Welcome to Fixture Calendar’s brand new series - a look back at some of the most monumental moments from Sporting history.
First up, is football. From spectacular goals, to magnificent saves, pieces of sublime skill to unforgettable matches; here are a selection of moments that earned football the nickname of ‘the beautiful game’.
Diego Maradona Wonder Goal, Argentina v England, 1986 World Cup
The 1986 World Cup was won by Argentina largely due to the inspiration of Diego Maradona. En route to lifting the World Cup, Argentina faced England in the quarter-finals. With Argentina leading 1-0 thanks to the notorious “Hand of God” goal, Maradona picked up the ball on the halfway line and wriggled his way past two England players. He then charged towards goal, waltzing past two other England defenders as he made his way into the penalty area. With all the calmness in the world, Maradona then rounded England keeper Peter Shilton and slotted the ball home. In a display of incredible skill, balance and composure, Maradona utilised his stocky physique and low centre of gravity, keeping the ball seemingly glued to his foot as the England defence just melted away. No matter what team you support, this is a goal you can watch over and over again.
The Miracle of Istanbul, Liverpool v AC Milan, 2005 Champions League Final
Liverpool came up against a fabulous AC Milan side in the 2005 Champions League final. From Kaka to Pirlo and Cafu to Maldini, there were superlative worthy footballers in every position. Milan blew Liverpool away in the first half; an inch-perfect Kaka pass finding Hernán Crespo, who prodded home to give AC Milan a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead. With the game all but over by halftime, captain Steven Gerrard dragged Liverpool back from the jaws of defeat. Five astonishing second half first minutes saw Liverpool level the scores courtesy of goals from Gerrard, Vladimír Šmicer and Xabi Alonso. A penalty shootout was eventually required to settle this most memorable of finals. A heroic performance from Jerzy Dudek in the Liverpool goal saw Milan miss three spot-kicks to complete the most remarkable of comebacks, as Liverpool lifted the greatest prize in club football.
Carli Lloyd Completes World Cup Final Hat Trick, USA v Japan, 2015 Women’s World Cup
Despite being considered giants of the women’s game, the USA were on the hunt for their first World Cup triumph since 1999. They faced Japan in a replay of the final from four years previously, where the underdogs royally stole their thunder with a shock penalty shootout win. In a blistering first 15 minutes, the USA raced into a 3-0 lead thanks to a Lauren Holiday strike and a Carli Lloyd brace. Two minutes after the USA’s third had hit the net, captain Lloyd skipped past a challenge in the centre of the park, before hitting the ball from the halfway line to lob Ayumi Kaihori in the Japan goal. The skill, the vision and the sheer audacity to pull off such an outrageous strike on the biggest stage of all remains outstanding in the history of football. The USA went on to win 5-2, Lloyd becoming the first person since Geoff Hurst back in 1966 to score a hat trick in a World Cup Final. To do so in 16 minutes and complete it with such a stunning solo goal, is truly special.
The Cruyff Turn is Born, Holland v Sweden, 1974 World Cup
The 1974 World Cup is famed for the way in which Holland revolutionised the beautiful game with “Total Football”, a style of play that emphasised freedom and panache. Johan Cruyff was the key cog in Holland’s Total Football machine, and through elegance, flair and balance, Cruyff made football an art. Amongst his many astonishing performances, there is one particular piece of individual brilliance that the Dutch magician is celebrated for. In the group stage fixture between Holland and Sweden, Cruyff found himself with his back to goal and Swedish defender Jan Olsson marking him tightly. Cruyff feigned to cross with his right foot, before pulling the ball back down the line with his instep, swivelling 180 degrees and turning poor Olsson inside out. The subtly, the deftness and the imagination displayed were sublime. On top of it all, he made it look effortless. The ‘Cruyff Turn’ is a mesmerising piece of skill and individual genius ingrained into Football folklore.
5000/1 Outsiders Leicester City Win Premier League, 2015/16
The Premier League has been dominated by a small number of teams since the inaugural 1992/93 season, with just five different clubs being crowned champions in the 27 year league history. Such is the influence of money in the Premier League, the gulf between the top six sides and the rest of the league is huge and seemingly unbreachable. Minnows Leicester City had been promoted to the Premier League in 2013/14, and their first season in the top flight saw them survive relegation by the skin of the teeth. The following year, Claudio Ranieri was placed in the Leicester hot seat in an appointment that was considered quirky at best. The Foxes went into the 2015/16 season with odds of 5000/1 to win the league. They were not even considered dark horses and winning the Premier League was simply not on the cards. Yet, through determination, spirit and togetherness, Leicester City achieved the unthinkable. Although Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez tended to steal the headlines, this was all about the team unity and resilience. Underdogs enjoy cup runs, but to win a league title over 38 games is in a completely different realm of underdog achievement.
Gordon Banks Sublime Save to Deny Pele, England v Brazil, 1970 World Cup
Holders England lost to eventual World Champions Brazil in the group stages of the 1970 World Cup, but this encounter is best remembered for the remarkable goalkeeping of the great Gordon Banks. Pele, arguably the most gifted footballer to ever grace the game, met a Jairzinho cross at the back post, forcefully heading the ball downwards towards goal. Banks flung himself to the right, not only clawing the ball backwards off the line but somehow managing to send it over the crossbar and away from danger, with just one hand. As soon as Pele made contact with the ball it seemed like a foregone conclusion, so much so that he himself was already preparing to wheel away in celebration. Yet, Banks’ lightening quick reactions seemingly defied the laws of physics, and produced a save that left the watching world stopping to catch their breath. It is considered the greatest save of all time, and one you have to watch over and over again to believe it actually happened.
