From Hurst's heroics in 1966 to Messi magic in 2011 - Wembley's 10 most memorable matches

As the iconic stadium prepares to host the men's Olympic football final on Saturday, we recall the games that have helped make the venue unique
By Graham Lister

Brazil have the opportunity to break a duck on Saturday in the final of the men's Olympic football tournament, when they face Mexico in what promises to be a memorable London 2012 encounter, though Mexico won a warm-up match 2-0 just before the tournament, so the favourites face a stern test.

The Brazilians - silver medallists at both the 1984 and 1988 Games - are desperate to win gold this time, and the fact that the match will be staged at Wembley Stadium adds a particular aura to the final.

The legendary Pele, the most dazzling of Brazil's many stars down the years, said of the stadium: "Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football". Indeed, it can lay claim to being the world's best-known football stadium, and its iconic status is enshrined in the many significant matches it has hosted.

So ahead of Saturday's showpiece final takes a look at 10 of the most memorable games to have taken place at Wembley Stadium...

1923 - Bolton 2-0 West Ham

The first Wembley Cup Final has entered footballing folklore as an epic and rather scary event. The stadium had only been completed four days earlier and it was staggering by today's health and safety-conscious standards that the match even went ahead, and incredible that no-one was killed in the crush. It wasn't an all-ticket affair (unlike all its successors), and the stadium perimeters, planning and policing all proved hopelessly inadequate.

The crowd, pouring in over outer walls and flimsy barriers, is estimated to have been a quarter of a million - twice as big as the 126,047 officially recorded. It overflowed right up to the edges of the pitch. And that was only after PC George Scorey on his white horse, Billy - initially without much in the way of back-up - had coaxed the crowd back behind the touchlines from the pitch itself, which at one stage was virtually covered with people.

The match started 40 minutes late and Bolton went ahead through David Jack while a West Ham player was struggling to get back on the pitch after retrieving the ball from the crowd for a throw-in. In the second half, Bolton went two-up through Jack Smith, whose shot rebounded from the wall of spectators pressed up against the net and almost hit him on its way back out.

1928 - England 1-5 Scotland

The bewitching Wembley Wizards gave England a footballing lesson in how the game should be played, as the "Wee Blue Devils" (Alex Jackson, who scored a hat-trick, was the Scots' tallest forward at 5ft 7in, and was ably abetted by Alex James, who scored two, and Hughie Gallacher).

It proved a chastening experience for the English, whose direct style was exposed as distinctly vulnerable against the skilful, bewildering Scots - although it also proved to be a bit of a one-off for Scotland. Not that that detracted in any way from the game's legendary status, especially north of the border.  

1953 - Blackpool 4-3 Bolton

Wembley was the fitting stage as the world's most famous player at the time finally collected the FA Cup winner's medal that had eluded him for two decades. The Matthews final saw Blackpool come from 3-1 down to defeat Bolton at the death, with the "Wizard of the Dribble" Stanley Matthews enjoying his finest hour, setting up the dramatic winner for Bill Perry, going up to collect his medal from the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II, and being feted even ahead of hat-trick hero Stan Mortensen.

Matthews' magic on the wing was decisive in turning the tide the Seasiders' way in what was a thrilling, see-sawing game, and probably the most popular FA Cup win (beyond the competing teams' own followers) in the competition's history.

1953 - England 3-6 Hungary

Later that year England's proud unbeaten home record was not so much ended as obliterated as the Magnificent Magyars, unbeaten themselves since May 1950, showed that the rest of the world had learned from, caught up with and overtaken the Three Lions, whose FA overseers had egg well and truly splattered on their complacent faces thanks to the skills of Ferenc Puskas, Nandort Hidegkuti, Sandor Kocsis, Jozsef Bozsik and their team-mates.

As England captain Billy Wright said afterwards: "The Hungarians produced some of the finest, most brilliantly applied football it has ever been my privilege to see. The ball did precisely what they wanted... They were  relentless. They were superb."

1966 - England 4-2 West Germany (AET)

It was the pinnacle of England's international achievement when they lifted the Jules Rimet trophy on home soil, though it was not without controversy as the debate still rages as to whether the second of Geoff Hurst's three goals actually crossed the line.

With Martin Peters scoring England's other goal, and captain Bobby Moore collecting the cup, East Londoners are fond of saying that West Ham won the World Cup. A very good German side played their full part in an epic occasion as gallant losers, though their time would come. As for England, when TV match commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered the immortal line "They think it's all over," few realised that - in terms of England winning silverware - it has since proved so to be.

1968 - Man Utd 4-1 Benfica (AET)

Matt Busby's Red Devils became England's first European Cup winners, 10 years after his 'Babes' perished on a runway in Munich. His rebuilt team ensured Busby's dream was fulfilled, with George Best outstanding and Munich survivor Bobby Charlton captaining the team and scoring two goals in a classic match.

Charlton headed United in front eight minutes into the second half, and with nine minutes left, Graca equalised. Then United goalkeeper Alex Stepney played a crucial part, denying the great Eusebio in a one-on-one in the last minute of normal time.

Extra-time saw Best score with a sensational but ice-cool dribble and finish, then Brian Kidd headed a third before setting up Charlton for the fourth.

1977 - England 1-2 Scotland

This game was memorable not for the football, which was largely forgettable, but for the mayhem the result sparked. Scotland's victory - Gordon McQueen and Kenny Dalglish scored their goals before Mick Channon pulled one back near the end from the penalty spot - was greeted by hordes of their fans swarming onto the hallowed turf and cutting lumps out of it as souvenirs. The celebrations also included breaking both sets of goalposts and ripping out the nets as the alcohol-fuelled trophy-hunting went into overdrive.

The Scots had deserved the win - England were overrun in midfield where Asa Hartford and Don Masson worked hard, and were abetted by Danny McGrain's assured defending and the threat of Dalglish and Lou Macari further forward. But the game was ill-tempered and technically and tactically limited. Then came the invasion. One unhappy voice expressed it thus in the press box: "Another afternoon of British rubbish."

1979 - Arsenal 3-2 Man Utd

Had Arsenal won 2-0, which looked likely with four minutes to go, the match would have been unremarkable as the Gunners had established a comfortable two-goal first-half lead through Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton, with Liam Brady prominent.

But the last four minutes immortalised this final, as United came from behind with goals from Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy to level, and appeared to have the initiative and the momentum as extra-time loomed. However, with Arsenal shell-shocked, the mercurial Brady kept his cool and instigated a move which Graham Rix continued, swinging in a centre over the United defence for Alan Sunderland to prod into the net at the far post. In terms of the rollercoaster of emotions, the game compressed the lot into that dramatic climax, embellishing the folklore of the FA Cup.

1992 - Barcelona 1-0 Sampdoria (AET)

It may seem remarkable now, but Barcelona went into this European Champions' Cup final - the fifth to be staged at Wembley - seeking their first triumph in the tournament after defeats in the 1961 and 1986 showpieces. It was a glaring omission from the Spanish giant's CV and one the likes of Pep Guardiola, Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman were intent on putting right.

Ranged against them were Italian champions Sampdoria, who boasted Gianluca Vialli and captain Roberto Mancini in attack. A tight game went to extra-time before, with a trademark cannon of a free kick from his powerful right foot, Koeman settled the issue and prompted victory celebrations that turned a corner of north-west London into little Catalonia.

2011 - Barcelona 3-1 Man Utd

There was an extra incentive for a Premier League club to reach the Champions League final as it would be staged at the rebuilt Wembley - and United duly fought their way to the showpiece. They had an additional incentive of their own as their opponents, Guardiola's Barcelona, had beaten them 2-0 in the 2009 final in Rome when United were defending champions.

However, in their inimitable and at times unplayable style, Barca dominated a hugely entertaining match, winning 3–1 with goals from Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and David Villa. Wayne Rooney scored for United to level the match going into half-time, but it was no more than a blip on the Blaugrana's elegant sweep to their fourth European Cup success. They outplayed the Red Devils, controlling 68 per cent of first-half possession and creating 22 attempts on goal to United's four before the break. Man-of-the-match Messi was in sublime form, and United had no answer to the mesmeric little Argentine.