Belgium 3-2 Japan | 2018
Belgium missed a host of chances throughout the game with Romelu Lukaku able to have a hat-trick but spurning every opportunity. Japan – outsiders to win the tie – scored twice in the span of four minutes in the second half to visibly shake Belgium, and were the superior team for large amounts of the game.
Roberto Martinez's side, however, were able to dig deep and score three goals after Japan's opening brace. Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini (the unlikely hero) netted to make it 2-2 before Nacer Chadli scored in the final minute of stoppage time to cap off a brilliant counter-attacking move by Belgium.
France 4-3 Argentina | 2018
It was the Kylian Mbappe show as the young forward slotted home twice and played an instrumental role in the build-up to the first goal to send Argentina and Lionel Messi home at the last 16 stage.
France opened the scoring through an Antoine Griezmann spot-kick but Argentina levelled through Angel Di Maria. Benjamin Pavard netted again to put Les Bleus in the lead before Gabriel Mercardo struck home to equalise – but Mbappe scored twice in the span of four minutes to put his side 4-2 up.
Sergio Aguero scored in stoppage time to make it 4-3 but it wasn't enough to force the game into extra time.
It was a thrilling encounter on all sides that fully allowed France to finally showcase their quality in Russia following underwhelming opening group stage performances.
Spain 3-3 Portugal | 2018
Spain vs Portugal was always the match that would have the most build-up ahead of the 2018 World Cup, and it lived up to the hype and more. Enthralling from start to finish, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty to put Portugal up under four minutes before Diego Costa netted shortly afterwards to equalise. Spain led eventually through a fine Isco screamer and another Costa goal, but it wasn't enough to keep Ronaldo quiet.
The Real Madrid star scored an incredible free-kick just before the end of regular time, bagging a hat-trick in the process and putting his name in the history books as he has now scored in four consecutive World Cups. David de Gea's goalkeeping blunder wasn't even the talk of the match as Ronaldo proved that he remains his country's talisman and could very well lead his team far in Russia. The group game between the rival nations has already earned classic status.
Spain 1-5 Netherlands | 2014
Spain had all their hopes of defending their 2010 glory by being hammered 5-1 by the Netherlands in the group stages that sent shockwaves across football. Xabi Alonso opened the scoring through a penalty won by Diego Costa, but the Netherlands retaliated thick and fast through Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Stefan de Vrij to break the hearts of the three-time, back-to-back world and European champions.
- YouTube/studio del bianco
West Germany 4-3 Italy | 1970
Dubbed the 'Game of the Century', this 1970 World Cup semi-final classic burst into life in extra time with five goals scored after West Germany had equalised in the 90th minute.
Italy conceded again via the boot of the legendary Gerd Muller four minutes into extra time, but goals from Tarcisio Bergnich and Luigi Riva put Italy in the ascendancy. Muller scored again in the 110th minute before Gianni Rivera gave the southern Europeans a euphoric victory.
- Getty Images
Argentina 2-1 England | 1986
Argentina vs England, 1986, otherwise known as Diego Maradona vs England. This quarter-final tie between the two rivals in Mexico City has long etched its name as one of the most memorable football games in history, where Maradona scored his “Hand of God” goal and – just four minutes later – dribbled past Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher, Terry Fenwick, (once again) Butcher and Peter Shilton to slot home.
Argentina went on to become eventual winners over West Germany in the finals.
Brazil 1-7 Germany | 2014
Brazil suffered one of the worst humiliations of all-time when they were embarrassed 7-1 by Germany on home turf in the 2014 semi-finals. Germany were up 5-0 by half-time and the home side lamented the absences of Neymar and Thiago Silva before kick-off. Brazil fans were left stunned by the display that the eventual champions put on.
It was their first competitive home defeat in 39 years – the summer that they were supposed to bring the World Cup home – but a Germany masterclass proved to be just too much.
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Italy 3-2 Brazil | 1982
A hat-trick by Paolo Rossi for Italy eliminated Brazil from the World Cup and saw the Azzurri win the entire competition. Described as the “day that football died” after Brazil’s style of free-flowing, attacking and fluid football – which helped them win three World Cups between 1958 and 1970 – was gently cast aside by the Italians.
Tele Santana’s classic Brazil side, doused in nostalgia, finally saw their attacking philosophy come to a bitter end through one of the most legendary matches of all-time.
Ghana 1-1 Uruguay (Uruguay won 4-2 on penalties) | 2010
It was during Uruguay’s quarter-final against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup where Luis Suarez gained a worldwide reputation of notoriety. The forward committed a blatant handball in an attempt to clear the ball off his line, and was punished with a red card. However, tournament hero Asamoah Gyan failed to score it at the end of extra time.
The Uruguayans ended up winning the match 4-2 in a penalty shootout, but Ghanaians will forever feel that justice did them wrong that day.
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France 3-3 West Germany (West Germany won 5-4 on penalties) | 1982
Four goals in extra time, an equally dramatic penalty shootout following a 3-3 scoreline, and West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher's brutal tackle on France's Patrick Battiston that knocked him unconscious – eventually leaving the pitch with two missing teeth and three cracked ribs – make this 1982 semi-final one of the most eventful international matches in history.
