80. Meazza hurts Spain
Italy 1-0 Spain, Stadio Giovanni Berta
World Cup quarter-final replay, 1 June 1934
The moment Under the watchful eye of the Fascist regime in 1934, the Italian players probably felt an element of intimidation. But not as much as the Spanish players in this replayed World Cup quarter-final.
In the first game, Giovanni Ferrari had scored Italy’s equaliser after Angelo Schiavo supposedly thumped goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora. Thereafter, the Italians apparently went about picking out and kicking the rest of their targets, leaving three Spanish players – including the great Zamora – unable to play the following day.
And, just 11 minutes into the next game, there would be another collision between striker and goalkeeper. Meazza apparently barged into replacement Juan Jose Nogues to head home Raimundo Orsi’s header.
This time ahead, Italy would repeat the same tactics for the rest of the game, bullying Spain out of it. Just like in the first leg, too, a Spanish goal would be controversially disallowed.
“The Spanish players were playing practically on crutches.” ABC
What it meant That Italy would go on to win their first of two successive World Cups, with Benito Mussolini proudly watching one of the greatest international sides of all time. Given the circumstances of the match, however – not least the fact both of the referees involved were immediately suspended by their federations – it would fuel suspicion of the exact extent of the Fascist government’s influence on that team.
On a more innocent level, the winning goal would only add to Guiseppe Meazza’s growing, heroic image. Spain would also begin to develop a complex about Italy’s supposedly suspect ways that would last for another 74 years.
Similar moments that didn’t make it England beat Argentina, 1966; Argentina beat Peru, 1978
79. Liam Brady steps up before stepping away
Catanzaro 0-1 Juventus, Stadio Comunale
Serie A, 16 May 1982
The moment There are 10 minutes of the 1981-82 Italian season left. Not only are Fiorentina and Juventus level on points after an emotional season, but they’re level at 0-0 in their games away to Cagliari and Catanzaro respectively.
Already, Catanzaro have been denied a penalty. A play-off seems inevitable. Until, another apparent inevitability takes hold.
Suddenly, a Catanzaro defender handles in the box. Penalty to Juventus.
Up steps Liam Brady.
He knows this penalty kick could seal a second consecutive title for Giovanni Trapattoni’s team and cruelly deny Fiorentina their first in 13 years.
He also knows, however, that this could be his last ever kick for the club. Just three weeks before the Catanzaro game, Brady had been informed by an agent that he would be replaced by Michel Platini the following season – a victim of Italy’s foreigner rule and the Frenchman’s fantastic form.
On the day though, it was Fiorentina who would feel like victims. Because Brady would coolly score, amid all manner of recriminations from Florence.
“Since then I have this reputation in Italy as the ultimate pro. I didn’t deserve it, but I got it.” Brady
“They have stolen our championship.” Fiorentina captain Giancarlo Antognoni
What it meant Brady would leave Juventus with a perfect parting gift in the club’s record 20th title. Fiorentina, however, would never forget the feeling of robbery. Nor the feelings of hatred. It was that day that really gave rise to a rancorous rivalry between the two clubs, as well as the infamous anti-Juve phrase “we would rather be second than thieves”.
Platini, interestingly, couldn’t help Juve retain the title the following season. But he would eventually help them conquer Europe. Brady, as he states himself, would come to personify selfless professionalism.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Maurizio Turone’s disallowed goal for Roma against Juventuus, 10 May 1981
78. Denmark win Euro 92
Denmark 2-0 Germany, Ullevi Stadium
Euro 92 final, 26 June 1992
The moment No-one gave the Danes a chance. But then that was no different to any other point in the tournament.
The Danes had already overcome the fact that they hadn’t actually qualified (only instated after the dissolution of Yugoslavia), the fact they only won one of their three group games, and then the dynamic defending champions Holland. Surely, though, they would see their luck balance out against West Germany?
Except, having built their campaign on a diligent backline – as opposed to the kind of attacking talent that typified the 80s side – Denmark somehow kept out a German onslaught. And, as if to emphasise the unlikely nature of the tournament, John Jensen hit the key opener. Ten minutes from the end, Kim Vilfort sealed a sensational victory.
“The mood was that we would go and play the three games and try our best but we did not have a chance of winning the whole tournament – that was the feeling of the players.” Jensen
“We still don’t understand what we have done.” Peter Schmeichel
“There was no pressure on us at all, we could relax and just go out and play.” Jensen
What it meant At that point, that non-qualifiers Denmark were the most unlikely winners of any international tournament in history.
They would eventually be relieved of that status in the same competition 12 years later, but the victory did herald forthcoming shifts in international football.
At the least, Denmark’s win did challenge many existing assumptions about international football. A far superior Danish side had got nowhere near such heights in the 80s while far better prepared teams had performed much worse in Euro 92 itself. Many of the Danish players weren’t even fully fit. With the pressure off, however, the team produced. Certainly, the team had been the benchmark for any mid-tier sides aiming for a surprise… until 2004 that is.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Colombia win the Copa America 2001
77. Ronaldo’s “grande ruberia” – “the big thievery”
Juventus 1-0 Inter, Stadio delle Alpi
Serie A, 26 April 1998
The moment Ronaldo is bearing down on goal. And, as ever, he’s causing chaos, consternation and panic. The striker has been in absolutely rampant form all season and might yet settle the destination of the Italian title.
