FIFA World Cup Finals: Part 2 (1974 - 2006)

1974: West Germany 2 Holland 1
At the 1974 World Cup, the Total Football of Holland looked set to sweep all before it. The Dutch team featuring Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, and Johnny Rep had wowed the world with its fluid playing style and was the overwhelming favorite to beat host nation West Germany in the final. Holland took the lead before a West German player had even touched the ball as the Dutch kicked-off and Cruyff won a penalty after foul by Uli Hoeness. Neeskens converted the spot-kick and the confident Dutch appeared to toy with a struggling West Germany. That confidence was shattered when West Germany earned a penalty in the 25th minute, which Breitner scored, and star striker Gerd Muller gave the hosts a 2-1 lead just before halftime. West Germany never lost control of the game after that and went on to win the World Cup for the second time. Holland would forever be remembered, along with Hungary in 1954 and Brazil in 1982, as one of the greatest teams never to win the World Cup.

1978: Argentina 3 Holland 1
On an occasion that had eerie parallels with fascist Italy’s 1934 triumph in Rome, the host nation of Argentina won the 1978 World Cup, as demanded by the country’s ruling military junta. The National Stadium in Buenos Aires—believed to have been one of the sites where thousands of the country’s “disappeared” had been imprisoned and tortured—was turned into a fearsome blizzard of noise and ticker tape that seemed to intimidate a talented Dutch team. The Argentine side did its best to help matters by delaying its appearance on the pitch, leaving Holland’s players alone to face the abuse of the home crowd. When the players did appear, they complained about a plaster cast that Dutch winger René Van De Kerkhof had been wearing throughout the tournament, which nearly caused Holland’s team to leave the pitch. After the game finally got underway Mario Kempes opened the scoring for Argentina, who looked to be heading for a 1-0 win until Dick Nanninga equalized with eight minutes remaining. Rob Resenbrink almost won it for the Dutch in injury time but his shot hit the post and the game went into extra-time. Kempes became the hero when he scored his sixth goal of the tournament just before the end of the first period of extra-time. Daniel Bertoni sealed Argentina’s first-ever World Cup win with a goal five minutes from time.

1982: Italy 3 West Germany 1
The 1982 World Cup final in Madrid was the battle of the bad guys. West Germany had been involved in a controversial group match, when it played out a convenient 1-0 win over neighboring country Austria that saw both teams progress to the second round ahead of Algeria. In the semifinal against France, goalkeeper Harald Schumacher infamously assaulted Patrick Battiston, leaving the French player unconscious, but the referee didn’t even blow for a foul. Italian football had been tainted by a match-fixing scandal of its own in the late 1970s, with striker Paolo Rossi banned from the game for two years. Italy had been largely unimpressive at the tournament. It scraped through the group stages with three tedious draws before surprisingly eliminating the great Brazil side that included Socrates, Zico, and Falcao. But Italy had started winning friends with that stunning 3-2 win over the South American favorites and a deserved triumph over West Germany at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium was celebrated around the world. After Antonio Cabrini missed a first-half penalty, Rossi followed his hat-trick against Brazil and two goals in the semifinal win over Poland, with his sixth goal of the tournament to open the scoring. Marco Tardelli added a second on 69 minutes and set off on the greatest goal celebration of all time as he ran wildly towards the Italian bench with tears streaming down his face, supposedly screaming his own name repeatedly. Alessandro Altobelli scored a third with nine minutes remaining. A late West Germany consolation could not prevent Italy from winning its third world title.

1986: Argentina 3 West Germany 2
Little Argentine genius Diego Maradona had been the star of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Such was the No. 10’s astonishing ability to win games singlehandedly that final opponents West Germany charged one of its own best players Lothar Matthaus to man-mark Maradona throughout the game. But, Argentina’s other players were able to prove that they were far from a one-man team and la Albiceleste were two goals ahead after 55 minutes. West Germany was forced to liberate Matthaus from his assignment and the midfielder inspired a dramatic comeback. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pulled one back on 74 minutes, before substitute Rudi Voller grabbed an equalizer with 10 minutes remaining. But Maradona was to have the last word. Three minutes later, he sent a brilliant pass to Jorge Burruchaga, who was clear on goal to win the World Cup for Argentina.

