The 100 greatest football moments of all time

It's no ordinary
Menswear Collection

10. Dennis Bergkamp touches the sky

Netherlands 2-1 Argentina, Stade Velodrome
World Cup quarter-final, 4 July 1998

The moment Dennis Bergkamp is waiting. It’s the 89th minute of the World Cup quarter-final and Frank De Boer has just played an eye-catching 60-yard ball out of defence. So far, ‘eye-catching’ is also the adjective you could use to describe the game itself. There’s been quality, controversy, a red card for Ariel Ortega, two sublime goals and a lot of open, attacking football.

Yet, improbably, it’s about to get better. Much better.

In one magnificent move and three sublime touches, Bergkamp pulls the ball out of the sky, takes Roberto Ayala out of the equation and even curves the ball around Carlos Roa.

They said

“That’s my top goal, I think. Also because of everything around it. It’s a goal that gets you to the semi-final of the World Cup, a massive stadium, lots of people watching and cheering… My reaction afterwards was very emotional… To score in this way.” Bergkamp

“What can you compare it to? Different sports? Like running the hundred metres and you know this is going to be a good time? But you’re in that moment. That’s the feeling. After the first two touches… that moment! You give absolutely everything in that movement. It’s like your life has led up to this moment.” Bergkamp

What it meant The most wondrous of last-minute winners. And on one of the highest of stages.

 

9. The first minute, 1974

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG0o7roUjSg

Netherlands 1-2 West Germany, Olympiastadion
World Cup final, 7 July 1974

The moment The Dutch players are assured and confident… even arrogant. The West Germans, by contrast, are anxious and cautious… even afraid.

And, as soon as the 10th World Cup final begins, all of the pre-game predictions are coming true. Johan Cruyff kicks off the game but also an extraordinary passage of play. Over the next minute, eight of the 11 Dutch players touch the ball in a revolving 17-pass move that can almost be described as insolent.

The frustrated German team just can’t get near it.

And the fearful German fans just can’t accept it.

They start whistling.

But it’s at that point that Cruyff starts charging. In a typically darting run, he’s tripped by Uli Hoeness.
Penalty.

Johan Neeskens scores.

A German player still hasn’t touched the ball. And it seems they simply can’t touch the Dutch. This is set for a rout.

They said

“In the tunnel, we planned to look them in the eye, to show we were as big as they were… but I couldn’t do it. They made us feel small.” West Germany’s Bernd Holzenbein

“I didn’t mind if we only won 1-0, as long as we humiliated them.” Willem van Hanegam

“We wanted to make fun of the Germans. We didn’t think about it but we did, passing the ball around and around. We forgot to score the second goal. When you see the film of the game, you can see that the Germans got more and more angry. It was our fault. It would have been much better if West Germany had scored in the first minute.” Johnny Rep

What it meant for the most part, it seemed to confirm Holland’s absolute superiority. Total Football at its most theatrical. As if the Dutch could score at will.

The only problem was that they never did. The assumptive arrogance of the first minute set the tone for the next 20. The Dutch played like matadors who forgot to inflict the final blow.

In that, it was a victory before a victory. But not the one that really mattered.

Worse, it gave the Germans a righteous energy and purpose. And, when they finally applied it through Paul Breitner’s equaliser, it caused the Dutch players’ mentality to collapse as they suddenly seemed to realise how precarious their performance actually was.

In the longer term, author David Winner would even argue that the first minute shaped the entirety of Dutch post-war history. Whatever the truth of that, it certainly shaped the personality of the national team. For the next 30 years, Holland would have a somewhat justified reputation for providing purism but no punch.

And, on a most elemental level, the opening minute would be the ultimate lesson for any team who failed to fulfil their jobs, who let emotion cloud their gameplan and – ultimately – who didn’t take their chances.

Similar moments that didn’t make it Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona, 2009-10 Champions League

 

8. Real’s famous fifth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_717RCKR1us

Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt, Hampden Park
European Cup final, 18 May 1960

The moment Initially, Real Madrid weren’t rampant. They were taken aback.

Eintracht Frankfurt had gone ahead in the 18th minute. And the Germans were a team, after all, that had put 12 goals past the home-town side, Rangers, in the previous round.

As Real finally concentrated and started to crank up their passing carousel, though, they realised Eintracht had no authentic defensive midfielders.

Immediately and ruthlessly exposing the flaw, the defending champions began to continuously work the ball to Francisco Gento. Time and again, he outstripped Friedel Lutz. And, time and again, Real outmanoeuvred Eintracht.

By the 27th minute they had equalised. By the 29th they were ahead. By half-time they were producing a flourish five years in the making.

