As the Qatar World Cup continues to roll on, football fever has officially taken over the Middle East. While the first-ever edition of a winter World Cup is obviously a strange concept, and the tournament itself has had its controversies, now the football is underway it has only served to remind fans what they had missed out on in the four years since France lifted the famous trophy in Russia. Les Blues are amongst the favourites in the World Cup winning odds.
Indeed, the French began their campaign in style with a win over Australia, and captain Hugo Lloris will be hoping his side can retain their title as the tournament rolls on. Antoine Griezmann was man of the match in Moscow four and a half years ago as France won in the rain, but how does his performance compare to some of the best displays in the history of the competition?
Read on, as we look at some of the best individual performances in World Cup finals and see how crucial they were in their nation earning a victory on the world’s biggest stage.
Pele – Brazil 1970
Brazil’s class of 1970 is widely regarded as the best international side of all time. You only need to look at their goals from the 4-0 final win against Italy — slick, samba passing, clever movement and deadly finishing — started by Pele in the 19th minute.
The Brazilian showed his dancing feet to skip past several Italian defenders, and was instrumental throughout the game, especially in Carlos Alberto’s thunderbolt to seal victory for the South Americans. Although he couldn’t beat Germany’s Gerd Muller to the Golden Boot, Pele’s performance in Mexico is etched in folklore to this day, as the football icon won his third World Cup.
Zinedine Zidane – France 1998
While his football career might have ended in infamy with a headbutt resulting in a red card against Italy in 2006, Zinedine Zidane is still one of the best footballers to have played the game. A wonderful technician, the Frenchman’s physical presence meant his graceful dribbling was almost deceptive, and despite his 2006 campaigning ending in tears, the 1998 final highlighted just how special ‘Zizou’ was.
France bullied Brazil on home soil in the last World Cup of the 20th century, and while the game is mostly remembered for Ronaldo’s illness, Zidane scored a brace to kill the game on the brink of half time, and was involved with Emmanuel Petit’s late effort to ensure a 3-0 romping in Saint-Denis, as France won their maiden title.
Diego Maradona – Argentina 1986
Back to Mexico now, and Diego Maradona’s 1986 victory in an Argentina shirt still goes down as one of the best tournament runs in World Cup history. While often deemed a ‘one-man team’ Maradona dazzled his way through Uruguay, England, and Belgium to set up a final with West Germany at the Estadio Azteca.
It was the god of Naples in the peak of his powers and while he didn’t find the back of the net in the 3-2 win, having been aggressively man-marked by Lothar Matthäus, he found enough space between the lines to cause Germany problems. While the Europeans gained a measure of revenge in the rematch four years later, the ’86 final will always be remembered for the genius of Maradona.