It wasn’t much of a kick in truth. Beckham flicked out his foot instead of giving it a proper swing. Diego Simeone made the most of it. The inevitable red card followed. And the rest of the world – and one proud football nation in particular – whipped into a frenzy to place the future England captain on a path to becoming the most famous player in the world.
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1998: France wins on home soil
Beckham didn’t envelop the entire 1998 tournament, though. The home country made it all the way to the final and swept aside the Brazilians – playing without the ill Ronaldo – 3-0 to win its first title. Overjoyed supporters subsequently piled onto the Champs-Élysées to celebrate the long-awaited triumph.
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1950: Uruguay silences the Maracana
The final match of the second group stage promised to serve as a coronation as Brazil welcomed Uruguay to the Maracana for a procession toward its first title. A draw would have sufficed for the Seleção, but Juan Alberto Schiaffino (seen here scoring the opener) and Alcides Ghiggia overturned a second-half deficit to lift Uruguay to a 2-1 victory on the day and a second World Cup title.
1990: Cameroon stuns Argentina in the opener
African teams possessed a poor record at the World Cup until this vibrant Cameroon side advanced all the way to the quarterfinals. The opening match victory over the defending champions – courtesy of this François Omam-Biyik header – offered a glimpse at the magic to come later in the tournament.
1950: United States defeats England
No one gave the Americans any chance of toppling the English in Belo Horizonte. Joe Gaetjens and this plucky group of underdogs defied all convention. Gaetjens’ goal seven minutes before halftime propelled the Americans to victory and sent the heavy favorites spiraling toward their eventual first-round demise. It remains the most famous win in U.S. Soccer history to this day.
1958: Pelé leads Brazil to glory in Sweden
Pelé, 17, set the world alight with his performances in this tournament. The precocious teenager – still the youngest player to appear in the final – scored a brilliant third and sealed the title in the 90th minute to claim a 5-2 victory on the day. He proceeded to win two more titles in 1962 and 1970.
1970: Gordon Banks saves Pelé's header
Other saves might meet a higher technical standard or provoke a more endemic reaction. This stop – a reflexive way to end a sumptuous Brazil move – still captures the imagination time and time again. Pelé later called it the best save he had ever seen. It did not stop Pelé and Brazil from claiming a third title, though.
1966: Geoff Hurst’s controversial goal
Did the winner in the 1966 World Cup final cross the line? The English said yes. The West Germans said no. The linesman said yes. And the referee awarded it to the relief of the home side. England went ahead 3-2 in extra time before Hurst completed his hat trick moments before the end to secure the title at Wembley.
2006: Zinedine Zidane headbutts Marco Materazzi
The masterful playmaker lost his composure at the wrong time in the 2006 World Cup final. Zidane listened to Materazzi chirp and chirp into his ear before he reacted in staggering fashion. He placed his head straight into Materazzi’s chest and then trudged off after receiving the compulsory red card. France held out for the final 10 minutes with 10 men, but Italy prevailed on penalty kicks.
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1986: Maradona’s stunning double against England
The two sides of the Argentine legend rose to the fore in this quarterfinal encounter. He scored his first through the “Hand of God,” a deliberate swipe of the fist to punch the opener past the onrushing Peter Shilton. His mazy second four minutes later – a slaloming run filled with composure, endeavor and technical ability – more adequately reflected his otherworldly skill.