England v Germany 1966
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Pele magic and Hurst heroics: Five of the best World Cup Finals

| 12.07.2018

It’s France v Croatia this time around

The World Cup Final awaits France and Croatia this Sunday, as the pair face off in Moscow’s 78,000 Luzhniki Stadium.

Les Bleus are looking to recapture the spirit of ’98, 20 years on from their only World Cup triumph. Meanwhile, Croatia have defied their size to become the smallest nation since 1950 to feature in a World Cup Final.

Ahead of the biggest game in football, the Coral News Team look back at five of the best finals in the competition’s history…

1958: Brazil 5-2 Sweden

The Swedes may have had home advantage, but they were no match for a Selecao side who featured a teenage Pele.

The hosts did take an early lead through A.C. Milan legend Nils Liedholm. But their opponents came back in breathtaking fashion. In the process, they became the only side to date to hit five goals in a WC Final.

The Brazilians pulled level with a Vava goal in the ninth minute, before he doubled his tally. The South Americans breezed to victory from there, with a spectacular chip from Pele for their third goal the pick of a fantastic five.

1966: England (a.e.t) 4-2 West Germany

The Three Lions secured glory under the twin towers of old Wembley, in arguably the most dramatic of all World Cup Finals.

Helmut Haller stunned the home crowd on 11 minutes as his perfectly-placed strike nestled in the English net. But it was all square six minutes later as Geoff Hurst struck the first of his three goals.

The scored stayed level until late in the second half, when West Ham United’s Martin Peters gave the hosts the lead. But a last-gasp equaliser from Wolfgang Weber sent the game into extra-time.

Hurst regained the lead with his controversial second goal – which sparked years of ‘was it over the line?’ debates. But it stood. He then completed his second, to send the nation into raptures.

1974: Germany 2-1 Netherlands

The Netherlands – led by Johan Cruyff – were favourites to win the 1974 final, despite it taking place at Munich’s Olympic Stadium.

Rinus Michels’ side were the creators of Total Football, and had swept aside all challengers en route to the ’74 showpiece. That included a 4-0 demolition of Argentina and 2-0 defeat of holders Brazil.

Things seemed to be following the script when Johan Neeskens fired home a penalty within two minutes to put the Dutch ahead. However, complacency kicked in and Germany pounced with typical ruthlessness.

Paul Breitner levelled the scores with another spot-kick (on 25 minutes), before a clinical Gerd Muller finish made it 2-1 before the break. And despite a wave of second-half Netherlands pressure, Germany held firm for glory.

1986: Argentina 3-2 West Germany

For better or worse, this World Cup will always be remembered for Diego Maradona. The dazzling and divisive midfielder wowed with five goals but courted infamy with his ‘Hand of God’ punch.

However, it was three of Argentina’s less-remembered stars who secured a final victory in Mexico’s Azteca Stadium, in front of a crowd of 114,000.

La Albiceleste took the lead on 22 minutes when a goalkeeping error allowed Jose Luis Brown to nod home his first – and only – international goal. And it seemed done and dusted when Jorge Valdano doubled their lead after the break.

However, Germany roared back with goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller. With nine minutes left, it was 2-2 and Die Mannschaft had the momentum. Step forward Argentine midfielder Jorge Luis Burruchaga, to net a composed winner three minutes later.

2006: Italy (p) 1-1 France

World Cup Finals are almost always remembered for their goals. But not 2006. The enduring image from the showpiece in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Italy’s Marco Materazzi.

The two men in question netted the game’s only goals, and both came early. A seventh-minute pen from ‘Zizou’ was followed by a Materazzi header 12 minutes later.

A tense and feisty affair, Zidane’s red card on 110 minutes summed up the fractious, gripping nature of the final. In the end, the Italians triumphed on penalties – with dependable left-back Fabio Grosso slotting home the decisive spot-kick.

Click here for the latest World Cup Final odds from Coral.

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Dave Burin