Not one, but two beautiful goals in one game.

Eder and Socrates’ legendary strikes

Eder and Socrates gave Brazil fans something to remember about the 1982 World Cup squad.

56. Michael Owen does it himself

An 18-year-old Michael Owen stole the show against Argentina.

Owen’s wonder-strike

Michael Owen scored a beautiful goal for England in their match against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.

55. Luis Suárez stops history

Ghana would have been the firs African country to make a World Cup semifinal if Suárez didn’t intentionally block the ball with his hand.

The other Hand of God

Luis Suárez received a red card for blocking a goal with his hands in Uruguay’s matchup against Ghana in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

54. Senegal stun France

No one could have guessed that Senegal would be the reigning world champions.

Senegalese stunner

Senegal shocked the world when they beat France in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

53. Cambiasso finishes it off

Argentina practically passed the ball into the back of Serbia’s net.

La Albiceleste run circles around Serbia

All Esteban Cambiasso had to do was shoot it on target.

52. A storybook start in South Africa

Tshabalala’s strike found the top corner of Mexico’s net.

Tshabalala wows the world

Siphiwe Tshabalala made sure he was the first one to score in the first World Cup held on African soil.

51. Ronaldo comes through again

Spain learned to never count out Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s hat trick vs. Spain

Ronaldo got Portugal a much-needed point at the 2018 World Cup.

50. Donovan delivers

At the peak of his powers, Landon Donovan lived up to his U.S. soccer legend with a critical goal.

Go, go USA

Ian Darke’s “Go, go USA” call of Donovan’s goal is iconic.

49. Pavard volleys from distance

It takes some luck to score a worldie like this, and France had all of it in 2018.

Benjamin Pavard’s rocket

Benjamin Pavard scored an unreal goal against Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

48. Croatia’s Cinderella story

Croatia went from a nice story to a powerhouse at Russia 2018.

Croatia’s incredible run

Croatia defied the odds at the 2018 World Cup.

47. Negrete’s sensational scissor kick

Mexico is home to one of the greatest goals in World Cup history.

Manuel Negrete’s scissor kick

Manuel Negrete scored an amazing scissor kick against Bulgaria in the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

46. A howler from James

James Rodríguez made this masterfully skillful goal look easy.

James rips goal of the year

James Rodríguez put in an absolute lazer right outside the box to give Colombia the victory.

45. Ronaldinho’s perfect mistake

Intentional or not, Ronaldinho’s free-kick got the job done for Brazil.

Ronaldinho’s cheeky free-kick

Was it meant for the goal or not?

44. Argentina create controversy

Things went almost a little too well for Argentina when they needed to win by at least four against Peru.

Argentina’s controversial 6-0 win

Argentina needed to win by four goals; Peru gave them six.

43. Rijkaard spits at Voller

Emotions were high when Germany and the Netherlands faced off at the 1990 World Cup.

Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller see red:

Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller both got red cards in Germany’s matchup against the Netherlands.

42. North Korea make history

North Korea didn’t just beat one of the best teams in the world — they also made history during the process.

North Korea pull off historical upset

North Korea became the first Asian team to progress past the first round.

41. England’s penalty shootout curse is born

England’s now long history of misfortune with penalty shootouts began in their semifinal match against West Germany at the 1990 World Cup.

West Germany send England home from the spot

Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed to convert from 12 yards.

40. David Beckham sees red vs. Argentina

Did Beckham’s completely avoidable red card cost England a trip to the World Cup final in 1998?

Beckham gets sent off

Beckham’s retaliation led to him getting ejected from the game.

39. Fabio Grosso bends it vs. Germany

German keeper Jens Lehmann had no choice but to watch Fabio Grosso’s shot curl past him.

Bend it like Grosso

Fabio Grosso scored a beautiful goal for Italy in their matchup against Germany.

38. The first-ever World Cup

Uruguay won the first-ever World Cup in 1930 after coming back from a 2-1 halftime deficit.

Uruguay wins first World Cup

Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 to win the first-ever World Cup in 1930.

37. The Saudi Maradona

Saeed Al-Owairan’s goal against Belgium at the 1994 World Cup was Maradona-esque.

The Saudi Maradona’s 70-yard run

Al-Owairan’s goal gave Saudi Arabia the 1-0 win over Belgium.

36. Dos a Cero

What’s better than beating your arch rival 2-0? Doing it at the World Cup.

Origins of ‘Dos A Cero’

The United States beat Mexico 2-0 at the 2002 World Cup.

35. Jorge Burruchaga wins it for Argentina

Maradona was the player of the tournament at the 1986 World Cup, but it was Jorge Burruchaga’s that won it all for Argentina.

Burruchaga’s late-game heroics

With just four minutes in regulation, Burruchaga pulled Argentina ahead.

34. Eusebio carries Portugal in comeback win

Eusébio was unstoppable in Portugal’s monumental comeback win vs. North Korea at the 1966 World Cup.

Eusebio’s legendary haul

Eusebio scored four goals in Portugal’s come-from-behind win against North Korea.

33. Müller seals second title for Germany

Gerd Müller’s final goal for Germany was the biggest of his illustrious international career.

Gerd Muller’s final shot

Müller’s goal secured another World Cup for the Germans.

32. The fantastic France-Croatia Final

The 2018 World Cup Final was a goal-fest, something that’s a rarity for a Final.

A Final to remember

France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup Final.

31. England robbed of Frank Lampard goal

VAR would have shown Lampard’s ball was over the line, but it didn’t exist in 2010.

Lampard’s no-goal

Lampard’s goal would have put England within a goal of Germany.

