The best World Cup semi-final?

As we all look forward to this year’s World Cup there is a natural tendency to glance backwards at the same time to admire the history of the tournament. With the exception of the final itself, the semis are amongst the most eagerly awaited matches. Let’s look at some classic World Cup semi-finals and see if we can choose the best.

Germany 0 - 2 Italy (2006)

Superb extra time goals from Grosso and Del Piero mean this one just about scrapes onto the list.

Rating: 2/5

France 2 - 1 Croatia (1998)

Stunned by Golden Boot winner Davor Suker the hosts were eventually saved by the unlikely figure of right back Lilian Thuram.

Rating: 3/5

England 1 - 1 West Germany (1990) (3 – 4 on pens)

Gascoigne’s tears, Waddle’s shot, the drama of the penalty shoot out. What memories.

Rating: 4/5

France 3 - 3 West Germany (1982) (4 – 5 on pens)

Four goals in extra time and the unpunished assault on Battiston by Schumacher. An extraordinary end to a fantastic clash.

Rating: 5/5

Italy 4 - 3 West Germany (aet) (1970)

Five goals in extra time here, with the Italians somehow holding off goal machine Gerd Muller to secure a memorable victory.

Rating: 5/5

England 2 - 1 Portugal (1966)

Two Bobby Charlton goals saw off a dangerous challenge from Eusebio and Portugal.

Rating: 3/5

Brazil 5 - 2 France (1958)

17-year-old Pele scores three in 20 minutes to crush the French and announce his arrival on the world stage.

Rating: 4/5

Obviously there are some gaps here. There were no semis in 1950, 1974 and 1978. Semis in the thirties were either goalfests (the two in the inaugural tournament each ended 6 – 1) or close affairs. The Hungarians and Brazilians were expected to win their semis in 1954 and 1962, and did. Maradona rolled the Belgians over all by himself in 1986. Bulgaria and Sweden livened up the 1994 semis just by being there. A similar thing happened in 2002 when South Korea and Turkey fought their way to the penultimate stage.

What have I missed?

1 comment:

Big Dave said...

Some of them were before my time but I really enjoyed the France 2-1 Croatia game! I remember those 2 goals were Lilian Thuram's first for his country! I think they were outside the area and on his weaker left foot too? Or maybe just one of them, need to find a video!

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