They said

“It was incredible really. We were aware on the day that this was something special.” Francisco Gento

“The crowd had not simply been entertained. They had been moved by the experience of seeing a sport played to its ultimate standards… the fact [Real] were engaged in winning the European Cup for the fifth successive year seemed equally inevitable and incidental in the midst of the most magnificent sporting artistry Hampden Park has ever seen.” Hugh McIlvanney in The Scotsman

What it meant The ultimate crowning moment. And in many ways. With so many kings. Alfredo Di Stefano became the first and only player to score in five consecutive finals. Ferenc Puskas became the first and only player to score four in a final.

And, most importantly, Real Madrid became the first and only team to win five successive European Cups. What a crescendo they completed the run with too.

In that, it remains the most fitting and fantastic European Cup final of all time – setting a stunning standard for the competition’s future.

 

7. Hungary change history

England 3-6 Hungary, Wembley
Friendly, 22 November 1953

The moment In 90 years of international football, England had never been beaten at home by a team outside of Britain and Ireland. That record helped perpetuate an aura carried over from the game’s origins, that the English remained the standard-bearers, the benchmark.

But, after 90 years, it took only 45 seconds for Hungary to render all of that irrelevant.

Jozsef Bozsik fed Nandor Hidegkuti just outside the English box, with the playmaker firing home superbly.

Although it was the opening minute, it was to remain the game’s most symbolic and significant moment. Even more so than Ferenc Puskas’s more famous drag-back.

Because, although Jackie Sewell would hit an equaliser, it was Hidegkuti who would very soon put Hungary back into the lead. And it was his position, precision and prowess that so perplexed England.

With English’s football tactical experimentation effectively having stopped at Herbert Chapman’s W-M in 1934, Walter Winterbottom’s side simply couldn’t comprehend the idea of – let alone a solution to – Hidegkuti’s audacious playmaker role. With English centre-half Harry Johnston unsure whether to sit or follow the number-nine’s movement, Hidegkuti was left to weave magic.

But, not only were England light years behind tactically. They were seemingly light years behind technically. It said much that commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme was so enraptured by Puskas’s idle display of ball-juggling before the game.

And the marriage of the two traits created a magnificent, mythic performance.

They said

“Wembley was like a holy place for footballers, so there was a certain nervousness in going out there. But that feeling lasted only until the first touch of the ball.” Hungary’s Jeno Buzanszky

“To me, the tragedy was the utter helplessness… being unable to do anything to alter the grim outlook.” English centre-half Johnston

“We completely underestimated the advances that the Hungarians had made.” Billy Wright

“The match showed the clash of two formations and, as often happens, the newer, more developed formation prevailed.” Buzanszky

“We saw a style of play, a system of play that we had never seen before… But the way they played, their technical brilliance and expertise – our WM formation was kyboshed in 90 minutes of football. The game had a profound effect, not just on myself but all us. That one game alone changed our thinking.” Bobby Robson

“To be honest, Sandor Kocsis was nowhere near his best. If he had shown his real form, the result would have been even more cruel.” Buzanszky

“It is difficult to think of another game the ramifications of which stretched so far.” Jonathan Wilson

What it meant More so than anything that happened in the following year’s World Cup, the dimensions of this display created the myth of the Magyars. Without a doubt, this was the team’s peak. But they stayed there for a few more months and into the World Cup, eviscerating England 7-1 in Budapest a few weeks before the tournament began.

Inevitably, Hungary’s innovations would also spread globally too. Hidegkuti’s playmaker role would soon become the most influential in the sport – and also the most cherished, particularly in the Balkans and South America. In the latter, Hungarian coach Bela Guttman would help develop the quicksilver Brazilian approach to the game. Pele, meanwhile, would sparkle in the 1958 World Cup from the same position as Hidegkuti.

England, however, would have many more elementary alterations to make before even looking at such sophisticated tactics. The defeat resulted in a complete review of the antiquated training and tactics used by English teams as well as the subsequent adoption of many continental practices.

The FA, it must be said, never completely learnt their lesson. But they did make enough changes to set up a proper charge at the 1966 World Cup.

And it was one of the victims of 1953 who would oversee that victory. Alf Ramsey was one of six English starters that day never to be selected for the national team again. But, like many young English football men at the time, he couldn’t help but be even slightly influenced by the superiority of the Hungarians.

Of course, England would be doomed to keep repeating history after the 1966 World Cup, with every subsequent landmark defeat an apparently scaled-down replica of the Hungary game. In that, the match proved as emblematic as it did influential.

But not just for the English. Hungary would suffer a decline, and then a complete drop.

