Soccer has an amazingly rich history of great World Cup matches, and here are five classics you can stream while league play is on hold.
It’s very hard to be stuck inside without getting bored and/or going crazy, but in the face of the coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed the entire world, the most responsible thing is to practice social distancing and just stay home and follow the indications. Being a soccer fan is even harder because there are no current matches to watch — except for the Australian League — but fortunately, YouTube contains a treasure trove of great matches from all kinds of competitions and through different eras in the sport.
Even better, FIFA TV, the International Soccer Federation’s official YouTube channel, has been recently sharing full videos of some of the most outstanding games in World Cup history, and in great quality to boot. You can watch the era-defining squads, the excitement and the passion of fans, the psychological response of players in such high-stakes showdowns, and of course, how the most important figures of all time seal their destiny with their crowning achievements.
These classics are a perfect remedy for our soccer lockdown blues. Here are five of the best:
Argentina vs. England (knockout stage, Mexico 1986)
If there’s a game which is about way more than just soccer, it’s the momentous quarterfinal face-off between England, captained by Manchester United’s Bryan Robson and led by iconic goalkeeper Peter Shilton, and Argentina, led by then-Napoli star Diego Armando Maradona. This was a match that not only created a legend, but it also united an entire nation.
This needs a little historical context; Argentina and the United Kingdom had been recently embroiled in a territorial conflict over the Falkland Islands, to which the Brits came out victorious, a by-product of the Crown’s deep-seated colonial history and imperial ambitions. To Argentinians, this result was a humiliation to the country and its claim to sovereignty, and it accelerated the dismantling of the military dictatorship in the upcoming years. For them, to face and beat the dreaded English felt like sweet, sweet revenge.
But the match is known for what happened inside the pitch. Two of the most significant, controversial and talked-about World Cup moments ever were those that marked the goals that made the difference: On one side, there’s the “Hand of God” in which Maradona scored a “header” to beat Shilton, a play that we can now see it was Maradona’s left hand that hit the ball, and of course “The Goal of the Century” in which El Diego made an impressive 60-meter dash and gave a masterful finish that’s considered the best goal in the competition’s long history.
That June 22nd, Mexico’s Estadio Azteca witnessed an earth-shattering event for soccer. A moment everyone should watch at least once.
France vs. Brazil (Final, France 1998)
It’s always really cool to watch a great team win a big tournament on home soil. The last time this occurred in a World Cup context was in 1998, when the French, comprised by an ethnically, culturally and athletically diverse squad edged out previous champions Brazil in the final, earning their first-ever cup for the Gallic nation.
This clash also solidified the legendary status of Zinedine Zidane, one of the most brilliant attackers and leaders to ever grace the field. He was a natural-born leader that took his countrymen to victory against all odds and adversities, but he was aided by an accomplished ensemble that included goalie Fabien Barthez, defender Bixente Lizarazu and captain Didier Deschamps.
Brazil was a powerhouse in the nineties, as icons Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Bebeto, and Cafú were continuing their excellent run; they were the favorites, and by far the most fearsome team on paper, but Aime Jacquet’s squad managed to take a decisive 3-0 win with two goals by Zizou and cap off one of the most exciting championship trajectories in recent memory.
Italy vs. France (Final, Germany 2006)
If the ’98 final was the highest point in Zinedine Zidane’s illustrious career, then the ’06 final might be his lowest. If you remember, this was the game in which Zidane, in a fit of anger, headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi right in the last minutes, which got himself expelled in his very last International fixture, and made him miss the decisive penalty shootout that eventually gave the Italian side their fourth World Cup, the magnum opus of the Marcelo Lippi era.
Both teams were equally strong; the French had a spectacular attack, led by Zidane, current Montreal Impact coach and scoring machine Thierry Henry, and a young Franck Ribery, but Italy was a defensive colossus that took the match in the dramatic penalties, after David Trezeguet missed his shot, hitting the crossbar. The hero of the Euro 2000 final became the villain this time.
Uruguay vs. Ghana (Quarterfinals, South Africa 2010)
What game comes to your mind when you hear the words “Game of the Century”? There are several incredible performances and classic fixtures throughout the decades, and of course, the most thrilling finals are quick candidates, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. But when it comes to the 21st, there one standout contender: The nail-biting quarterfinal showdown between Uruguay and Ghana, in Johannesburg.
There has never been such a crazy, unpredictable, turbulent, and utterly amazing game so far in the millennium, or maybe ever. To describe what happened that July 2 evening would simply not do it justice, it’s a game to be watched and enjoyed, especially in the way it unfolds from the final minutes of regular time to the insane penalty shootout. You can see virtuosity, smart playmaking, improbable strokes of luck, uncanny blunders, and a lot of cheating. There was only one way to end such a strange, beautiful game, and that was exactly how it ended. This match reminds us why we watch soccer — to find weird, once-in-a-lifetime moments like these.
United States vs. England (Semifinals, France 2019)
When it comes to soccer, The U.S. men’s national team has had a very rough, underwhelming history. Yes, there have been remarkable players, some very promising squads and legendary coaches, but it the general sense, there’s been rarely any glory for the USMNT, especially in recent years, when it didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The U.S women’s national team’s team, on the other hand, is the most dominant side to ever compete internationally, the true masters of the women’s soccer domain, with a legacy that spans generations and will most likely remain for years to come. In the last World Cup, the USWNT proved once again that they’re the best, but they got some tough competition from teams such as the English, who put out a consistent, fiercely competitive 90 minutes in the tournament’s semi-final at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.
In the end, the Americans maintained their supremacy with goals by strikers Christen Press and veteran Alex Morgan. They would go on to best the Netherland 2-0 in the final with a stellar performance by captain Megan Rapinoe, the undeniable MVP of the event. It was their fourth title, a much-needed moment of glory for the country’s soccer universe.