The 2010 World Cup has reached the semifinal stage where one game lies between four teams and a chance for glory in the final.
Fans eagerly await the clashes of Holland vs. Uruguay and Germany vs. Spain and hope these encounters can live up to the best semifinal meetings of the tournament’s history.
As we count down to the midweek encounters we rate the top five semifinal games from previous World Cups.
Will any of the 2010 World Cup semifinals make this list?
Not much was expected of the 1962 World Cup semifinal between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
The Czechs had played very cautious soccer in the tournament and needed a fantastic performance from goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf to earn a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Hungary.
And though Yugoslavia had been free scoring in the group stage, it too had played in a tight, edgy quarterfinal, defeating West Germany by the same score.
Certainly the local Chilean crowd in the city of Vina del Mar wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of this Eastern European matchup, feeling cheated as the Estadio Sausalito had been scheduled to host the other semifinal.
However, as the host nation had surprisingly beaten the mighty Soviet Union to set up a clash with Brazil, that match was switched to the national stadium in the capital, Santiago.
Therefore only 6,000 people showed up to witness the seemingly inevitable cagey first 45 minutes.
Yet, by the end of the match the small crowd would have gained a new-found respect for these teams, especially Czechoslovakia, which threw off its defensive shackles to put on a remarkable display of attacking soccer.
Josef Kadraba put the Czechs ahead in the 48 minute, and the goal also enticed Yugoslavia from its shell.
Schrojf once more acted as Czechoslovakia’s savior, as he produced save after save, although the keeper could not prevent Drazan Jerkovic’s 69th minute equalizer for Yugoslavia.
Both sides continued to push for a winner, which Adolf Scherer (pictured) grabbed for the Czechs with 10 minutes to go.
Scherer added a penalty four minutes later to seal the match and send Czechoslovakia to its second World Cup final.
Only 6,000 people could say that they were there to witness one of the greatest World Cup semifinals of all time.
Host nation Germany had been carried through to the World Cup semifinal on the back of the fanatical support of its home fans and a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Argentina in the quarterfinal.
Italy’s defense had ensured its passage, and the Azzurri had only conceded one goal in five matches.
A tight game seemed in store, but though 90 minutes of normal time ended scoreless, it was an absorbing encounter between a dynamic German team and the more cautious Italians.
It was in extra time where the match lifted itself into classic status with half an hour of cut—and—thrust football.
All of a sudden Italy dropped its defensive approach as if the Italian players felt that Germany’s superior penalty shootout record meant they had to win this game before that stage.
Besides forcing saves from German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, Italy substitute Alberto Gilardino hit the post, while fullback Gianluca Zambrotta crashed a shot off the crossbar.
Germany counter-attacked well, and its best chances fell to Lucas Podolski, who missed a great chance with a header and brought out the best from Italy’s No. 1 Gianluigi Buffon with a shot.
Italy continued to waste good opportunities, and it looked like it would have to endure the dreaded shootout when—with just over a minute remaining—a superb pass by Andrea Pirlo found Fabio Grosso free in the area.
The fullback curled a brilliant first-time shot past Lehmann to give his team the lead.
As the clock ticked down, Germany pressed for an equalizer, but it was Italy who scored again with a devastating counter-attack, as Alessandro Del Piero broke free to secure the game and break the hearts of the host nation.
Italy went on to win the World Cup final against France, with Grosso scoring the decisive kick in the penalty shootout.
Hungary had already participated in one the greatest World Cup quarterfinals of all time in the previous round of the 1954 tournament.
That 4-2 victory over Brazil became known as the Battle of Berne for its violent tackles, on-pitch fights and post-game brawl that left Hungary’s coach Gusztav Sebes needing stitches.
Though this semifinal win finished with the same score, the game became memorable for a much different reason.
In Uruguay, the Magnificent Magyars faced a South American side that was prepared to play soccer, and both teams put on a real show of positive intent.
Zoltan Czibor gave Hungary a 1-0 lead at the interval, which Nándor Hidegkuti doubled a minute into the second half with a fine diving header.
The game looked over, but Uruguay did not give up, and Juan Hohberg gave it his team a lifeline by scoring off a Juan Alberto Schiaffino pass with 15 minutes remaining.
The Argentinean-born striker became a true Uruguayan hero when he equalized with four minutes remaining to send the game into extra time.
Uruguay almost capitalized on its momentum when Hohberg set up Schiaffino, whose shot came back off the post, but the miss was to prove costly.
Two excellent headers from Sandor Kocsis on either side of the extra time interval continued the striker’s record of having scored in every round of the tournament thus far.
And—of course—he gave his team a two-goal lead that it wasn’t going to surrender this time.
This 1982 World Cup semifinal is probably best remembered for the infamous foul by West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on France’s Patrick Battiston.
But it was also one of the most thrilling semifinals in World Cup history and featured the tournament’s very first penalty shootout.
Pierre Littbarski had given West Germany an early lead after 17 minutes, which was canceled out by a Michel Platini penalty less than 10 minutes later.
Early in the second half substitute Battiston raced clear onto a perfect pass from Platini.
As Schumacher advanced from his penalty area, Battiston neatly flicked the ball over his head. The goalkeeper simply jumped straight into the Frenchman and knocked him unconscious.
The ball rolled wide of the post and the referee, seeing no foul, awarded a goal kick.
Play was held up for several minutes as emergency teams gave Battiston oxygen before carrying him off on a stretcher.
The furious French team managed to maintain its composure and bring the game into extra time, where it asserted its dominance.
Marius Trésor gave les Bleus the lead with a superb volley, and it looked all over after 98 minutes when Didier Six set up Alain Giresse for France’s third.
But West German substitute Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stirred his team to life, finishing off a move he started to make it 3-2 France at the end of the first period of extra time.
West Germany was level within three minutes of the restart thanks to Klaus Fischer, and the game went to a decisive penalty shootout.
Uli Stielike was the first player to miss, but the devastated West German was quickly cheered up by Schumacher’s save from six.
As the tension mounted, Maxime Bossis stepped up to take France’s final penalty, but Schumacher was his equal.
Horst Hrubesch scored his penalty to ensure that the villain of the piece, Schumacher, ended as a West German hero.
The 1970 World Cup semifinal between Italy and West Germany is widely regarded as one of the greatest World Cup matches of all time.
Italy took an early lead on Roberto Boninsegna’s beautiful left-foot strike eight minutes in and set out to defend its advantage for the rest of the match.
West Germany could not force an equalizer until deep into stoppage time when defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who played his club football in Italy for AC Milan, scored to send the game into extra time.
Then the action really got going, as the half an hour of additional play produced five goals, with the lead changing hands on two occasions.
West German captain Franz Beckenbaur had injured his shoulder towards the end of regular time, but since West Germany had used all of its substitutes the player had to finish the game with heavy strapping around his arm.
His team struck first when Gerd Muller took advantage of a mistake in the Italian defense, but the lead was swiftly ended when Tarcisio Burgnich equalized for the Azzuri.
A brilliant finish by Luigi Riva gave Italy a 3-2 advantage as the first period of extra time ended.
Muller scored again for West Germany with 10 minutes remaining, and the teams were level once more.
But Italy struck the decisive goal straight from the kickoff when a brilliant run and cross from Boninsegna set up substitute Gianni Rivera, who finished from just inside the penalty area.
The exhausted West German players could not summon up the energy for another comeback, and Italy went on to face Brazil in the final.