In more ways than one, the 6-3 remains a football Shangri-la.

 

6. Rossi’s epic revolution

Brazil 2-3 Italy, Estadio Sarria
World Cup second stage, 5 July 1982

The moment The odds were stacked against the Italians. And not just because of their underwhelming opening games and worse preparation.

Because of the unusual three-team second-round group stage of the 1982 World Cup, a free-scoring Brazilian side only needed to draw. A defensive Italian team simply had to win.

And few would have had complaints if the result went as expected. The Brazilians, after all, had played some of the best football the tournament had ever seen. They seemed certain to win it in the most scintillating of fashions.

Except, when it came to the crunch, they couldn’t rein themselves in.

Just five minutes into a game played in ferocious heat and amid a fantastic, feral atmosphere, the previously hapless Paolo Rossi – just back from a long suspension for a betting scandal – headed home.

The dynamic had now changed. The pattern was set: Brazil attacking in cavalier fashion, Italy intelligently countering.

Within seven minutes, Socrates had supremely finished a one-two with Zico. Within another 13, Rossi capitalised on Cerezo’s ridiculous backpass to put Italy back in front.

An epic game ebbed and flowed from then on with Italy just about keeping Brazil at bay. Until, in the 68th minute, Falcao equalised with a ferocious drive.

That should have been it. But Brazil couldn’t curb their enthusiasm or their inclination to just play.

There was still enough time and space for Rossi to hit a winner.

They said

“We played artistic football with beauty, all about goals and attacking. Italy were the opposite, completely preoccupied with stopping the other side playing.” Zico

“I made Brazil cry.” The title of Rossi’s autobiography

“The day that football died.” Zico

What it meant Arguably the most epic and exhilarating game the World Cup had ever seen. And with similarly grandiose consequences: Italy would overcome recent history and form to eventually win an emotional World Cup; Brazil would bow out and begin to reassess where they were going.

But that contrast would underline a wider consequence of the match. As Jonathan Wilson writes in Inverting the Pyramid, “it was a game that lay on the a fault-line of history and, unlike 1970, football followed the victors, in style if not in formation… it was the day after which it was no longer possible simply to pick the best players and allow them to get on with it; it was the day that system won.”

 

Contents

Share your opinion

96 comments
FrankLovett
FrankLovett

Acquire ideal soccer training! Ideal soccer training is one of the key elements that lead to suitable development of this particular game. It‘s helping the game to grow and the players to be fit.

FrankLovett
FrankLovett

Enhance to be a soccer striker! That makes you a good striker. Soccer training has helped in improving the game is that the exercises and practices carried out in such trainings.

mink
mink

Gerrie Muhren 1973 Real Madrid-Ajax 0-1 "keepie-uppie"

 

thefootballfan
thefootballfan

u missed bulgaria win over germany in the world cup.

thefootballfan
thefootballfan

what about did it cross the line this time for england

ApoorvGupta
ApoorvGupta

I expected to see a list of the best players in the world for the previous year, as you made one last year. I hope you find the time to make it this year too. I love going through the lists and tell all my friends about this site too.

JordanPratt1
JordanPratt1

@ConnaB Okay then I'll get started then :P

Ewan MacKenna
Ewan MacKenna

Pat Devlin asks aspiring journalist during after-match interview if he had stuck his fingers in a socket for instance?

Football Pantheon
Football Pantheon

We were thinking that would become an issue. We had to stay true to our formula.system though, and that scored low on influence, quality etc... Think about it another way... would it feel so high-profile if it was from a fourth tier from outside England? Plus, Carlisle got relegated two years later.

Alex Cooper
Alex Cooper

Presumably a typo (or two!) No. 2 Maradona, does not add up to 23!

Shakir Choudhury
Shakir Choudhury

Jimmy Glass' extra time winner to save Carlisle United from conference football......

Daniel Collins
Daniel Collins

Two big one's missing for me: -David May stealing the limelight on the podium after the '99 CL final. -Liam Coyle leaving Carles Puyol on his arse when Derry City played Barcelona at the Brandywell in 2003.

NathanBarnes
NathanBarnes

How about Arsenal's unbeaten run? Just saying..

Manicowl
Manicowl

I'm surprised the match between Red Star Belgrade and Dynamo Zagreb that we're told started the war in the Balkans isn't in there, or would that be classed in the same vein as Heysel, Hillsborough etc...?

adamrhbrown
adamrhbrown

And so, we come to this list. Well...hmmm. Difficult to say really. What makes a great moment is very much more difficult to analyse than the other categories established so far. For what it's worth, I feel that the word needs a stricter definition than what applies here. I mentioned in my email to you that I think a 'moment' should be no more than 5 mins tops, and even that might be overstating it.

