World Cup 2014: Iconic Moments from Past Finals
The World Cup is exactly one year away, slated to begin on June 12. The sense of anticipation is already beginning to build as qualification groups across the globe begin to reach their climax.
The World Cup finals are the pinnacle of any player's career, but will there be someone who makes an everlasting mark on the tournament in 2014?
The iconic moments contained here are rated simply as favourites of this writer.
Zinedine Zidane, 2006
The France legend came out of international retirement in August 2005 to help his country reach the finals in Germany after initially quitting the national team following the 2004 European championships.
Real Madrid star Zidane announced his decision to retire completely from the game ahead of the World Cup finals, but little did he realize what his final match would bring.
With the final balanced at 1-1 early in the second period of extra time, Italian defender Marco Materazzi was floored by an incident off-camera.
Television replays showed that Zidane approached the Italian and headbutted him in the chest.
France, down to 10 men, held on until the end of the game, but Italy won the final in a penalty shootout.
Brazil 1-2 Uruguay, 1950
Next year will be the second time the World Cup finals have been staged in Brazil, but the host nation will be looking for a different outcome than in 1950.
At the time, the champions were decided as the country that topped the final group. The match between Brazil and Uruguay was the last game, with the hosts needing only to draw to win the World Cup for the first time.
Maracana Stadium was packed with a world-record attendance of 199,854, and Friaca opened the scoring for Brazil early in the second half to the delight of the majority inside the ground.
However, the home crowd was silenced when Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalized for Uruguay.
The Uruguayans had failed to read the script, and Alcides Ghiggia struck with 11 minutes of the match remaining.
The Maracana crowd was left stunned as Brazil were unable to claw back the goal they needed in front of their own supporters.
An Azerbaijani Linesman, 1966
Was it or wasn't it? The 1966 World Cup final contains one of the most debatable decisions in the game.
Did England striker Geoff Hurst's goal cross the line in the Wembley final against West Germany? It is an issue that is still debated even today, almost 50 years later.
With the final into extra time after the match was tied at 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes, Alan Ball chased to the right side of the penalty area and crossed.
Hurst collected the ball and struck the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced down and out. England players claimed it had crossed the line, while Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst consulted with his assistant, Tofiq Bakhramov.
The Azerbaijani linesman said it was a legitimate goal, and England went on to win the final 4-2 with Hurst scoring a hat-trick.
In 2004, a statue of Bakhramov was unveiled in Baku in tribute to the official, who passed away in 1996, as BBC News reported.
The Cruyff Turn, 1974
Blink and you'll miss it, but it is the standout moment from the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany.
Netherlands legend Johan Cruyff was the star man in the national squad at the time, and his sublime skills helped his country reach the final against the host nation that year.
But the one piece of brilliance from those finals, which is replayed by football fans across the globe, is now known as the Cruyff Turn.
With television still in its relative infancy at football grounds, Cruyff may well have been performing his skill for his club side Ajax on a regular basis, with many of us unaware of this piece of genius.
However, when the Netherlands played Sweden in a group match in the 1974 finals, it became a piece of footballing folklore.
Sweden right-back Jan Olsson appeared to have Cruyff covered, but the Dutchman planted his left foot and feinted to cross with his right. Instead, he curled the ball under him with his right foot and left the Swede baffled.
Pele had made his World Cup debut as the youngest man ever to play in the finals in 1958 at the tender age of 17. He then became the youngest to score in the tournament with his winning quarterfinal strike against Wales at 17 years and 239 days.
Injury robbed him of a full role in Brazil's 1962 triumph, while another knock gained early in the 1966 tournament left him unable to prevent his country's exit at the group stage.
In 1970, however, Pele took out all his frustrations of the last two finals on every opponent Brazil crossed.
In a team that shined with diamonds such as Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gerson and Tostao, Pele was the brightest star.
From the opening game against Czechoslovakia—where he attempted to lob goalkeeper Ivo Viktor from the halfway line—through to the final against Italy, Pele was irresistible.
Pele retired from the international arena the following year, but his legacy from the Mexico 1970 tournament will live long in the memories of football fans.
Diego Maradona, 1986
If Mexico 1970 belonged to Pele, Mexico 1986 was the sole preserve of Diego Maradona.
The Argentina forward almost single-handedly (pun intended) raised his country to new heights, as they regained the World Cup they had first won on home soil in 1978.
Where Pele had been surrounded by great players, Maradona was, arguably, the driving force behind the 1986 triumph for Carlos Bilardo's team.
If there was to be one defining moment for Maradona in those finals, it was the quarterfinal against England, where the angel and devil within the Argentine talisman collided with devastating effect.
While the first goal against Bobby Robson's side was borne of a poor English clearance and a dubious punch over the head of oncoming England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, Maradona's second was a moment of breathtaking beauty, as he danced past several challenges before slotting the ball home.
Maradona would go on to lift the World Cup with victory over West Germany in a thrilling 3-2 win, but the goals against England would mark history.
What are your iconic moments from past World Cup finals? Let us know in the comments below.