Power Ranking Every World Cup Final Ever Played

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2013

Power Ranking Every World Cup Final Ever Played

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    The World Cup final is the pinnacle of any footballer's career.

    It represents the ultimate showing of drama, reward and heartache in the sport. Since the first World Cup final in 1930, the decorated showpiece has produced a ridiculous amount of memorable moments. Late winners, stirring comebacks and instances of controversy have become commonplace in a match that immortalises the victors.

    Before ranking each World Cup final, simple criteria must be established. Entertainment is key here, as exciting and highly controversial matches are likely to be favoured over defensive displays that end on penalties. Cultural impact may also be taken into consideration.

    Where does your favourite come in? Read on to find out.

19. West Germany 1-0 Argentina, 1990

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    The culmination of Italia '90 is remembered as one of the ugliest World Cup finals ever. Pedro Monzon made history as the first man to be sent off in the tournament's last game, shortly followed by teammate Gustavo Dezotti, whose tackle remains up there with the worst.

    The best thing produced from West Germany's win? This hilariously sarcastic New York Times article written by George Vecsey.

18. Brazil 0-0 Italy, 1994

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    It's not often a World Cup title is decided on penalties. The first occurrence of this happening arrived at USA '94. where Brazil and Italy shot it out for the famous trophy.

    Perhaps this final is most remembered for Roberto Baggio's famous miss from the spot, an event that saw Brazil crowned as champions for the fourth time.

17. Italy 3-1 West Germany, 1982

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    This Madrid final saw Italy routinely overcome the threat of West Germany.

    The Italians even managed to miss a first-half penalty through Antonio Cabrini before romping through the opposition's usually well-drilled defence. A head from Paolo Rossi began the rout, while Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli made the score 3-0 before Paul Breitner grabbed a consolation with five minutes remaining.

    At this point, Italy matched Brazil's record of three World Cup titles.

16. Brazil 3-1 Czechoslovakia, 1962

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    Get ready to see a lot of Brazil in this countdown.

    The Samba Boys, who have a habit of conceding early goals in the final, allowed Czechoslovakia to take a 15th-minute lead through Josef Masopust. The Europeans immediately let complacency creep in as Amarildo equalised two minutes later, before goals from Zito and Vava earned Brazil the championship on South American soil without the help of injured superstar Pele.

15. Italy 4-2 Hungary, 1938

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    Alongside Brazil, Italy and various German sides play a huge part in World Cup final history. Darting back to 1938, Italy became the first side to successfully retain the trophy after winning two out of the first three competitions.

    A sixth-minute goal from Gino Colaussi put the defending champions ahead, but Hungary quickly equalised through Pal Titkos. Unfortunately for the Huns, Silvio Piola and a second Colaussi goal produced a 3-1 Italian lead before the break.

    Although Gyorgy Sarosi pulled one goal back for Hungary, the stronger side confirmed victory with a second success from Piola.

14. Brazil 0-3 France, 1998

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    France have won the World Cup once, and like many other winners, it was on home soil.

    The buildup to this game remains a mystery to this day. Brazilian superstar Ronaldo was left off the team sheet after reportedly suffering a fit, only to be named moments before kickoff.

    His presence couldn't inspire the South Americans to their fifth World Cup victory, as two goals from Zinedine Zidane and a third from Emmanuel Petit saw the Stade de France go bonkers.

13. Brazil 5-2 Sweden, 1958

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    Brazil notched an easy win against World Cup hosts Sweden in 1958.

    Despite taking an early lead through Nils Liedholm, the Swedes were quickly pegged back by a ninth-minute goal from Vava.

    He added a second with half an hour on the clock before a brilliant Pele strike made it 3-1. Mario Zagallo compounded Sweden's misery with 20 minutes to go, as Agne Simonsson's consolation failed to ease the pain. Pele completed the rout in the dying moments with a timely header.

    Not only did this match produce the lowest attendance in World Cup final history, but 52,000 fans were also treated to the most goals and biggest margin of defeat in football's most important game.

12. Germany 0-2 Brazil, 2002

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    With the disappointment of 1998 fresh in their memory, Brazil entered the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan with a real chance of redemption.

    As the history books remind us, Ronaldo fired his team to victory in a way that would more than overcome his personal demons from the previous tournament. A record fifth title for Brazil also coincided with an individual record, as Cafu became the first individual to play in three World Cup finals.

11. Argentina 3-1 Netherlands, 1978

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    A tightly fought match between Argentina and the Netherlands remained difficult to call until extra time. Mario Kempes' opener was quickly made redundant through a Dick Nanninga equaliser for a Dutch side that had lost the previous World Cup final in Germany.

    Once again, the hosts prevailed. Goals from Kempes and Daniel Bertoni ensured the Europeans would return home still seeking their first World Cup title.

10. Brazil 4-1 Italy, 1970

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    Into the top 10, the 1970 World Cup final produced one of football's greatest goals in Mexico's Estadio Azteca.

    Although Pele's opener was matched by Roberto Boninsegna just before the interval, Brazil's free-flowing firepower proved too much. Gérson and Jairzinho scored in quick succession with 20 minutes to go, while Carlos Alberto's finish is one of the finest examples of team passing to ever grace the game.

    Pele became the only player to win three World Cups, and Mario Zagallo emerged as the only winner in both his playing and coaching careers

9. Italy 2-1 Czechoslovakia, 1934

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    The second World Cup final was a tale of late drama.

    Czechoslovakia's Antonin Puč opened the scoring with 15 minutes remaining, forcing the Italians into a dramatic fightback. Raimundo Orsi equalised with 10 minutes to go, while Angelo Schiavio slotted home from close range five minutes into extra time.