There are 21 minutes left of the key game between Juventus and Inter and, although the home side are one goal ahead in the match and one point ahead in the title race, they’re badly struggling with the Brazilian. At one point, Ronaldo has six Juventus players chasing him only to be desperately, drastically crowded. If Inter can win they’ll be two points clear.
But, suddenly – after Ronaldo has sashayed his way into the Juve box again – Mark Iuliano bundles him over. It seems a clear penalty… to everyone except the referee Piero Ceccarini.
He waves away the appeals and, almost immediately, Juve go up the other end. Now, Alessandro Del Piero goes down.
This time it is a penalty. The Inter players go wild, chasing the referee all over the pitch. Manager Gigi Simone is sent off.
Juve actually miss the penalty. But still close out the game and, eventually, the title race.
“You should be ashamed.” Inter manager Gigi Simoni screams at referee Piero Ceccarini
“I watched replays the following day. I made a mistake.” Ceccarini, in 2009
“It’s too late now… The Scudetto would have been ours had we won in Turin because we had just four easy matches left.” Simoni in 2009
“I was massacred. My son was 16 years old at the time and it was not easy for him.” Ceccarini
What it meant That Juventus won yet another title in contentious, controversial circumstances. But this result would also come to symbolise a period in which Juve’s achievements came under deep suspicion – first through Zdenek Zeman’s accusations of doping then, eventually, through Calciopoli.
It would take the latter – and another seven years – for Inter to finally lift the Scudetto again.
76. Santos go from the ridiculous to the sublime
Santos 3-0 Penarol, Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires
Copa Libertadores final play-off, 30 September 1962
The moment Amazing to think it now but Pele’s Santos were almost an afterthought going into only the third ever Copa Libertadores final.
At that point, formidable Uruguayan side Penarol had won the first two versions of the then suspiciously-viewed competition. Moreover, it didn’t look like Pele would be fit for the final at all. And, by the time it started, things just got better for the Uruguayans. Legendary striker Alberto Spencer fired Penarol into an early lead.
But, thanks to the quality of Coutinho, Santos claimed what was then an unlikely 2-1 win. Until events took an even more unexpected turn.
In Brazil, Penarol initially justified their label as favourites by going into a 3-2 lead to make it 5-5 on aggregate. But, with Santos fans hurling objects onto the pitch after Spencer had hit the equaliser, Chilean referee Carlos Robles decided to take the players off the pitch. After eventually bringing them back on an hour later, Pagao then hit a winner for Santos. Or so he thought.
According to the official rules of the competition, Robles had inadvertently ended the match by hauling the players off. So, a decider in Argentina was called for. As, crucially, was a now fully-fit Pele.
It was finally time for Santos to show their true quality. And they did so in emphatic fashion. After Omar Caetano scored an own goal to give Santos the lead, Pele lifted them to even greater heights with two goals.
“We made our way down to the dressing room and started celebrating… But then, the following day, we found out that the referee had officially ended the game when he took the players off… We had to go and play a third game on a neutral ground. It was a massive blow for us.”
What it meant The epic narrative that truly launched the Copa Libertadores, not to mention the legend of Santos.
75. The Panenka chip
Czechoslovakia 2-2 West Germany, Crvena Zvezda Stadium
Euro 76 final, 20 June 1976
The moment Czechoslovakia stood on the brink of a particularly brilliant victory. Since Uli Hoeness had just ballooned West Germany’s third penalty over the bar, all Antonin Panenka had to do was slot home this last spot-kick. Except, you could have forgiven him for feeling some pressure. The Czechoslovakians, after all, had already squandered an even more commanding lead. Having led 2-0 after 25 minutes, they immediately let the redoubtable Germans back in through Dieter Muller’s strike before Bernd Holzenbein equalised in the 89th minute. If anyone could still wrestle a victory out of such a situation, it was the defending champions.
Not that you would have thought any of this weighed on Panenka. He effortlessly and irreverently chipped the ball into the centre of the goal, completely outfoxing the great Sepp Maier.
“If it were patentable, I’d have it patented.” Panenka
“He’s a poet.” A L’Equipe journalist
“I eventually realised the goalkeeper always waits until the just before the last moment to try and anticipate. I decided it was probably easier to score by feinting to shoot and then just gently tapping the ball into the middle of the goal… It worked so well that I decided I would use the technique if I got a penalty at the European Championships. Of course, it was pure chance that the opportunity came when it did.” Panenka
What it meant that Czechoslovakia were the champions of Europe having won the first ever shootout in an international tournament. They also set the standard for any future kicker audacious enough to try something different. Moreover, the win prevented West Germany becoming the only team in history to win three major tournaments in a row.
