30 Most Iconic Photos in World Football History
Some moments in soccer will be remembered forever.
We'll remember them because we might have heard the story, we might have watched it unfold on our television screens, or we might have even been there when that unforgettable moment took place. But sometimes, we will remember them forever because we have the pictures right there in front of us.
Some photos have become as much a part of football history as the players and achievements that they often portray.
Read on to see the 30 most iconic photos in the history of the most beautiful game in the world.
30. 1956 FA Cup Final (Look to the Far Right)
Kicking off this list is the 1956 FA Cup, which very few people in the world would consider to be an "iconic" moment in world football history.
But take a look at the man on the far right—Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann—who injured his neck with around 15 minutes remaining in the match.
He play the remaining 15 minutes in excruciating pain and found out three days later that he had indeed broken a bone in his neck and dislocated five vertebrae.
This photo, therefore, becomes an iconic imagine about the sheer grit and toughness that we only wished footballers had in the game today.
29. Vinnie Jones Gives Gazza a Love Tap
Photo via 1.bp.blogspot.com
Vinnie Jones might have built a reputation as one of the hardest men ever to play in the English Premier League, though his tactics might have been a little questionable at times.
Just as Paul Gascoigne, who became the unfortunate subject in one of the more infamous images in the history of the English competition.
Jones was quoted later (via The Sun) saying that "in future when I’m asked how big your nuts are, I should tell everyone [they're] not as big as his heart, because that is the image I have of you inside my head, mate.
Which, I think, is a compliment.
28. Tiago in Mourning
In the tragic death of Benfica player Miklos Feher was this incredible image of Tiago Mendes, who was close to the 24-year-old Hungarian international before his passing.
Feher had suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead three hours later in hospital, but the on-field scenes of anguish and disbelief remain one of the more iconic photos in history.
27. John Terry Kicks Away the UCL Trophy
The year was 2008; the match was the UEFA Champions League final.
The penalty shootout was tied, and Chelsea captain John Terry had the chance to the match and, in the process, name his team as the greatest club in Europe.
Yet in the now famous slip, his penalty would hit the post and give Manchester United another lifeline—one that they would use to clinch the Champions League trophy.
Terry's horror after his penalty miss will no doubt remain etched in the minds of Chelsea (and United) fans for many years to come.
26. Respect for the 96
Stu Forster/Getty Images
The 1989 Hillsborough tragedy was exactly that—a tragedy. Ninety-six people lost their lives in a human crush, which, to this day, remains the worst stadium-related disaster in British history.
And to see two clubs which have despised the other for decades come together this season was a moment that few Merseyside dwellers will ever forget.
This shot of two kids—one Everton and one Liverpool—captured the moment perfectly.
25. Eric Cantona: That Goal and That Face
Eric Cantona might have had his idiotic moments in the English Premier League, but he will go down as one of the greatest Manchester United midfielders of all time.
This goal brought about the celebration above, which, to this day, still remains one of the greatest celebrations in the history of world football.
An iconic photo for an iconic player.
24. Kaka Tells Us Which Team He's Really on
Whatever you think about faith, God and the Brazilian legend called Kaka, this photo following AC Milan's victory over Liverpool in the 2007 UEFA Champions League final says it all.
Kaka has become one of the "good guys" in world football, and this photo might give us some insight into his motive and rationale.
23. Dida Hit by Flare
Some photos are more iconic for the culture in which they reflect more than the moment in which they occurred.
Italian football, at its best, is arguably the most beautiful and technically sound football in the world, but the same simply cannot be said for the culture in which it exists.
This photo of AC Milan goalkeeper Dida being hit by a flare thrown by opposing fans shows us why.
22. David Seaman and Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate had the chance to send the host country, England, through to the final of the 1996 European Championships—their first final since the 1966 World Cup final.
Southgate's penalty miss perhaps started the curse of England in penalty shootouts, but it was this photo of the Englishman being consoled by teammate David Seaman following the loss to Germany that has become iconic about that match.
Germany would go on to win the final; Southgate would go on to make a Pizza Hut commercial—but the moment remains locked in world football history forever.
21. Paul Gascoigne Breaks Scottish Hearts
Heading into England's match against Scotland in the 1996 European Championships, the critics were all over Paul Gascoigne—his ability, his fitness, his place in the national side.
So when he scored one of the greatest goals of the decade, the outpouring of emotion was therefore quite a natural and expected occurrence.
The fact the moment was caught on camera makes it even greater.
20. Cisse Breaks a Leg
Dijbril Cisse—world's unluckiest footballer?
Either way, this is not a good injury, but a photo that has made its way into the history books of world football—even if it's just the worst-looking injury in history.
19. David Beckham Rescues England
England were not going to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals.
Down 2-1 to Greece and needing a draw to progress, David Beckham stepped up to take a free kick—their last chance to salvage a goal and restore the hopes of their nation.
The goal was simply incredible, and the celebration became iconic.
18. Bill Shankly Salutes the Liverpool Faithful
Bill Shankly managed Liverpool from 1959 to 1974.
In that time, he became one of the most successful and respected football managers, and this image of him saluting the Anfield faithful remains one of the most memorable photos in Liverpool history.
17. Dave Mackay and Billy Bremner
Saturday, August 20, 1966. White Hart Lane.
Dave Mackay had just made a return from a broken leg and, in the first few minutes of the season opener, felt he was harshly tackled by Billy Bremer, whom he believed, tried to tackle the leg that had been broken—despite it being furthest away from him (per Spurs Odyssey).