    Italy won their first tournament, kicking off an era of dominance for the Azzurri.

8. Netherlands 0-1 Spain, 2010

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    Another final, another disappointing loss for the Netherlands.

    Three times the Dutch public have experienced disappointment as runners-up. In World Cup 2010, both the Netherlands and Spain entered Johannesburg as notorious underachievers on the international stage. Having won Euro 2008, it was no surprise when Andres Iniesta's extra-time goal sparked scenes of hysteria amongst the Spanish players.

    Both nations are renowned for beautiful football, but unfortunately, this game was an absolute bloodbath. It holds the World Cup record for 14 yellow cards, including a sending off for Everton defender Johnny Heitinga. Nigel De Jong should have also been dismissed for his ridiculous kung-fu kick into the chest of Xabi Alonso.

7. Netherlands 1-2 West Germany, 1974

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    Staying with the team who invented Total Football, the 1974 World Cup final was perhaps the Netherland's most tightly contested final.

    It all started rather well, too.

    Uli Hoeneß's foul gave Johan Neeskens an early penalty to open the scoring, an opportunity he took. Paul Breitner matched his effort from the spot 20 minutes later to level at 1-1, before Gerd Muller scored his last-ever goal for the national team to win it before halftime.

    Despite an underwhelming second half, this was a great tactical battle that pitted Dutch flow against West Germany's defensive prowess. It remains a clash of the titans, even if former FIFA president Joao Havelange believes the match was fixed in favour of the host nation.

6. Uruguay 4-2 Argentina, 1930

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    It turns out the first World Cup final was also one of the most entertaining. Uruguay established the pattern of host nation success by capturing the inaugural tournament in their Montevideo backyard.

    A thrilling match saw the hosts take a 1-0 lead through Pablo Dorado at the 12-minute mark. His goal was cancelled out by Carlos Peucelle eight minutes later, while Guillermo Stabile put Uruguay ahead after half an hour.

    Not wanting to be outdone, a trio of second-half goals from Pedro Cea, Santos Iriarte and Hector Castro kicked the World Cup's history off with a Uruguay win.

5. Italy 1-1 France, 2006

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    The 2006 World Cup final in Germany is probably not remembered for football.

    While Zinedine Zidane scored a penalty inside the opening stages and Marco Materazzi equalised before 20 minutes had elapsed, both of these players would blot their personal history with a moment of madness towards the game's finale.

    Materazzi provoked the balding Frenchman by saying unsavoury things about his sister. The quip must have cut deep, as Zidane headbutted the notorious troublemaker to the ground in one of football's most memorable events. A red card was shown, and Zidane's terrific career ended in disappointment as Italy won the game on penalties.

4. Argentina 3-2 West Germany, 1986

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    After Diego Maradona's Hand of God, were Argentina ever going to lose the 1986 World Cup final?

    The mini-maestro was heavily marked during the exciting game with West Germany. Despite taking a 2-0 lead through Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano, goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller leveled proceedings across the final 15 minutes.

    A moment of inspiration from Maradona emerged as his assist allowed Jorge Burruchaga to brilliantly poke home the winner five minutes from time.

3. England 4-2 West Germany, 1966

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    Perhaps the most controversial World Cup final of them all, England's home win over West Germany is still debated across both nations.

    Did Geoff Hurst's vital goal cross the line? He doesn't think so. Still, a fine match between two rivals began with West Germany taking the lead through a Helmut Haller header. Hurst equalised with 18 minutes gone before Martin Peters' goal had Wembley dreaming of a win.

    Wolfgang Weber's last-minute equaliser sent the game to extra time before Hurst's infamous goal restored England's advantage. As the Germans piled forward for a final attack, a swift counterattack allowed Hurst to become the only man to score three goals in a World Cup final.

    It also produced one of England's most famous broadcast moments as BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme excitedly announced, "And here comes Hurst. He's got... some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over. It is now! It's four!"

2. Uruguay 2-1 Brazil, 1950

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    Although the match at Brazil'a Maracana stadium wasn't technically the World Cup final, it was the decisive fixture in a new structure that saw a second group stage implemented after the first round of games.

    Anything but a loss would see Brazil crowned champions on home soil. A record crowd of 210,000 packed into the stadium for an encounter that was seen as nothing but a foregone conclusion in Brazil's favour.

    Fans celebrated before the match, singing songs of Brazilian victory, and a local newspaper even congratulated the team on their success before kickoff.

    This irked Uruguay captain Obdulio Varela, who bought as many copies of the paper as he could and told his team to urinate on them.

    Friaça galvanised the feeling of victory when he put Brazil ahead on 46 minutes. Amazingly, Uruguay fought back with goals from Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia on 66 minutes and 79 minutes, respectively. Brazil's defensive frailties were exposed and Uruguay left the stadium with one of football's greatest upsets completed.

    In the immediate aftermath, it is reported some Brazilian fans committed suicide by chucking themselves off the Maracana stands.

1. West Germany 3-2 Hungary, 1954

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    Four years after Uruguay's spectacular win, West Germany halted a Hungarian juggernaut that seemed destined for success.

    Unbeaten in four years before the World Cup, early goals from Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Czibor propelled Hungary to an expected 2-0 lead.

    Germany were level before 20 minutes elapsed, as goals from Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn rocked the opposition's confidence. Rahn netted a dramatic winner six minutes from the end with a goal that would hold far more than sporting importance for the divided nation.

    Herbert Zimmerman's classic radio commentary allowed many Germans to listen as the game unfolded. The result allowed an attitude shift to take place in a country that was widely regarded as outcasts after World War II, while "The Miracle of Bern" tag remains fitting to this day.

    Which World Cup final is your favourite? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter right here: