Saturday, 2 January 2010


See previous post for questions!

Tough opening question! Most people know of the “Magical Magyars” – Hungary - who should have won the 1954 World Cup but blew a two-goal lead against Germany in the final, but it’s often forgotten that they also lost the 1938 final against Italy. Four years prior to that Czechoslovakia were also beaten by the Italians in the final despite leading 1-0 until late in the day. They also scored first in their other appearance in the final – in Chile in 1962 – but again lost out, this time to Brazil.

The 1950 tournament did not have a World Cup Final, because the knock-out phase was replaced by a round-robin group format that comprised Uruguay, Sweden, Spain and Brazil. The two South Americans nations contested the final and decisive group match; for this reason this match is often unofficially recorded as the “World Cup Final”. Brazil were playing at home and only needed to draw the match to win the trophy, but Uruguay came from a goal down to claim their second World Cup title.

Vava scored for Brazil in the Finals of 1958 and 1962, Pele also managed the feat in 1958 and 1970. In fact both players notched two in the 5-2 win over Sweden in 1958. Paul Breitner found the net in both 1974 and 1982, and more recently Zinedine Zidane joined this exclusive group - his penalty in the 2006 Final going with his two headers against Brazil in 1998.

Since 1982 the World Cup Final has been dominated by the elite footballing nations. The last seven finals have been contested by only five different countries – Italy (3) Germany (4) Argentina (2) Brazil (3) and France (2).

Antonio Cabrini missed a 24th minute penalty for Italy against Germany in the 1982 Final. The match was goalless at the time, but Cabrini was spared the agony of his miss being significant as Italy triumphed 3-1 in Madrid.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that on the two occasions a two-goal lead has been overturned in a World Cup Final, it’s the Germans who have done it. In 1954 they came from 2-0 down to beat Hungary 3-2 to win their first World Cup. In the heat of Mexico City in 1986 Maradona and Argentina seemed set for a comfortable victory as they led 2-0 with only 16 minutes left, but Germany scored twice from two corner kicks to level the match. Within a minute of the equalizer however, Argentina broke away to regain the lead and seal their second World Cup triumph.

Technically, the answer to this is Germany, who have reached the Final seven times. However, if the decisive group match between Brazil and Uruguay is classed as ‘the final’ then Brazil have also reached seven finals. My view is to discount that; it was a group match, not the World Cup Final.

Argentina had two players sent off in the 1990 Final against Germany. The South American side’s tactics became increasingly desperate and dirty as the match wore on, and Pedro Monzon’s dismissal midway through the second half was followed by Gustavo Dezotti’s second yellow in the dying minutes.

Host nations have a good World Cup record and have reached the Final on no less than seven occasions. (1930, 1934, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1998). If you count this infamous Brazil v Uruguay decisive game in 1950 (what a nightmare for statisticians like me this game is!) then the answer is eight times. Discounting this match, another interesting stat is that Sweden (1958) are the only host nation ever to have lost the Final.

Goals in World Cup Finals have not been as plentiful in recent years, but on seven occasions more than four goals have been scored in the biggest match in the world – in 1930, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1970 and 1986.

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