World Cup 2014: With the last eight starting tomorrow, we look back at the six best quarter-finals in the tournament's history
England even make an appearance, though it all ended in tears
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Thursday 03 July 2014
This year's World Cup has thrown up some quite brilliant contests in the last eight. Two European powerhouses in France and Germany will go head-to-head, while the best two players of the tournament so far, James Rodriguez and Neymar, are pitted against each other.
That's just on Friday. Saturday the tournament's true underdogs Costa Rica will look to upset the Netherlands while Lionel Messi will look to take one more step to true greatness against the dark horses, Belgium.
We look back at the six best quarter-finals in World Cup history.
1954: Austria 7 Switzerland 5
Switzerland hosted the 1954 World Cup but in this quarter-final they were upset by their neighbours Austria. The 7-5 victory is the highest scoring game in World Cup finals history, the teams went into half-time with Austria already leading 5-4. There were hat-tricks on both sides, for Austria’s Theodor Wagner as well as one for Switzerland's Josef Hugi, and if this end-to-end encounter had been played out by two of the 'bigger' nations in world football then we may all know it as the best game in World Cup history.
1958: Brazil 1 Wales 0
A game that was low key in terms of a spectacle still provided the brightest of sparks; that spark was Pele. A young, fresh faced Brazilian bagged the winner in this quarter-final over Wales, he then scored a hat-trick in a semi-final win over France and a further brace in victory against the tournament hosts, Sweden, in the final. Pele would go on to win another two of his remaining four World Cup’s, and the legacy all started in this quarter-final against Wales, when he was aged just a mere 17. Pele (left) burst onto the world scene as a 17-year-old in 1958
1966: Portugal 5 North Korea 3
Perhaps one of the most bizarre games in football history. A highly favoured Portugal side, led by the famous Eusebio, found themselves 3-0 down to North Korea in 25 minutes at Everton’s Goodson Park. In a dramatic comeback four Eusebio goals put the Portuguese team back ahead, and a fifth was added by Jose Augusto, to dash North Korean dreams and round up an eight goal thriller that showed the unpredictable nature of the beautiful game.
1986: Argentina 2 England 1
Not only one of the most famous World Cup quarter-finals, but one of the most famous matches of all time. This fixture lives on because of one man: Diego Maradona. On that hot, sunny day in Mexico City, the world was treated to the sublime skill and finesse of the little Argentine. Arguably the greatest goal in history, after possessing the ball in his own half, Maradona waltzed his way past every English body before effortlessly slotting into an empty net. However, this match is most remembered by the English for Maradona’s first goal. The ugly side of Maradona, the 'Hand of God'.
1994: Brazil 3 Netherlands 2
This thrilling encounter between two heavyweights had twists and turns, but finished with victory for the eventual winners. Brazil had not won the coveted trophy in 24 years, but had the brilliant Romario and Bebeto in their ranks. The two combined for the opening goal, with Romario finishing off a nice move. Bebeto rounded the Dutch keeper for the second, before performing his unforgettable 'rock the cradle' celebration. The tenacious Netherlands refused to lie down and die, however, and responded instantly through a young Dennis Bergkamp. This spurred on the Oranje and it was not long before Aron Winter netted an equaliser to set up an exciting finish. It was going to take some Brazilian magic to regain the lead, and that is exactly what occurred. Branco stepped up to curl home a 30-yard free-kick and send the South Americans into the last four. Bebeto celebrates against the Netherlands with his rock the cradle celebration
1998: Netherlands 2 Argentina 1
Many had Argentina down as favourites to win outright in France and with an array of talent, boasting Javier Zanetti, Juan Sebastian Veron and Gabriel Batistuta, it does not come as a surprise. However, this game will always go down in the history books for showcasing to the world the undeniable genius of Dennis Bergkamp. With extra-time imminent, Bergkamp was to produce a moment of pure magic. Frank de Boer launched the ball half the length of the pitch towards the Dutchman on the edge of the Argentine box. Bergkamp brought it under control meticulously with his first touch, leaving Roberto Ayala for dead with his second, before finishing off the move in exemplary fashion with his third. Simply stunning.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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