World Cup football: Recap of the greatest quarter-finals in history
Published on Jul 3, 2014 7:10 PM
If the World Cup can guarantee us football faithfuls anything, it’s match after match of heart-in-mouth action, last-minute drama and then some heartache.
Three weeks after the opener, we’re now down to the final eight. Buckle up – if history is anything to go by, the quarter-final stage is where things often get more... interesting.
Here’s a look back at eight of the most dramatic quarter-finals in World Cup history:
1. England 1 Argentina 0, 1966
This match was the spark to the fierce rivalry between these two sides.
Match referee Rudolf Kreitlein of then-West Germany sent Antonio Rattin off in the 25th minute, reportedly because he did not like the way the Argentina captain had looked at him.
Initially, the player refused to leave and protested by sitting on the red carpet reserved for the Queen of England. When he was finally escorted off the pitch by officials, Rattin crushed a British pennant. Argentina played with 10 men for the majority of the match at Wembley, losing to a goal from Geoff Hurst.
England coach Alf Ramsey called the Argentinians “animals” after the match, and barred his players from exchanging jerseys with their counterparts.
To this day, some Argentinians refer to this match as el robo del siglo or “the theft of the century”.
2. Portugal 5 North Korea 3, 1966
Arriving in England as 1000-1 outsiders to lift the trophy, the North Koreans were as enigmatic then as they are today.
The Koreans had already created one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history by beating Italy 1-0 in the group stage and this quarter-final is remembered for the incredible way in which the Asians stunned their more illustrious opponents with three early goals to take the lead, but also by the way in which the great Eusebio scored four to lead his team’s comeback.
When Eusebio died in January this year, some still jokingly noted that he remains the only man to have destroyed North Korea.
3. West Germany 3 England 2 after extra time, 1970
Leading 2-0 with about 20 minutes to go, England looked like they were well on their way to beating West Germany for a spot in the semi-finals.
But they got ahead of themselves. In an attempt to save their legs to face Italy in the next round, England coach Alf Ramsey substituted Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters.
Franz Beckenbauer pulled one back for the Germans, before Uwe Seeler equalised and forced the match into extra time. Gerd Mueller then struck to complete one of the greatest World Cup comebacks.
Many have pointed to the result as the game that lost an election – then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson was dumped out of office by voters four days later.
4. Argentina 2 England 1, 1986
Probably the most iconic and controversial of quarter-final in World Cup history and still one of the most talked about three decades later.
Two of the most famous goals ever were scored in this match, and both by Diego Maradona - one outrageously brilliant, the other, just plain outrageous.
This was where the “hand of God” happened, Maradona using his left hand to fist the ball into the goal. He later said: “The goal was a bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God”.
But the world bowed to his genius for the next goal. Maradona made light work of the English team, taking the ball past Steve Hodge, Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick, before rounding goalkeeper Peter Shilton to slot the ball in.
5. France 1 Brazil 1 (France win 4-3 on penalties), 1986
What became one of the most dramatic penalty shootouts in World Cup history took place after the match ended 1-1.
Socrates missed Brazil’s first shot, but the drama really began when France’s Bruno Bellone stepped up to the spot. His shot hit the crossbar, before bouncing against the Brazilian 'keeper to find the net. The Brazilians, naturally, disputed the shot, which was eventually allowed.
Just when it seemed Brazil were in the driver’s seat, after French star Michel Platini missed his shot, Brazil defender Julio Cesar found his attempt denied by the crossbar. Luis Fernandez then scored the winning penalty for France to mark the end of an era for the brilliant Brazil team of Socrates, Zico and Falcao that played true samba football.
6. Spain 0 South Korea 0 (South Korea win 5-3 on penalties), 2002
As hosts of the 2002 World Cup, the South Koreans were already on a miracle run after sensationally beating Italy in the round of 16.
The co-hosts then took out Spain through a penalty shoot-out to earn a spot in the last four, but not without some questionable officiating, when Spain had two goals controversially disallowed.
7. England 0 Portugal 0 (Portugal win 3-1 on penalties), 2006
The one where Cristiano Ronaldo sent a gloating wink to his bench after his Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney was sent off.
Rooney had appeared to stamp on Ricardo Carvalho after getting tangled up with the Portuguese, with referee Horacio Elizondo getting a front-row view.
Having already lost captain David Beckham to injury, the Three Lions battled to take the game to a penalty shootout but their spot-kick woes continued when Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all missed to end English hopes.
8. Uruguay 1 Ghana 1 (Uruguay win 4-2 on penalties), 2010
Another match famous for a handball incident – this time by the infamous Luis Suarez.
Ghana were on their way to becoming the first African side to make a World Cup semi-final when they were denied by a Suarez handball. The Uruguayan striker used his hands to block Ghanaian Dominic Adiyiah's strike from finding the net in the dying seconds of extra time.
Suarez was sent off, but Asamoah Gyan’s subsequent spot kick was denied by the crossbar. The red-carded Suarez was seen celebrating wildly in the tunnel.
Uruguay eventually won the shootout 4-2, with Gyan later reportedly saying that many Ghanaians “hate” Suarez for what he did.