For many, Brazil 2014 has already confirmed itself as one of the greatest World Cups of all-time, if not the greatest. However, there is one ingredient that is still missing to top off the tournament in style: a classic final.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Philipp Lahm’s Germany will contest the curtain closer at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro with the duty of producing a performance worthy of the action that has already taken place over the past few weeks.
Ahead of their showdown however, here’s a look back at the previous World Cup finals they have been involved in over the years. Some were classics, some were duds, but all were decisive in one way or another as the winners became world champions and the loser faded into the footnotes.
Will 2014 end with a final to remember or one to forget?
One to forget: 1990—West Germany 1-0 Argentina
Possibly the worst final of any World Cup, West Germany’s turgid win over Argentina was an ill-tempered affair that was won by a late Andreas Brehme penalty kick.
With no goals from open play, and two red cards metered out to Argentina to leave Diego Maradona’s team to see out the match with just nine players on the field.
The single redeeming feature of the victory was perhaps its role in adding another feat to the storied career of Franz Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as manager, 16 years after winning it as a player.
One to remember: 1954—West Germany 3-2 Hungary
It was called “The Miracle of Bern”: West Germany’s shock win over the much fancied Magical Magyars of Hungary in the final of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.
Not only did the result upset the odds, it also incredibly meant that a country still without a professional football league became unlikely world champions.
It was also a game of high drama, with four of the goals coming within the first 18 minutes to make it 2-2. The winner came on the 84 minute mark from German hero Helmut Rahn to keep the tension high and the match’s climax worthy of the legend that has built up around the fixture.
One to forget: 2002—Brazil 2-0 Germany
Brazil and Germany had never met at a World Cup prior to their final clash at Japan and South Korea’s joint-hosted tournament, and it didn’t quite match the landmark 7-1 thrashing of 2014.
As the climax of the competition it was very ordinary, ending in a rather pedestrian 2-0 win thanks to Ronaldo who scored two goals past Golden Ball-winner, Oliver Kahn.
While the match itself wasn’t exactly special, the celebrations after full-time did stand out, especially the image of the fan getting a bit too close to Rivaldo and Ronaldo.
One to remember: 1966—England 4-2 West Germany
Though England’s sole World Cup win may not be a positive memory for Germany, it was undoubtedly a great final, full of controversy, goals and intrigue.
Geoff Hurst scored the only final hat trick in the history of the competition, Germany found a last-minute normal time equaliser, England’s third goal was an inconclusive talking point, and the atmosphere of Wembley was utterly electric.
The Maracana is a similarly iconic venue but Jogi Low will be hoping that his team can fare better in Brazil than their predecessors did in London almost 50 years ago.
One to forget (for Germany): 1982—Italy 3-1 West Germany
West Germany’s bid for a third world title came unstuck in Spain as Italy ran out 3-1 winners largely thanks to Paolo Rossi and a very emotional Marco Tardelli.
Paul Breitner did manage to find a consolation goal but it came too late to have any real effect on the direction of the game itself.
The wait for a third World Cup win would stretch on for another eight years.
Three to remember, forever:
1974: West Germany 2-1 Netherlands
Johan Cruyff was the star of 1974 while his compatriots and their revolutionary Total Football were the leading team of the tournament.
That counted for nought come the final however, with the Dutch deciding to show boat rather than add to their early penalty goal in order to extract maximum hurt out of their bitter, underdog rivals.
Once West Germany had finally managed to find their footing and level the score, the momentum had shifted away from Netherlands to begin their run as one of the greatest nearly nations in international football history.
1978: Argentina 3-1 Netherlands
It was Argentina’s turn to derail Total Football at the final hurdle, four years later as hosts, with serial smoker Luis Cesar Menotti stubbing another hole in the Netherlands’ World Cup record.
His team had to wait until extra-time to secure their win however, after Mario Kempes’ first-half goal cancelled out by Dutch substitute Dick Nanninga late on. Rob Rensenbrink almost snatched it in the closing seconds but couldn’t quite find the finish, with the ball bouncing off the post.
A second Kempes goal in extra time and a match winner by Daniel Bertoni compounded his error as the additional minutes counted down to what would be Argentina’s first World Cup victory.
1986: Argentina 3-2 West Germany
While their dire battle four years later in Italy would go down as one of the worst finals ever, Argentina and West Germany produced arguably the greatest World Cup climax in 1986.
Not only were there goals in Mexico, but the score line built up to a truly dramatic finish, worthy of a tournament often credited with being the finest the competition has ever seen.
Argentina were good value for their win, leading the game 2-0 until the 74 minute mark when Karl-Heinze Rummenigge and Rudi Voller brought it level with two late goals to set up a decisive episode of injury time to settle it.
Jorge Burruchaga, released through on goal by a World Cup-winning pass from the star of 1986, Diego Maradona, stormed forwards, found the finish and secured his country their second world title.
Will Messi be able to be as influential against Thomas Muller & co. in Rio?
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