The World Cup Final is upon us, but before a champion is named in the Maracana on Sunday it’s time for us to look back at the history of the game to end all games. The World Cup Final is the single most important game on the sporting calendar and each one tells a different story.
The World Cup Final has seen Cinderella put on the glass slipper. It’s seen the home team emerge victorious in the ultimate triumph. It’s seen the all-time greats ascend to the highest peak in sports. And it’s even seen its shocking moments as well.
We’ve ranked every World Cup Final in history in a completely arbitrary list of power rankings. Among the criteria used was the closeness of the game, how memorable it was, quality of play, and its importance to the history of the sport.
Here now is the 32 Flags list of every World Cup Final…
19) 1990: West Germany 1, Argentina 0
The 1990 tournament is regarded as the low point for what soccer fans would like to call the beautiful game. West Germany won on an 85th minute penalty by Andreas Brehme in the 85th minute. Argentina saw the first 2 players sent off in a World Cup Final and ended the game with 9 men. I’ll turn it over to George Vecsey’s New York Times recap to faithfully describe the ugliness of the contest…
All those United States sports teams that brag about ”winning ugly” have a long way to go before duplicating this game.
West Germany totally outplayed Argentina but still won ugly since it could not score a goal with a moving ball, but needed a somewhat dubious penalty call.
Then again, Argentina lost ugly, since its main strategy seemed to be going for the penalty-kick shootout at the end of 120 minutes, and then having the lights go out and winning the game on the flip of a coin.
The losers had two players kicked out of the game, one for a hard leg tackle, the other for a neck tackle right out of professional wrestling.
The winners scored the only goal on a penalty kick that stemmed from heavy pressure on officials to call fouls that didn’t used to be fouls.
All in all, it was one of the drearier final matches in any sport. This was world-wide ugliness, the end of a four-year preparation by Italy, which generally did a fine job as host, and a two-year qualifying tournament.
18) 1982: Italy 3, West Germany 1
1982 was a classic tournament featuring some of the greatest games in the history of the World Cup. Italy’s 3-2 second round win over Brazil and shootout victory over France in the semis after a 3-3 draw greatly overshadow the final against West Germany, and for good reason. Italy scored 3 second half goals to win their third title.
17) 1998: France 3, Brazil 0
The French became the sixth host nation to win the World Cup as they dominated Brazil in surprising fashion to win their first and only trophy. Zinedine Zidane was the star with two first half goals. Of course, that wouldn’t be the last we’d hear from him in a World Cup Final.
16) 1994: Brazil 0, Italy 0 (Brazil wins 3-2 on penalties)
When you think of Brazilian soccer you think of plenty of flair and plenty of goals. That’s why the 1994 team isn’t mentioned in the same breath as the great teams of Pele and even the 1982 side that didn’t win the trophy. Brazil won an unremarkable final best known for Italian striker Roberto Baggio’s missed PK.
15) 1962: Brazil 3, Czechoslovakia 1
14) 1958: Brazil 5, Sweden 2
The genesis of Brazil’s World Cup dominance began in 1958 and 1962 with back-to-back victories. While 1958 featured the emergence of a young Pele on the world stage, he was injured for the 1962 Final. It didn’t matter as Brazil still easily breezed past the Czechs thanks to Garrincha, Vava, and a host of others. Pele’s goal in the 1958 Final against Sweden is one of the most famous in World Cup history.
13) 1938: Italy 4, Hungary 2
Italy became the first side to repeat as World Champions with a 1938 triumph over the Hungarians. Silvio Piola and Gino Colaussi scored two goals each for the Italians at the final in Paris. The game may be more noteworthy for the legend that dictator Benito Mussolini sent the Italian team a telegram before the game that simply said “win or die.”
12) 2002: Brazil 2, Germany 0
The 2002 tournament in Korea and Japan centered on Germany GK Oliver Kahn and Brazil striker Ronaldo. The two met in the final and it was Ronaldo and Brazil who got the upper hand. The record World Cup scorer notched both goals in the second half to lead Brazil to their fifth title.
11) 1930: Uruguay 4, Argentina 2
The early World Cup Finals weren’t short on scoring. Both the 1930 and 1934 games featured six goals a piece. In the first edition, the host nation Uruguay overcame a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2. And yes, incredibly enough, there’s video of that first tournament from 84 years ago!
CONTINUE READING: Ranking every World Cup Final in history to see the Top 10