Portugal 5-3 North Korea | 1966
Hungary 2-3 West Germany | 1954
Dubbed 'The Miracle of Bern', the 1954 World Cup final saw West Germany face up against Hungary's golden generation and, against all expectations, win 3-2. There’s the added political narrative of the long-lasting impact on Germany and Hungarian World War II history – with the final having led to West Germany gaining international respect following the loss of the Second World War.
It was a thrilling match not without its own controversies (West Germany’s second goal should not have counted and had a disallowed goal). The Germans scored an 84th-minute winner through Helmut Rahn after an early scoreline was 2-2 after 18 minutes.
Argentina 2-2 England (Argentina won 4-3 on penalties) | 1998
Italia '90, Euro '96 and then France '98. England exited the World Cup 20 years ago in an all-too-familiar fashion – penalty shootout – and seem to still wear the scars to this day. David Beckham was sent off and was therefore unable to take a spot kick after the score was level at 2-2.
Both Alan Shearer and Michael Owen scored early on but were unable to keep a lead, though this England side played with something so lacking from the Three Lions in recent years: heart.
West Germany 1-1 England (West Germany won 4-3 on penalties) | 1990
Against the backdrop of the dark 1980s, Italia ’90 changed English football forever. Against West Germany, Bobby Robson’s Three Lions were the closest to winning the World Cup since lifting the trophy in 1966, though the shoot-out ended the dream in the most crushing of ways.
Gary Lineker’s equalising goal in the 80th minute was enough to prompt extra time, but England – as always – fell short at penalties. The game spawned one of the most memorable images of the England World Cup team, of star midfielder Paul Gascoigne in tears.
Brazil 4-1 Italy | 1970
The 1970 final between Brazil and Italy was the first time the two former world champions ever met in a final, and featured a classic Brazil side with scorers Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto.
The last goal, scored by Alberto, is one of be the greatest moments in football history and encapsulated the free-flowing playing style that Brazil side were so famed for. With a pass started by Pele and prompted by Tostao – with passes to Brito, Clodoaldo, Pele and Gerson – Clodoaldo beat four Italian players, passed to Jairzinho, who lofted it to Pele once again for Alberto to slot home.
Belgium 4-3 USSR | 1986
One of the great unheralded World Cup finals knockout matches, Belgium's golden generation saw off a superb Soviet Union side in a 4-3 thriller. The scoreline was even at 2-2 by the 90th minute and, in extra time, Belgium scored via Stephane Demol and Nico Claesen.
Igor Belanov scored his third of the game from the spot with nine minutes to go but the USSR, agonisingly, were unable to find a last-minute equaliser, prompting Belgium to progress to the quarter-final against Spain.
Hungary 4-2 Uruguay | 1954
Hungary went into their 1954 World Cup semi-final fixture against Uruguay as the highest-scoring team of the tournament, with 21 goals to their name. The South Americans were a strong team, but Hungary were no easy feat – and seemed to have sealed the game after leading 1-0 at half-time.
The Uruguayans, however, were relentless and – led by Juan Alberto Schiaffino – pressured the Hungarians and equalised through Juan Hohberg. Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis scored two headers, and Uruguay were only grateful to have been defeated by a truly great team.
England 4-2 West Germany | 1966
It’s the final that no England fan will ever let go, from the only major tournament the Three Lions have won. England defeated West Germany at their home ground of Wembley in the 1996 World Cup final 4-2 in extra time.
With a team led by Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick – with two of the decisive goals coming in the 101st and 120th minute – to see off Germany. Football came home, just this once.
England 2-3 West Germany | 1970
England had scored early through Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, but were unable to defend their title and, incredibly, their two-goal lead and crashed out spectacularly after a 108th-minute winning goal by Gerd Muller. It set the tone for an almost entirely one-sided rivalry for the next 50 years.
Argentina 1-2 Netherlands | 1998
It was the 'Battle of Marseille' when Dennis Bergkamp’s incredible winner was the perfect way to end a riveting quarter-final fixture. It was the first time the two had met since the 1978 World Cup final in Buenos Aires, which the South American hosts won. The Oranje got their share of redemption 20 years later.
England 0-1 Brazil | 1970
England ostensibly played the greatest Brazil side that the world had ever seen in the group stages of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, boasting a team full of stars like Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Gerson, Carlos Alberto and Tostao.
They were favourites to win the cup, though England still had stars who were pivotal to their 1966 success. Ultimately, Brazil registered the 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Jairzino, though the Three Lions walked away with their heads held high after showing impressive resilience. Both teams advanced to the next stage, where England squandered a two-goal lead to West Germany to lose 3-2.
Romania 3-2 Argentina | 1994
Argentina’s last 16 1994 World Cup fixture against Romania was always to be doused in an ill-feeling – Diego Maradona was excluded from the squad due to testing positive for ephedrine and his side were without their captain.
There was the conspiracy that Argentine finished third in their group on purpose as they favoured a tie against Romania over Italy, but even that backfired against them as the Romanians fought hard to battle out a 3-2 victory over the two-time world champions. Abel Balbo’s strike in the 80th minute – their second – wasn’t enough, as Romania already scored three goals.