In all the globe there is one sport that is on the lips of every man, woman and child, year in and year out. With over three and a half billion fans, near half the world’s population, Football ranks in as the most popular sport. It has been the cause of much controversy and friendship and has seen the world gather together once a year in peaceful competition to see which nation’s elite team is the greatest.
As an American, third party as it comes in the world of Football, I find myself awestruck by the spectacle taking place during this year’s FIFA World Cup and can’t help but yearn for more. So with FIFA fever in my blood I have dug into vault after vault of archival footage searching for the most epic games of the past century. What follows are my findings for the three greatest matches of Football ever played.
#3 Italy vs. Brazil 1982: Final second round group stage match for Group C in the 1982 FIFA World Cup
If ever an unstoppable force met an immovable object, this was that time. This game saw the legendary 1982 Brazilian offence face off against staunch lines of Italian defenders. It was to ultimately be the match that determined which of these unparalleled teams would be the unrivaled contenders for total victory.
The Brazilian team was by far the favorite and expected to keep the Italian team pinned on their side of the field the whole game. However, hubris may have cost the South Americans for in the opening minutes of the game, Italy pressed hard into Brazilian territory and scored the first goal with a beautiful cross to the soon to be legendary, Paolo Rossi.
What followed was a pair of elegant goals from Brazil’s offence and a tying goal which broke through their more fallible defense. The two teams battled fiercely and it looked as though Brazil may move on with a draw. That was until the seventy five minute mark when Paolo Rossi returned to make his third and final goal of the game, ending Brazil’s dominance and cementing the 1982 Italians in World Cup stardom.
#2 West Germany vs. France 1982: Semi-final match 1982 FIFA World Cup
Noted as the first time that a shootout ever determined a victory in World Cup history, this game saw two teams fight tooth and claw for a chance to face off against the aforementioned Italians.
Both teams were equally matched out the gate and despite West Germany’s star player, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, being benched for the start due to a hamstring injury they managed to score the first goal. Unfortunately this lead was not to last, for at twenty seven minutes, Bernd Förster was whistled for holding Dominique Rocheteau and France were awarded a penalty, which was converted.
The score remained tied to the end of regulation and the teams were forced into two extra fifteen minute sets. This is the point when the game became brutally intense as all players expended the last of their energy to ploy for their nation’s victory. In the second minute of the first period, Marius Tresor struck a volley from a deflected free kick outside the goal box to put France in the lead. Rummenigge was able to enter the game minutes later; despite this, France scored again at the ninety-eight minute mark, giving France a two point advantage. West Germany lost no time in retaliating and soon evened the game with a pair of close range goals.
This is when the game deciding shootout began. France converted their first kick, which was answered promptly by West Germany. France and West Germany both converted again but in the third round the Germans failed to convert which gave France the lead. However, in the fourth round France failed to capitalize and West Germany scored, tying the game again. Another round of tying shots moved the shootout to sudden death. In this epic final round, Maxime Bossis of France had his shot blocked which provided the West German’s their opening. Horst Hrubesch converted the final kick to give West Germany the win in this heart attack inducing match.
#1 Italy vs. West Germany 1970: FIFA World Cup
The title “Game of the Century” hangs above this game’s record in the annals of Football legend. It boasts the greatest number of overtime goals, at a lofty five, and has remained the overwhelming favorite of all professional football matches ever conducted on television. If one was to watch the regulation play of this game, they might turn away as the match appeared to head into a one to one draw. However, for those who have had the privilege to sit and watch the awe inspiring spectacle that was overtime, there would certainly be no doubt that this was the finest exhibition of football ever put to film. It is not something that can be put to the words of humble men and must be seen to be believed.
Now I am certain that I may have incurred some hateful words from a Manchester United fan or some AC Millan supporter but I feel that I have done justice here to the mighty game of football. For despite my Yankee heritage, I can respect a damn good sport, no matter what the shape of its ball, and soccer, I mean football, tops my pyramid of entertainment with these three incredible matches.