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11th Nov 2022

The top 20 greatest World Cup moments of all time

Jack Peat

Greatest World Cup moments

Three new World Cup documentaries are set to be aired on Sky from this weekend

The greatest World Cup moments of all time include Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ at Mexico ‘86, Geoff Hurst’s hat trick in ‘66, and Gordon Banks’ save from Pele’s header in 1970.

Michael Owen’s goal against Argentina at France ’98 and Gazza’s tears at Italia 90 also ranked highly in the top 20 list.

Other unforgettable moments chosen by the 2,000 football fans polled include Ronaldinho’s outrageous lobbing of David Seaman at the 2002 World Cup and Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966.

For 39 per cent of respondents, a demonstration of brilliant skill is what is most needed to make a standout moment at the World Cup truly iconic.

And 36 per cent love the drama of an unexpected result, whether a last-minute upset – or the snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat.

The research was commissioned by Sky ahead of the 13th November, when three world cup documentaries will be aired based on Geoff Hurst, Italia 90 and the 2002 cup-winning side, Brazil.

Poppy Dixon, director of documentaries & factual for Sky, said: “Every four years, the World Cup puts the beautiful game under a global spotlight.

“In those conditions, under that pressure, players have the opportunity to elevate themselves to living legend status – or to go down in infamy.

“In any case, the results of our study seem to have uncovered an appetite in British football fans for all flavours of world cup drama.”

Greatest World Cup moments

The study also found 52 per cent of fans are looking to the future and hope to witness more iconic moments this month in Qatar.

And one in six (17 per cent) think sporting events like the World Cup feel like more of an event when hosted abroad, compared to matches happening domestically.

While 32 per cent think sporting events like the World Cup are a great opportunity to learn about other cultures, and 43 per cent like to see their country being represented on the world stage and on foreign soil.

Southgate’s squad were also backed most by fans, with 19 per cent reckoning they could finally bring the trophy home ahead of other heavyweights such as Brazil and Argentina.

It also emerged 35 per cent think the World Cup reliably delivers once-in-a-lifetime moments on the pitch, with the average football fan believing they have witnessed seven iconic moments during world cup matches.

And while it can feel like the golden era of dramatic football has passed, respondents disagree.

Greatest World Cup moments

A quarter think iconic moments were more likely to be seen in the competition before the year 2000, while 22 per cent think football has become more exciting in the new millennium.

Outside of the tournament, 24 per cent of football fans have witnessed an iconic moment on the pitch in-person, and 25 per cent have seen their national team play from the stands.

But 42 per cent also indulge in football documentaries to learn more about their favourite teams and the sport, with two thirds planning to watch similar shows in the run-up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Poppy Dixon from Sky, whose set of documentaries – Italia 90: Four Weeks That Changed The World, Hurst: The First and Only and Brazil 2002 – air this Sunday and will offer all three as a box set on streaming service NOW, added: “Our passion for football shouldn’t be constrained to the 90 minutes of a match, or the few weeks that the world cup takes place.

“We hope that football fans are ready to get into the mood and celebrate some of the greatest moments of tournaments past, by tuning in”.

The top 20 greatest World Cup moments of all time

1.    Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ at Mexico 1986
2.    Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966
3.    Geoff Hurst’s hattrick in the 1966 World Cup final
4.    Gordon Banks’ save from Pele at Mexico 1970
5.    Paul Gascoigne’s tears at Italia 90
6.    Zinedine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final
7.    Diego Maradona’s wonder goal against England at Mexico 1986
8.    Ronaldinho’s outrageous free kick lobbing David Seaman at the 2002 World Cup
9.    David Beckham getting sent off against Argentina at World Cup 98
10.   David Beckham’s penalty against Argentina at the 2002 World Cup
11.   Michael Owen’s goal against Argentina at World Cup 98
12.   Brazil being humiliated 7-1 on home soil at the 2014 World Cup
13.   Johan Cruyff’s ‘Cruyff turn’ making its first appearance in 1974 against Sweden
14.   Rivaldo’s play acting against Turkey semi-finals at the 2002 World Cup pretending the ball struck his face
15.   South Korea knocking out Germany to reach the semi-finals at the 2002 World Cup
16.   David Platt’s goal against Belgium from an acute angle at Italia 90
17.   Senegal beating France at the Japan/South Korea World Cup 2002
18.   Cameroon beating reigning champions Argentina at Italia 90
19.   East and West Germany play each other at the 1974 World Cup
20.   Roger Milla’s goal celebration at Italia 90

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