Ranking the Top 10 Most Iconic Stadiums in World Football
Everyone has their own favourite stadium in the world, perhaps with a particular memory of just why that ground holds a special place in their heart.
But what are the most iconic football stadiums in the world, and what criteria does one use to judge this?
Well, here are my top 10.
The important factors in deciding this list are the stadium’s capacity and record attendances, what major footballing tournaments and showpiece finals they have held, and what eye-catching and memorable matches took place there.
Record attendance: 61,905 (Liverpool v. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2 Feb 1952)
Home to Liverpool FC, Anfield is renowned throughout the game for the incredible atmosphere that the ground generates, particularly on big European nights, with the Spion Kop behind one of the goals perhaps the most famous stand in world football.
9: La Bombonera
Tenants: Boca Juniors
Opened: 25 May 1940
Record attendance: 57, 395 (Boca v. San Lorenzo, 25 May 1940)
City: Buenos Aires
It's full name is the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, but known more commonly simply as La Bombonera (which translates into English as "The Chocolate Box," owing to its odd shape). Due to the La Boca district in Buenos Aires where the stadium is located, the ground has a fearsome reputation as generating one of the most intimidating atmospheres in world football.
8: Giuseppe Meazza
Tenants: AC Milan and Internazionale Milano
Opened: 19 Sept 1926
Record attendance: 100,000 (25 April 1956, Italy v. Brazil)
More commonly known as San Siro because of the district in Milan where the stadium is located, the ground was renamed on 3 March 1980 after Giuseppe Meazza, who played for both Milan and Inter.
Originally San Siro was only the property of the Rossoneri, until their city rivals also became joint tenants in 1947. In the intervening years, the stadium has had the honour of hosting three European Cup finals (1965, 1970 and 2001), while it also underwent a $60 million renovation for the 1990 World Cup finals.
7: Camp Nou
Tenants: FC Barcelona
Opened: 24 Sept 1957
Record attendance: 120,000 (Barcelona v. Juventus, 5 March 1986)
As the largest football stadium currently in Europe, and the 11th-biggest in the entire world, Barcelona’s home ground deservedly takes its place amongst the top 10, and while it has never hosted a World Cup or European Championship final, it has staged two European Cup finals (1989 and 1999).
Tenants: FC Bayern Munich and TSV1860 Munich
Opened: 26 May 1972
Record attendance: No records
Specifically built for the 1972 summer Olympic Games, the stadium was then used to host matches in the subsequent 1974 World Cup finals, including the final itself between home nation West Germany and Netherlands. After that tournament the ground became home to first Bayern Munich and then in the 1990s 1860 Munich, until both Bundesliga sides moved into their own stadiums in 2005.
The Olympiastadion has also had the honour of hosting the 1979, 1993 and 1997 European Cup finals, as well as the final of the 1988 European Championship between the Soviet Union and Netherlands.
5: Estadio Monumental
Tenants: River Plate
Opened: 25 May 1938
Record attendance: 100,000 (River Plate v. Racing Club, 1975)
City: Buenos Aires
Similar to Wembley stadium in England, the Monumental is the national stadium of Argentina (although they do not play all their home games there) and is best remembered for the matches it hosted in the 1978 World Cup finals. These included the final against Netherlands and the eye-catching ticker-tape reception with which the home fans would greet La Albiceleste.
4: Santiago Bernabeu
Tenants: Real Madrid CF
Opened: 14 Dec 1947
Record attendance: 120,000 (1953)
Named after chairman Santiago Bernabeu Yeste, Real Madrid’s home ground is not only one of the most recognisable in Spain, but throughout the world, too, as befits a stadium that has not only been asked to host European Cup finals in four different decades (1957,1969, 1980 and 2010), but has also staged the 1982 World Cup final.
3: Estadio Do Maracana
Opened: 16 June 1950
Record attendance: 199,854 (Brazil v. Uruguay, 16 July 1950)
City: Rio de Janeiro
Named after the Rio Maracana, a river in Rio, the stadium was built specifically for the 1950 World Cup finals in Brazil, with the final of that competition between the host nation and Uruguay attracting the largest-ever attendance for a football match in the history of the game (199,854).
Since that tournament, the ground has mainly be used to host matches for club sides from Rio, including the likes of Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama, and its current capacity still makes it the largest ground in South America—although that will be reduced to 78,883 upon completion of renovations for the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup finals and the 2016 summer Olympic Games.
Tenants: England national team
Record attendance: 126,047 (28 April 1923, Bolton Wanderers v. West Ham United)
Home of the England national football team between 1923 and 2000, as well as having the honour of hosting more European Cup finals than any other stadium (1963, 1968, 1971, 1978 and 1992), Wembley has also held both the 1966 World Cup final and the 1996 European Championship final.
It was closed in 2000 and demolished three years later in order to build the new Wembley, which was opened in 2007.
Regarded by many as being the "home" of football and certainly one of the most famous stadiums in the world, the ground is perhaps best remembered for its twin towers that were once considered to be iconic of the might of the England team.
Tenants: Club America
Opened: 29 May 1966
Record attendance: 119,853 (Mexico v. Brazil, 7 July 1968)
City: Mexico City
As the only stadium to have ever had the privilege of being asked to host two World Cup finals (1970 and 1986), the Azteca stadium is the most iconic in world football, as well as being both the fifth-largest ground in the world and the largest football pitch on Planet Football.
Home to both the Mexican national team and domestic side Club America, the stadium is associated with some of the most memorable international matches in the history of the game, including the 1970 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, and of course the 1986 World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England which featured both of Diego Maradona’s infamous goals.