Using The Times' Wish You Were There moments as a guide, I have drafted up a list of what I believe to be the 50 Most Iconic English Football TV Events, a word that I feel works better when you want to measure whole matches (or even campaigns) against isolated incidents - as well as acknowledging the influence of broadcasting. On that basis I can't disagree with much of your selection here, though I cannot fathom why such high rankings are bestowed upon each episode of Mourinho and Barca's tit-for-tat just yet.

Also, let me just clarify how surreal as an English fan it is to see Stan Collymore above "They think it's all over" and beg you to reconsider, simply because we cannot afford him to actually see that!

I also strongly disagree with ranking Bergkamp so high. Obviously the goal is of the highest quality, but how can the even more extraordinary - as well as more iconic and more influential - contributions of Cantona, Tardelli and Zidane rank so far down the list in comparison? (I'm not trying to glorify violence, by the way. Just those two examples.)

Re that goal though, I recently came across a New York Times blog post from the 2006 World Cup, reflecting on previous Argentina/Holland games. Although mostly about the 1978 final, Bergkamp's goal obviously gets a mention. Scrolling down to the comments, it amused me greatly to find the first one by an American sports fan, suitably unimpressed! (Though, to be fair, considerably more of his countrymen jumped in to disassociate themselves from such a remark.)

Last thing for now - Maradona's goals vs England should be one entry. The contrast is the real story - an apt metaphor for both the man and the wider culture of his homeland. Plus it just about squeezes into my five minute limit. (Alright, make it 10, then Liverpool's bizarre comeback can still be included as well.)

Meerkat
Meerkat

Fascinating as always. The major omissions for me would be Heysel, Munich, Superga (although these were more 'important' than 'great') and Jimmy Glass '99.I do wish there were more actual "moments" than summaries of important matches, particularly in the top 50. I'd also like to see more moments that transcend football on the pitch alone; for example, Kepto and Gun: in the era of fanzines, phone-ins, supporters' clubs and Fever Pitch, it was clear fans had a voice and influence on the game (of varying levels)...this story (that it was fictitious is irrelevant) and the reaction to it showed how football is universal and can bring anyone together.I don't see why there are 2 moments of the Mourinho vs Barca saga; can these not be distilled into one? Pick the most important and lasting, include a summary of the other? Nice read though

PadraigOHooligan
PadraigOHooligan

A great list. I of course disagree with the placing of many things. For one I would have had Van Basten's goal and the Cruyff turn higher as actual moments, but that's the point of this, a great read. I can't think of any major omissions as of yet but I will return and whinge about something that pops into my head later, you can be sure.

It puts me in mind of the Orbis World Cup 90 Collection binder which was my first introduction to a lot of the moments on the list.

footballistico
footballistico

Great site. No place to include Thuram's two goals against Croatia (world cup 1998 semi-final ) ? It's a good example of an event transcending a player.

Miguel Delaney
Miguel Delaney

It was truly brilliant. But our shortlist ran to the hundreds. Many great moments missed out. What, for example, would you take out to put it in?

jimm1y
jimm1y

great list, iv only 1 problem. you never used jimmy magee's commentary for the maradona goal!

Big Fat Ronaldo
Big Fat Ronaldo

There must be a place for this. Kanu (ex-Inter Milan, Ajax and Arsenal) extraordinary last minute equaliser versus Brazil in the 1996 Olympic semi-final.

In a crowded last minute six yard box, with his team 2-3 down, he flicks the ball up with his back to goal and chips it over the Dida, in one movement

Nigeria was 3-1 down at half time at one stage, Brazil had a clear goal disallowed that would have made it 4-1, Nigeria missed a penalty while it was 3-1, and Kanu eventually scored a sensational Golden Goal to end it in extra time, completely dumbfooling the Brazilian defence before smashing home from 18yards

All this happened before without me mentioning the sheer beauty, and incredible exhibition of skilled and attacking football from both sides.....for the Brazilian team had - Ronaldo da Lima ( one month before THE INCREDIBLE 96/97 season at Barcelona), Rivaldo, Bebeto, Roberto Carlos, the maestro Juninho in his pomp, Flavio Conceiao (Real Madrid), Ze Elias, the great centre back Aldair and Dida in goal.