1990: West Germany 1 Argentina 0
The 1990 World Cup in Italy is considered one of the worst tournaments of all time, thanks to the negative tactics and foul play of most of the competing teams. As such, it got the final it deserved as an Argentina team led by Diego Maradona, who was a shadow of the player that lit up the 1986 finals in Mexico, tried to bully its way to a scoreless draw against a solid, if uninspiring, West Germany. Pedro Monzon became the first player to be sent off in a final, after a brutal challenge on West German striker Jurgen Klinsmann. West Germany won the match with a dubious penalty earned when Rudi Voller fell over in the penalty area. The spot-kick was coolly dispatched by Andres Brehme with five minutes remaining. There was still time for another Argentinean, Gustavo Dezotti, to be shown the red card before West Germany lifted the World Cup for a third time.

1994: Brazil 0 Italy 0
Often the lasting impression left by a World Cup tournament is that of its final match. So it is a pity that memories of the 1994 World Cup, which featured lots of goals and a number of classic games, should be tempered by this absolute stinker of a final. There was no reason for fans to expect that two teams featuring the tournament's stars Romario and Roberto Baggio would bring the competition to a close with such a turgid scoreless encounter. But little of note happened in a tense match until the decisive penalty shootout, when the half-injured Baggio blazed his spot-kick over the crossbar, handing the World Cup to Brazil.

1998: France 3 Brazil 0
The host nation’s triumph to win France’s first-ever World Cup will always be overshadowed by the question, "What happened to Ronaldo? Brazil had been the team of the tournament ahead of the final at the Stade de France in Paris. In Ronaldo it had a phenomenal player who would win the tournament’s Golden Ball. However, about an hour before kick-off reports began to come in that the player had been withdrawn from the Brazilian starting team, only for subsequent stories to reveal that he had been reinstated. While details of what exactly occurred will forever remain obscured, the player suffered a fit before the game and was deemed unfit to play by the team’s medical staff. Whether it was the player himself, the Brazilian FA or even corporate interests that insisted he start, Ronaldo took to the pitch but both he and Brazil looked withdrawn and unable to get into the game. France took full advantage and the lead by two Zindeine Zidane goals at halftime, virtually ending the game. Little else happened until substitute Emmanuel Petit added a third goal in injury time. France’s victory sparked off wild celebrations. For a brief moment, the success of a team made up of players from a variety of ethnic backgrounds united a country mired by deep racial divisions.

2002: Brazil 2 Germany 0
The 2002 World Cup final was less of a soccer match and more the glorious culmination of an epic four-year tale of redemption. At the 1998 World Cup in France, Brazil’s star striker Ronaldo had a fit before the World Cup final match against the host country. Though he was deemed well enough to play, Ronaldo didn’t look right and neither did his teammates as they lost 3-0 to France. Four years later Ronaldo was back (sporting a bizarre haircut) and his six goals had helped Brazil reach the final. Brazil’s opponent was Germany, who had surprisingly reached the final with what most observers considered a very mediocre team. The European team was mostly inspired by the heroics of its goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who would later be named the best player of the tournament. So it was unfortunate for the German keeper that, with a close game tied with no score, he spilled a second-half shot from Rivaldo right into the path of Ronaldo, who gave Brazil the lead. The Brazilian’s remarkable recovery from that awful night in Paris was complete when he scored a second with 11 minutes remaining. Brazil lifted the World Cup for a record fifth time.

2006: Italy 1 France 1
In the 2006 World Cup final in Germany, Italy won a fifth world title after a tense encounter was decided by a penalty shootout. But all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Zinedine Zidane’s moment of madness. The game had gotten off to a ferocious start when France won a penalty in the seventh minute, which Zidane converted by coolly chipping down the middle. Italian defender Marco Materazzi equalized 12 minutes later, but both goalscorers would have further roles to play in the game. Luca Toni hit the bar for Italy in the first-half and after the game had gone into extra-time Zidane had forced a brilliant save from Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. With 10 minutes left, the referee suddenly produced a red card and showed it to Zidane, who was standing close to Materazzi lying prone on the turf. Confusion reigned until replays showed the two players talking to each other as Zidane ran past the Italian, before the Frenchman turned around and planted a head-butt into the Italian’s chest. The image would become the defining moment of the 2006 World Cup. Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro lifting the World Cup after his team's victory in the decisive penalty shootout was a close second.

Related Article: FIFA World Cup Finals: Part 1 (1930 - 1970)

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