For 92 years and 21 tournaments, the World Cup has had so many memorable moments.
So every day until Qatar 2022, which will air exclusively on FOX networks starting Nov. 20, we are counting the top moments in World Cup history. Find out where your favorite moment ended up on our countdown.
Eusebio carries Portugal in a comeback win
Eusébio was unstoppable in Portugal’s monumental comeback win vs. North Korea at the 1966 World Cup. Eusebio scored four goals in Portugal’s come-from-behind win against North Korea.
Trailing 3-0 to surprise package North Korea at Goodison Park in a World Cup quarterfinal, Portugal knew they needed something special to make it to the final four for the first time during their first-ever appearance in a World Cup finals tournament.
Eusebio, known as ‘The Black Panther’ to the people of Portugal, sprang into action and single-handedly dragged his nation back into the match. 3-0 down after just 25 minutes, Portugal had a mountain to climb, but Eusebio scored twice before halftime to make it 3-2. He then smashed in an unstoppable shot after the break to make it 3-3 and complete his hat trick in front of a stunned Merseyside crowd.
The man born in Mozambique wasn’t finished, oh no. Eusebio then showed off his gazelle-like speed by picking the ball up inside his own half and then running at North Korea’s terrifying defense. One scything tackle came in on Eusebio, who carried on toward the goal but was taken out by another hefty challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. Remarkably Eusebio was still in one piece as he dusted himself off and slotted in his, and Portugal’s, fourth of the match to put them ahead for the first time.
Portugal added a fifth late, as they made it to the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champions England 2-1. Eusebio finished as the top scorer in the 1966 tournament with nine goals, scoring 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal.
The legendary Benfica forward passed away in 2014 as the soccer community lost a true hero. His legacy lives on throughout the globe, and this stunning display back in ’66 remains one of his finest moments.
Watch Eusebio’s legendary haul
Jorge Burruchaga wins it for Argentina
The 1986 World Cup in Mexico cemented Diego Maradona’s reputation as the greatest player on the planet; Argentina’s little magician scored five times (including two of the most famous strikes in the sport’s history), led the Albiceleste to their second title and was overwhelmingly voted the Golden Ball winner as the tournament’s top player.
It seemed that the only thing Maradona didn’t do was score the World Cup winner for his country. That honor instead fell to Jorge Burruchaga, who capped a wildly entertaining final by breaking a 2-2 tie against West Germany with just four minutes of regular time remaining.
The Germans, trailing 2-0 deep into the second half, had stormed back. They had marked Maradona out of the game to that point, with Lothar Matthäus never more than a yard away from his fellow No. 10. And they had all the momentum following Rudi Völler’s 83rd-minute strike in front of more than 114,000 spectators at Estadio Azteca.
Burruchaga changed all that with one slick run and finish after receiving a slick seeing-eye pass from — who else? — El Diego.
Watch Burruchaga’s late-game heroics
The Saudi Maradona
Saeed Al-Owairan’s goal against Belgium at the 1994 World Cup was Maradona-esque.
Diego Maradona wasn’t the only player to dribble through an entire team and score at a World Cup. And if we’re being fair, the incredible solo goal Saeed Al-Owairan managed to pull off for Saudi Arabia at USA ‘94 was every bit as pretty.
Al-Owairan’s run and finish didn’t come in the knockout stage, as Maradona’s slalom had eight years earlier. It didn’t come against England or any other former champion. It began deeper in his own half, though, and he beat one more would-be defender. And while the Argentine legend picked the lock by calmly rolling the ball home after rounding keeper Peter Shilton, Al-Owairan blasted the door down with a ferocious shot past Belgian netminder Michel Preud’homme.
The goal was meaningful, too. Not only did Al-Owairan’s unforgettable strike gave Saudi Arabia a 1-0 win and sealed their passage to the second round — the only time the country has survived group play.