Mackay let Bremner know that he didn't approve of his tackle, shall we say, and the moment was captured in world football history forever.
16. Sergio Aguero Helps Man City Win the EPL Title
Need we say more, Martin Tyler?
15. Paul Gascoigne Crying Mid-Match
Another England penalty shootout loss captured perfectly on camera. This time it's Paul Gascoigne, who was so distraught during their loss to Germany in the 1990 World Cup semifinal that he broke down in tears.
This image, however, was not to do with the shootout loss, but rather the fact that he had picked up a yellow card during the match, which would rule him out for the final.
Said Gascoigne of that moment (per FIFA.com):
When I was a young kid playing at my youth club, every night I used to dream about playing football at the World Cup.
I lived that dream in Italy, but when I was shown the yellow card I knew it had come to an end. When things are good and I can see they’re about to end I get scared, really scared.
I couldn’t help but cry that night...
14. Nelson Mandela with the World Cup
Nelson Mandela's smile with the World Cup trophy is the perfect representation of what the former South African president was able to achieve in his life; 30 years ago, he would not have been allowed anywhere near the stadium, let alone the trophy.
We, like Mandela, should be proud of just how far we have come.
13. Marco Matarazzi and Rui Costa
So many fascinating elements at work in this photo provide another wonderful insight into the life and drama of Italian domestic football.
Fans are so angry and violent against the opposing fans that they throw flares on the pitch whilst the players themselves—from Inter Milan and AC Milan, respectively—wait together so that they can get back to playing football.
12. Maradona Is on Top of the World
Here's Diego Maradona with the 1986 World Cup trophy.
He might have used some unconventional tactics to get his team to the trophy, but Maradona's legacy took a huge step forward when he took Argentina all the way to glory.
The greatest prize for arguably the greatest footballer in history.
11. Wayne Rooney's Memorable Finish
Some goals you just can't make up.
Against Manchester City, at Old Trafford, tied at 1-1, Wayne Rooney scored the most remarkable goal of his career and gave the Red Devils the win in the process.
Perhaps the only thing greater than the goal itself was this incredible photo, which captured the moment in the history books of world football forever.
10. Eric Cantona's Kung Fu Kick
Eric Cantona had been sent off and was on his way off the pitch, when something that a fan had said managed to catch his attention.
It would spark an unprecedented response from the Manchester United star, who went over the advertising boards to kick the fan in the leg.
Call me crazy?
9. Brandi Chastain's Celebration
Brandi Chastain's memorable celebration in the 1999 World Cup final was plastered across newspaper and across the bedroom of teenage boys for many years to come.
Her penalty goal gave the United States victory, but it would be this image that would dominate discussion of that match.
8. Andres Escobar's Own Goal
Colombian defender Andres Escobar scored the most famous own goal in history, giving the United States a shock 1-0 win and eliminating the heavily favored Colombia from the 1994 World Cup in the process.
Tragically, he would be shot and killed upon the return to Colombia for his error—leaving this image as the legacy and perhaps warning to the dangers of South American football.
7. Maradona vs. Belgium
Photo via 4thringroad.com
En route to Argentina's victory in the 1986 World Cup final was their match against Belgium in which the European nation simply had no answer for Diego Maradona.
Be it against one defender or six, Maradona was simply in another class, and this photo came to symbolize that fact perfectly.
6. England's Last Hurrah
England's last trophy came at the 1966 World Cup.
This image, then, of Bobby Moore being carried off the field, trophy in hand, becomes more and more iconic as the Three Lions continue their trophy drought.
5. Solskjaer Celebrates Champions League Goal
Trailing 2-1 against Bayern Munich in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, Manchester United would have just three minutes to resurrect their championship dreams.
Enter Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, this memorable goal, and this iconic celebration.
4. Zinedine Zidane's Powerful Header
He might have scored a penalty earlier in the match, but what Zinedine Zidane will be remembered for in the 2006 World Cup final is his headbutt on Marco Materazzi.
The French international legend would be sent off and his country would go on to lose the match in penalty shootout to their European counterparts.
Few moments are so iconic they get a statue made to remember it.
3. Geoff Hurst Scores, Well, Sort Of...
Coming in at No. 3 is Geoff Hurst's goal, or maybe we should just say "shot," that would give England victory in the 1966 World Cup final.
With the score locked at 2-2, it would be Hurst's goal that would prove to be the difference, but with debate still existent today about whether the ball did or didn't cross the line, the image captured of the moment would go down in world football history forever.
You be the judge—goal or no goal?
2. Pele Conquers the World
Photo via dailymail.com
Brazilian legend Pele is arguably one of the greatest footballers in history, and his celebration during the 1970 World Cup makes it to No. 2 on our list of most iconic photos.
Pele would score the opening goal of the final against Italy—his country's 100th goal in the history of the competition—and would go on to clinch the Jules Rimet Trophy for his nation, with the moment captured perfectly in the history books.
Said one writer of the photo (per Goal):
The image of Pele's celebration, with his wide smile and the arms outstretched, will always be one of the iconic moments in World Cup history...
1. The Hand of God
But there is simply no more iconic photo in the history of world football than Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal against England at the 1986 World Cup.
Playing their quarterfinal in amongst the tension of the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, Maradona's goal was self-described as involving "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."
However, with the evidence damning, Maradona would later declare that he never made contact with his head, and that the goal was solely done with the hand—thus giving it the name the "Hand of God."
The image and the goal itself will no doubt go down as the greatest and most iconic moment in the history of world football forever.
What's your favorite football photo of all time?
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