This set the stage for Nigeria's equally pulsating and dramatic final against the Argentina team, which had - Hernan Crespo, Mattias Almeyda, Diego Simeone, Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Nestor Sensini, Ariel Ortega, Claudio Lopez,Jose Chamot

Nigeria went behind 5times in both semi final and final and still won the tournament

The Nigeria Brazil game also made it into World Soccer Magazine's 50 greatest matches of all time

And before this, had any team outside Europe or South America won an an International Football tournament??? I doubt

It also inspired the Nigerian national team to record momentous victories over Spain and Bulgaria at France 1998 World Cup, and the Cameroun team to retain the Olympic Football title in 2000 for Africa

It deserves an inclusion

Football Pantheon
Football Pantheon

We were thinking that would become an issue. We had to stay true to our formula.system though, and that scored low on influence, quality etc... Think about it another way... would it feel so high-profile if it was from a fourth tier from outside England? Plus, Carlisle got relegated two years later.

adamabyss
adamabyss

You had better revise this to include Henry's return goal at Arsenal tonight. Absolutely incredible, unprecedented emotional scenes.

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@Meerkat Cheers as ever. The reason we didn't include Heysel, Hillsborough, Munich or Superga is because we didn't want to trivialise or be flippant about tragedies (by including them in such a list in the first place), and we also wanted this to mostly be a 'celebration' of the game, so made a conscious decision to leave such terrible incidents.Re the likes of Fever Pitch, they're simply too hard to quantify. And, again, that's not really the style we were going for. With respect, you're also the first person to suggest that!As for Glass, well the reason it's not included is because it scored low in a few categories (not nature obviously). It didn't really have an influence on the game and, mostly, Carlisle were relegated within a few years!

As for two moments from the Mourinho-Barca saga, well the fact is they were important even apart from the saga: one set the tactical template of the game, the other was one of the landmark, all-time performances.But cheers again! All feedback is welcome!

Meerkat
Meerkat

I'm also not sure how to format comments so paragraph spaces aren't deleted on publication?

adamrhbrown
adamrhbrown

@Meerkat You can't have genuine tragedies on a list of great moments! I would however nominate the rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone before the 1989 FA Cup final (or - as mentioned in the relevant entry - the one performed by AC Milan and Real Madrid fans in that semi final).

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@BenjaminBildeBoelsmand Pearce isn't a bad shout but, consider this: in the 'global game', Baggio's goal against Chile was possibly bigger if we're going to go along those lines. It was his first World Cup game since the miss against Brazil (which, most of all, settled an actual World Cup) and, moreover, he was a much bigger name than Pearce.As for Glass, well the reason it's not included is because it scored low in a few categories (not nature obviously). It didn't really have an influence on the game and, mostly, Carlisle were relegated within a few years!I know what you're saying about the game being at its purest, but it can hardly be described as the game at its "finest"!

Quality, after all, had to be one of our considerations!

adamrhbrown
adamrhbrown

@PadraigOHooligan Yes, I too was surprised to see that anyone would rank Bergkamp ahead of his two countrymen, great goal that it is, especially as Cruyff's turn has come to signify something even beyond the player's abilities. If it's been judged so favourably just because it happened in the last minute I'd say Michael Thomas, Jimmy Glass, and Man Utd vs Bayern all easily beat it for pure drama - and they actually settled the outcomes of whole seasons, not one inconsequential quarter final match.

adamabyss
adamabyss

@footballistico good suggestion. I believe they were the only two goals he ever scored for France. Don't you mean a player transcending an event?

MDelaneyST
MDelaneyST moderator

@adamabyss Well, let's not go nuts! It wouldn't score highly in too many of our criteria like "importance", "impact on history" (although we wouldn't know that for a while).

Golden Ball
Golden Ball

 @MDelaneyST  @Meerkat good decision not to include Hillsborough, Heysel and Munich. Just wondering why King Kennys winner against Brugge in 78 wasnt included. It was significant. Cheers!

Golden Ball
Golden Ball

 @adamrhbrown  @Meerkat The replay against Forest could have been Included as well. And speaking about Liverpool...The 88 season game against Forest, the 5-0 demolition was huge.

BenjaminBildeBoelsmand
BenjaminBildeBoelsmand

@MDelaneyST@BenjaminBildeBoelsmand I probably agree with you on Baggio, even though the screams of Pearce have me in tears every time (and as a dane it's not the national emotions). And with Glass I must respectfully disagree with the decision. To me, it's what football is about.

Once again thanks for the fantastic work you do!

adamabyss
adamabyss

@MDelaneyST It was his 227th goal for them though - a goal that no one ever thought would be scored. And just a few weeks after they unveiled a statue of him. Isn't it even supposed to be bad luck to have a statue of yourself erected while you are still alive (or maybe that's street names, haha)? Evidently it wasn't unlucky for him! He's had a pretty historical impact on the world game though, he was the best player in the world for a couple of years and this is the latest (last?) chapter. Night.