30. Ronaldo returns for 1998 Final

Ronaldo had a health scare before the 1998 World Cup Final, but he was cleared to play just in time.

Ronaldo’s health scare

Ronaldo had a seizure hours before kick-off.

29. Paolo Rossi scores hat-trick vs. Brazil

Paolo Rossi broke his cold streak for Italy with a hat-trick vs. Brazil.

Rossi’s return

Paolo Rossi was a question mark for Italy’s World Cup roster.

28. The Disgrace of Gijón

Germany and Austria got exactly the result they needed to advance to the knockout stages. Coincidence?

“The Disgrace of Gijon”

Austria only needed Germany to win by one goal for both of them to advance.

27. South Korea’s controversial win vs. Italy

Did South Korea have the refs on their side, or was Italy just unlucky?

South Korea Topples Italy

Check out the 27th-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

26. Schumacher’s careless tackle

Schumacher wasn’t given a card for what many consider the dirtiest tackle in World Cup history.

Battiston loses teeth, ribs cracked

Check out the 26th-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

25. Götze denies Messi of trophy

Mario Götze’s goal won the World Cup for Germanny against Argentina.

Gotze’s winner for Die Mannschaft

Check out the 25th-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

24. ‘El Matador’ shines for Argentina

Mario Kempes is Argentina’s lesser-known World Cup hero.

Kempes’ historic tournament

Check out the 24th-most memorable moment in FIFA World Cup history.

23. Ronaldo’s 2002 redemption

After experiencing adversity in 1998, Ronaldo dominated the 2002 World Cup Final.

Ronaldo’s redemptive brace

Check out the 23rd-most memorable moment in FIFA World Cup history.

22. Suárez bites Chiellini

 Luis Suárez dug his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.

The bite seen around the world: No. 22 | The Most Memorable Moments in World Cup History

Check out the 22nd-most memorable moment in FIFA World Cup History.

21. Roger Milla turns back clock

Age was just a number for Roger Milla at the 1990 World Cup.

It’s Roger Milla time

Check out the 21st-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

20. USA hosts for first time

Who’s excited for 2026?

USA hosts for the first time

Check out the 20th most memorable moment in World Cup history.

19. Bergkamp settles it vs. Argentina

Dennis Bergkamp scored a sensational match-winner against Argentina.

Bergkamp’s legendary goal

Check out the 20th most memorable moment in World Cup history.

18. Germany upsets Hungary

It’s hard to imagine a time when Germany were underdogs at the World Cup, but that was the case in 1954.

The Miracle Of Bern

Check out the 18th-most memorable moment in FIFA World Cup history

17. U.S. pull off massive upset vs. England

The U.S. will be hoping for a repeat come Nov. 25. 

The Game Of Their Lives

Check out the 17th-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

16. The birth of total football

The Netherlands didn’t invent total football, but they perfected it at the 1974 World Cup.

Total Football For The Oranje

Check out the 16th-most memorable moment in FIFA Men’s World Cup history.

15. Andres Escobar’s tragedy

Andres Escobar was just 27 years old when he was slain.

Andres Escobar’s tragedy.

Check out the 15th-most memorable moment in FIFA Men’s World Cup history.

14. Game of the century

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better World Cup semifinal than the one between Germany and Argentina in 1970.

Game of the Century

Check out the 14th-most memorable moment in FIFA Men’s World Cup history.

13. Gordon Banks robs Pelé

Everyone but English goalkeeper Gordon Banks thought Pele’s header would cross the goal line.

Gordon Banks robs Pele

Check out the 13th-most memorable moment in FIFA Men’s World Cup history, taking place in 1970 in the England vs. Brazil matchup.

12. Roberto Baggio skies it

Baggio’s missed penalty defined his otherwise great career.

Roberto Baggio skies penalty

Check out the 12th-most memorable moment in FIFA Men’s World Cup history.

11. The Maracanazo

Uruguay came back from down 2-1 to win the 1950 World Cup.

The Maracanazo

Check out the 11th-most memorable moment in FIFA Men’s World Cup history.

10. Iniesta seals Spain’s first

Andres Iniesta’s goal won Spain their first World Cup and second consecutive international trophy.

Spain wins first title

Check out the 10th-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

9. Zidane wows in 1998 Final

Zinedine Zidane’s brace

Check out the ninth-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

8. Marco Tardelli’s iconic celebration

Tardelli couldn’t fight back his tears after scoring the eventual match-winner for Italy.

Marco Tardelli’s emotional celebration

Check out the eighth-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

7. Phantom goal at Wembley

England’s lone World Cup triumph came with a great deal of controversy.

The Wembley Goal.

Check out the seventh-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

6. Germany 7, Brazil 1

 Brazil was humiliated by Germany on home soil.

Die Mannschaft routs Brazil

Check out the sixth-most memorable moment in World Cup history, this one taking place in 2014 between Brazil and Germany. See what happened here!

5. Zidane headbutts Materazzi

Materazzi made an off-color remark about Zidane’s sister.

The Headbutt: No. 5 | The Most Memorable Moments in World Cup History

Check out the 5th-most memorable moment in World Cup history, this one taking place in 2006 between France and Italy. See what happened here!

4. Pelé’s legend begins

Pelé became a global icon at the 1958 World Cup.

Pele’s legend is born

Check out the 4th-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

3. The ‘Hand of God’

Maradona scored two goals in the 1986 World Cup  quarterfinals — the first was with his fist.

The Hand Of God

Check out the third-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

2. Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’

This was the other.

Goal of the Century

Check out the 2nd-most memorable moment in World Cup history.

This page will be updated every day through the start of the World Cup on Nov. 20.

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