Watch the Saudi Maradona’s 70-yard run
The first-ever world cup
in Uruguay was the toast of global football even before the first World Cup was played there in 1930. Part of the reason FIFA elected to play the inaugural tournament in the South American nation instead of Europe — Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden also submitted bids to host the novel event — was that La Celeste was the reigning world champs, having won back-to-back Olympic gold medals at the 1924 and ‘28 Summer Games.
Thirteen teams competed. The hosts won their group to advance to the last four, then beat Yugoslavia — a team they had trounced 7-1 at Paris ‘24 — 6-1 to reach the final.
In front of 93,000 fans at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay stormed back from a 2-1 halftime deficit to win 4-2. FIFA president Jules Rimet presented La Celeste with the trophy that would later be named for him, but Uruguay would not defend their title. The country boycotted the 1934 event in Italy in protest of just four European teams making the cross-Atlantic trek four years before.
Watch Uruguay wins the first World Cup
Ronaldinho’s cheeky free-kick
Shot or cross? We might never know the true answer. What’s not up for debate is this: Ronaldinho’s stunning 50-yard free kick for Brazil against England in the 2002 quarterfinals is one of the greatest World Cup goals.
England had taken the lead in the game on a Michael Owen strike midway through the first half. Rivaldo equalized for Brazil just before halftime. Five minutes after the break, Ronaldinho lined up over a dead ball in midfield. It was way too far away from David Seaman’s net for Ronaldinho to attempt to score directly — or so Seaman and the tens of millions of fans watching around the globe thought.
The Three Lions backstop duly positioned himself to defend the cross. So when Ronaldinho lofted his effort deep into England’s penalty area, Seaman was in trouble. The ball sailed over the backpedaling keeper’s outstretched hand and just under the crossbar, giving Brazil a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Ronaldinho insisted in an interview years later that he decided to shoot after noticing Seaman off his line, but many still have their doubts. Here’s another fact: it was a hugely important goal for Brazil, which went on to hoist its record fifth World Cup.
Watch Ronaldinho’s cheeky free-kick
A howler from James Rodriguez,
The Colombian attacker, arrived in Brazil slowly. Still, he methodically climbed the professional ladder, moving from his home country to clubs in Argentina, Portugal, and Monaco. He had just five international goals in the sport’s premier event.
But James exploded once the 20th World Cup began. He carried Los Cafeteros to the quarterfinals for the first time, leading all players with six goals. The breakout performance would help him land a contract with Real Madrid later that summer.
The most impressive goal of the lot came in Colombia’s first 2-0 win over South American rival Uruguay in the round of 16. The turn-and-strike missile was voted the best of the tournament and won the FIFA Puskás Award as the most beautiful goal of the year. Pretty good for someone only soccer diehards had heard of when 2014 began.
Watch James rips the goal of the year
A storybook start in South Africa.
The pressure was on the host nation in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup. South Africa had the privilege and responsibility of hosting the tournament’s first game on African soil, but fans across the continent feared the worst.
There were serious questions about the ability of Bafana Bafana — which got an automatic berth as the home team — to compete with the best in the sport. South Africa had won just one of its six outings over its two previous World Cup appearances, in 1998 and 2002, and the country had failed to qualify for the 2006 event. In other words, the pressure was on. So the entire continent erupted when Siphiwe Tshabalala hit a long-range missile past Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez and into the top corner of the net in front of a packed stadium in Johannesburg.
It turned out to be the high point for the hosts, who conceded a late equalizer to El Tri and eventually became the first (and still only) home side not to qualify for the knockout stage. But what a goal it was. Siphiwe Tshabalala made sure he was the first to score in the first World Cup held on African soil.
Watch Tshabalala wows the world
Senegal stuns France.
No one could have guessed that Senegal would be the reigning world champion. Les Bleus, also the reigning European champions at the time, had a more talented team than the one that had won the trophy four years before. They had considerably more experience.