74. La Maquina’s crowning moment
Boca Juniors 2-2 River Plate, La Bombonera
Argentine league, 8 November 1942
The moment Through the early ’40s, one of the finest sides in River Plate’s history – not to mention South America’s – had thrilled Argentine football. Known as La Maquina – “the machine” – their football was extraordinarily pure. But far from perfect. Foreshadowing many similar teams of the future, they were known as “the Knights of Anguish” because of the manner they utterly dominated games but didn’t necessarily decide them. Juan Carlos Munoz – one of the famed front five also consisting of Felix Loustau, Angel Labruna, Adolfo Pedernera and Jose Moreno – laughed that “generally, it took a long time for the goal to come”.
And so it proved in the final Superclasico of the 1942 season, where a point would have given Rover the title.
Clearly energised by the awful prospect of their eternal rivals winning the league on their patch, Boca Juniors raced into a two-goal lead. But, as ever, River found a response. This time through Pedernera who hit twice to score 25 goals in 25 games and seal the title.
What it meant the final formation of La Maquina, with new arrival Loustau winning his first medal with the team.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Maradona goal v River Plate, 1981
73. Cameroon shatter Argentina… and then shock them
Argentina 0-1 Cameroon, San Siro
World Cup Group B, 8 June 1990
The moment You could forgive Cameroon feeling intimidated. After all, amid the global, piercing exposure of playing the first game of the World Cup, they were up against the defending champions and the greatest player in the world in Diego Maradona.
As such, a little anxiety was to be expected. But not quite that level of aggression. Cameroon quickly cut the gap between the two teams by cutting the Argentines down to size – not least Claudio Caniggia.
And, having eventually risen to the challenge, the Africans soon rose above Argentina – specifically Francois Omam Biyick. In the 67th minute, he met a Cameroon corner to squirm in the only goal of the game. The champions, despite so many advantages – including an extra two men on the pitch – were beaten.
“I was very comfortable until they scored.” Maradona
“Without doubt the worst defeat of my career.” Carlos Bilardo
“Our humility and the seriousness of our players – and the fact we still consider soccer just a game.” Omam Biyick on why Cameroon won
What it meant The first point at which the world turned. For a start, after the relatively open international era of the ’80s, Cameroon’s brutal tackling signalled the horribly cynical World Cup that was to come.
And yet, despite being reduced to nine men, they still overcame Argentina. Not only was it the first ever victory at a World Cup for a sub-Saharan African team but it was the first time the defending champions had lost their opening game.
International football, it seemed, was no longer such a sure thing. Not least because Cameroon would then upset expectations altogether and come within a hair’s breadth of the last four.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Roger Milla embarrasses Rene Higuita; Greece beat Portugal in the opening game of Euro 2004
72. Carlos Alberto’s pass… and Bank’s save
Brazil 1-0 England, Estadio Jalisco
World Cup Group 3, 7 June 1970
The moment What’s often forgotten is the piece of wonder that precedes it. Showcasing the kind of outrageous quality that would seem commonplace among the Brazilians by the time the tournament ended, right-back Carlos Alberto curves an exquisite ball around Terry Cooper with the outside of his boot. At full speed, Jairzinho surges onto it before clipping a perfect cross over for Pele. The number-10 powers the ball in… only for Gordon Banks to somehow get his arm behind it and then improbably turn it over the bar.
“You could have caught it.” Alan Mullery to Banks immediately afterwards
What it meant In terms of the World Cup itself, very little. Banks, after all, could do nothing about Jairzinho’s winner. But the sheer amount of high-end moments in the match – not least this sequence – marks it as a milestone. And, although there have been better saves since then and arguably before, the stage it took place on (not to mention the technicolor it took place in) ensured it set a benchmark for goalkeepers.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Jim Montgomery for Sunderland in the 1973 FA Cup final; Dudek denies Shevchenko 2005
71. Grosso’s late great show
Germany 0-2 Italy, Westfalonstadion
World Cup semi-final, 4 July 2006
The moment Both Italy and Germany had overcome a lot of controversy and emotion to come this far. And, incredibly, this semi-final had even more… except, that was, for a goal. For 119 of the 120 minutes, the two sides raged and rampaged up the field with Italy just about edging the encounter. Indeed, by the time Alessandro Del Piero stepped up to hit a late corner, they could genuinely feel aggrieved – and anxious – at not having taken a series of late chances.
After 24 years without a trophy, a last-minute denial in Euro 2000 and a series of embarrassments in that time, the pressure – it seemed – was building to a similar point for Italy as in 1982.
Just like Marco Tardelli, though, Fabio Grosso would provide a release. And in exquisite fashion.
As Andrea Pirlo collected Del Piero’s corner, time almost seemed to pause. The midfielder then casually – but precisely – picked out Grosso, who swept the ball home in one magnificent movement.
“It’s extremely gratifying, because we deserved to win. It’s quite simple: we dominated the game for long spells.” Marcello Lippi
What it meant Judging from Grosso’s Tardelli-style reaction, an awful lot. Italy reached their first World Cup final in 12 years and, finally, looked favourites to lift the trophy. Moreover, it was an uplifting ending to an exhilarating game.