Manchester United Steal Champions League Victory in Extra Time, Manchester United v Bayern Munich, 1999 Champions League Final
Having already wrapped up a Premier League and an FA Cup triumph, Manchester United headed to Barcelona for the Champions League Final looking to secure a historic treble. However, within six minutes, the Red Devils were 1-0 down following a Mario Basler free-kick, marking how the score would remain for the next 84 minutes. Munich had opportunities to double their lead, clattering the woodwork on two occasions and forcing Peter Schmeichel into a number of fine saves. However as the clock ticked down, United began to open up their German opponents. Chances went begging and no breakthrough could be found. As the clock struck injury time, United poured forward for a corner. The ball was cleared, but only as far as Ryan Giggs, whose shot was turned home by substitute Teddy Sheringham. Two minutes later Man United had another corner, and this time it was substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjær who buried the ball into the back of the net. Two goals in three extraordinary extra time minutes, and United finally lifted the trophy that had eluded them for over 30 years.
Roger Milla Dance, Cameroon, 1990 World Cup
Unfancied Cameroon turned heads at the 1990 World Cup, beating South American giants Argentina in a feisty group stage encounter to record one of the World Cup’s greatest shocks. Cameroon went on to reach the quarter-finals for the first (and still only) time in the country’s history. This was the best performance from an African side at a World Cup, and Cameroon’s achievements changed the face of African football completely. Cameroon’s run to the quarter-finals are remembered for the feats of Roger Milla, the 38-year-old super sub who danced his way into the hearts of fans. Milla was only selected for the World Cup after Cameroon’s disastrous African Cup of Nations campaign triggered a squad reshuffle. The veteran scored four goals from off the bench at the tournament, and celebrated each one with a shake of the hips by the corner flag. He came on at halftime against England in the quarter-finals and changed the game, setting up both goals as Cameroon were cruelly denied a place in the semi-finals. Milla’s trademark celebration has become a favourite with football fans, as it stands as a reminder of the infectious fun the ‘Beautiful Game’ brings.
Manchester City Win the Premier League at the Death, Manchester City v QPR, 2012
Having trailed their great rivals Manchester United by eight points in the title race in the final months of the season, Manchester City beat United 1-0 to move to the summit of the Premier League on goal difference with just two games remaining. The title race boiled down to whether City could hold their nerve against QPR to secure their maiden Premier League title - failure to do so would leave the door open for neighbours United. The Red Devils did their bit, winning at Sunderland, leaving their fans nervously awaiting the result of the Manchester City match. However, things were not going according to script for City. Despite taking an early lead, they found themselves 2-1 down as the game entered injury time, the title slipping through their fingers and looking like the ultimate bottle job. In the 92nd minute, Edin Dzeko rose highest from a corner to nod home and give Manchester City a flicker of hope. And with seconds remaining, Sergio Aguero rounded QPR’s Taye Taiwo and buried the ball in the back of the net. A truly sensational way to secure the Premier League title. Listening to the iconic “Agueroooo” commentary guarantees goosebumps.
Carlos Alberto Wraps Up Famous World Cup Triumph for Brazil with Marvellous Team Goal, Brazil v Italy, 1970 World Cup
The Brazil side that took to the field at the 1970 World Cup are considered one of the greatest of all time, and they fittingly completed their World Cup triumph with a team goal out of the top drawer. Brazil produced Football that had never been seen before; the pace at which they moved the ball and the skill, technical ability and inventiveness of each player were spectacular. This was Football at its absolute beautiful best. Brazil were spearheaded by the majestic Pele, desperate to make his mark on the world stage 12 years after he had done so as a dazzling 17 year-old. The Brazilians led 3-1 against Italy in the final, when Tostão picked the ball up in his own half. Brazil calmly strung a selection of passes together, before Clodoaldo marauded forward, jinking his way past four Italians and laying the ball off to Rivellino on the left hand side. The midfielder sent the ball down the wing to Jairzinho and suddenly Brazil went up a gear, as he cut inside with a turn of pace and found Pele. The Brazilian talisman calmly slid the ball across the box, which was found with stampeding urgency by captain Carlos Alberto; who charged into the box to leather the ball first time into the bottom corner. A flowing team move capped off in style, a perfect display of the grace, skill and beauty of Brazil’s iconic 1970’s side.
These are merely a selection of some of Football’s most iconic moments, with many other matches in its history providing joy for an assortment of reasons. From flashes of individual excellence such as Zinedine Zidane’s thunderous volley in the 2002 Champions League Final, to incredible comebacks, such as West Germany’s 1954 World Cup final win against a Hungary side unbeaten for four years. From romantic underdog stories such as the infectious Japan side that stunned the USA on penalties in the 2011 Women’s World Cup final, to team’s achieving the unthinkable such as Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup Semi-Final, and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona tika-takering their way to a staggering six trophies in a calendar year in 2009. Football has the ability to shock, bring warmth and take our breath away.
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Written in September 2019