On the other hand, Senegal was competing in their first World Cup.
On paper, there was a huge mismatch. However, when the whistle blew, any disparity in quality vanished. The former French colony took the lead in the 30th minute on a goal by the wonderfully named Papa Bouba Diop, who shot the ball while seated.
Senegal rode the momentum of their opening-round victory to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Les Bleus never fully recovered from their humiliating defeat. France did not only fail to win.
Luis Suárez stops history.
Ghana would have been the first African country to make a World Cup semifinal if Suárez didn’t intentionally block the ball with his hand.
The ball was heading toward an open net. It was going to be a goal for Ghana, no doubt about it. Not just any goal, either. In the final minute extra time of their 2010 quarterfinal against Uruguay, this one would make the Black Stars the first African team to reach a World Cup semifinal — on South African soil, no less.
Standing on the goal line, Uruguay forward Luis Suárez had the decision to make. His choice would stop Ghana’s destiny cold. Knowing full well that he’d receive a red card, Suarez batted the ball out of the air with his hands, calculating in a split second that the only chance his team had of staying in the contest was to avoid conceding the goal at any cost — even if that meant sacrificing himself — and force Ghana to convert a penalty kick instead.
Dark arts of the highest order? Absolutely. Unsporting conduct? Of course. But Suarez’s stone-cold logic in using the rules to his team’s advantage was sound. Sure enough, Asamoah Gyan missed from the spot. Uruguay went on to win the ensuing shootout and advanced to the final four.
Red Devils rally
Japan thought they had punched their ticket to the World Cup semifinals, but Belgium had other plans.
The Belgians entered the 2018 World Cup as one of the favorites. Boasting an absurdly talented squad led by in-their-prime global stars such as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku, they were destined for a deep run — at the very least.
Somebody forgot to tell Japan. With less than 40 minutes left to play in the round of 16 meetings between the teams, the Blue Samurai were leading 2-0.
Implausibly, Belgium — which had just topped a first-round group containing England — was on the brink of elimination in their opening knockout stage match. Seventeen excruciating minutes elapsed before the Red Devils got on the scoreboard, but the equalizer — by Marouane Fellaini —arrived soon after. Still, extra time loomed as the match entered the fourth minute of stoppage time. But Nacer Chadli scored a last-gasp winner, and Belgium advanced to the semis, where they’d lose to eventual champion France.
Watch Belgium’s comeback win vs. Japan
The Flying Dutchman
With the flick of his neck, Robin Van Persie helped the Netherlands get a consolation prize against Spain, who beat them in the 2010 World Cup Final.
Surely the Netherlands were out for revenge in their first game of the 2014 World Cup.
In the final four years earlier in South Africa, an extra-time goal by Andres Iniesta gave Spain their first title and relegated the Dutch to yet another loss with the trophy on the line. Added to their back-to-back runner-up finishes in the 1970s, the defeat left the Oranje 0-3 in the championship match on the biggest stage.
Spain entered Brazil in 2014 as the favorite, and things appeared to be going to script when Xabi Alonso gave them a first-half lead from the penalty spot. Then everything changed just before halftime. As Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel collected a pass near the sideline, he spotted forward Robin van Persie — who’d also played all 120 minutes of the 2010 finale — making a run forward.
Van Bommel lofted a cross behind the defense and into the box that appeared to be beyond Van Persie’s reach. Still, the veteran striker flung his body forward into the air and met the pass with his head parallel to his feet, nodding the ball over keeper Iker Casillas.
Watch Flying Dutchman defies gravity
Messi magic vs. Nigeria
Lionel Messi showed Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho that his right foot is just as lethal as his left and reminded the world why he’s considered by many as the greatest of all time.
It’s 13 minutes into Argentina’s final group stage game in 2018, and with the Albiceleste coming off a 3-0 humiliation by Croatia five days earlier, they must beat Nigeria to reach the knockout stage.
The pressure on Messi has been building. The planet’s greatest player is scoreless through two games. He needs to do something. Now.
Then in an instant, he does: Éver Banega delivers a long aerial pass behind Nigeria’s defense that a streaking Messi settles with his left thigh. Before the ball hits the ground, he delicately nudges it right with the inside of his left foot, creating just enough space between him and Super Eagles defender Kenneth Omeruo to set up his shot, which he duly blasts past keeper Francis Uzoho with his weaker right leg.
Watch Messi’s magic vs Nigeria
Oliseh’s screamer vs. Spain
Sunday Oliseh’s shot stunned the Spanish giants of 1998 with its power and precision. How do you put a stop to that?
Pretty passing sequences and deftly placed shots are nice, but sometimes you don’t want to watch the lock get picked — you want to see a ball hit with enough force to blow the entire house down.
That’s Sunday Oliseh gave us in Nigeria’s first match of the 1998 World Cup.
The defensive midfielder wasn’t known for scoring — he managed only one other goal in 53 international appearances — but he knew what to do when a Spain clearance fell to him 30 yards from goal with about 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Fernando Hierro and Raul scored for Spain on either side of halftime, but Nigeria equalized twice. With time running short, Hierro cleared a Super Eagles throw-in deep in his end. Oliseh caught it on the half-volley and thundered a low strike just inside the post past stunned La Roja backstop Andoni Zubizarreta.
Watch Sunday Oliseh’s screamer vs Spain
Owen’s Solo Brilliance
It’s unfortunate that some players cannot reach their true potential due to injuries.
Michael Owen is one of those players. In 1998, he was one of the best young stars in the game, and on a warm evening in Saint Etienne, he showed the world what he could do. What made it even sweeter for the English fans was that it was against their hated rival Argentina in Round 16.
Both teams scored early via the penalty spot. In the 16th minute came Owen’s moment of magic. Owen got the ball around the halfway line from a good pass by David Beckham. From there on, it was all Owen.
Owen shrugged off a challenge from Jose Chamot, who tried to foul him. He sprinted past him and ran straight at Roberto Ayala but then went to his right. His pace was so great that he went right around him.
Owen’s touch was a bit heavy, and the ball rolled closer to Paul Scholes, who was about to take the shot. This was Owen’s moment, though. He ran in and took the pass from Scholes before he got the ball and took the shot. It was a perfect strike into the top left corner.
It was an absolute wonder goal from Owen and one of the best individuals runs in World Cup history. England would go on to lose the match, and injuries have plagued Owen’s career since then. However, his moment of sheer brilliance will always serve as a glimpse of how much talent Michael Owen had.
Watch Michael Owen’s goal against Argentina
Cristiano Ronaldo Superb Hat-Trick Against Spain
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has scored more hat-tricks than any other player in the 21st century, netted three times in Sochi as the 2016 European Championship winners earned a point in their opening Group B clash.
Ronaldo began the night by converting a penalty in the fourth minute after Nacho fouled him in the box. Spain equalized through a wonderful solo effort from Diego Costa. Still, to the delight of manager Fernando Santos, that man Ronaldo soon made it 2-1 after a red-faced David de Gea fumbled his powerful effort from range.
Costa, who played for Atletico Madrid at the time, then equalized again to make it 2-2 before Nacho redeemed himself for conceding the first-half penalty by drilling a volley from the edge of the area.
Portugal would earn a point in the Iberian derby, but Ronaldo’s performance grabbed the headlines.
“When there’s someone like Ronaldo out there, these things can happen,” Hierro, who did not expect to be on the touchline, reflected.
The former Manchester United winger, who also became the first player to score in eight consecutive major tournaments that night, was later praised for his humble post-match interview.
“Above all, we have to stress the efforts of the team,” he said.
“We showed that we will always fight to the end. Spain dominated possession, they’re one of the best sides in the world, but we believed until the end.”