Pele celebrates after Brazil win their third World Cup in Mexico in 1970

Goals, Drama, Controversy: What Tournaments Make The Top Five Best World Cups?

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There are only 69 days to go until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia. Sputnik looks at some of the most memorable World Cups since the tournament began in Uruguay way back in 1930.

When the hosts Russia kick off against Saudi Arabia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium the politics and the nonsense will evaporate and football fans around the globe will feel the rush of adrenalin that kicks off every World Cup.

Not every World Cup has been memorable. Some have been real stinkers while others remain mired in controversy — hosts Argentina's victory in the 1978 World Cup remains tainted because it helped to prop up a military junta which was torturing and killing civilians and the world's greatest player, Johan Cruyff had boycotted it because of their human rights abuses.

So here are five of the best, in reverse order.

1958: Sweden (won by Brazil)

A young ragamuffin called Edson Arantes do Nascimento burst onto the scene as the World Cup came to Scandinavia.

Fortunately, for commentators the world over, the 17-year-old was better known as Pele.

He teamed up with Garrincha, the legendary Brazilian wing wizard, known as The Little Bird.

Brazil's coach Vincente Feola rested the pair for the first two group games and they came on strong in the final, beating the hosts Sweden 5-2.

Pele scored a brace, as did striker Vava.

But the 1958 tournament's top scorer was the inestimable Just Fontaine, who scored 13 goals in just six games for France, and ironically only played because of an injury to first choice Rene Bliard.

Three teams made their World Cup debuts — Wales, Northern Ireland and the Soviet Union — but their fans were unable to follow the games on television because of technological problems.

The rest of the world looked on in awe as goalkeeper Lev Yashin, known as The Black Spider, kept out virtually everything that was kicked or headed in his direction.

2002 Japan/South Korea (won by Germany)

The tournament is not always about great players and great games. Sometimes it is about the fans and that was certainly the case in 2002.

Seoul and Tokyo have bad blood dating back to the 1930s and 1940s when Imperial Japan forced indignity upon indignity on Koreans, but for a month in the summer of 2002 these two great nations set aside their differences and hosted a fantastic World Cup.

Japan — who hosted the final — were knocked out by Turkey on the same day as the Koreans, coached by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, pulled off a huge upset by defeating Italy 2-1.

But that was no disgrace as the Turks had their best World Cup ever, reaching the semi final only to be knocked out by Brazil.

South Korea, urged on by a "red army" of scarlet-clad fans in Seoul, beat Spain on penalties in the quarter final but fell at the last hurdle to Germany.

The final was all about Ronaldo.

This was the original Ronaldo, not the Portuguese version.

His World Cup had ended in heartbreak four years earlier when he put in a lackluster performance after a stomach upset just before the final against France had sapped him of all his energy.

This time there was no stopping the buck-toothed striker. His double in the second half saw off Germany 2-0.

1982 Spain (won by Italy)

Brazil's 1982 team are without doubt the greatest group of players never to have won a World Cup.

Their midfield contained players with God-given skills — Socrates, Falcao, Zico, Eder — and they put on a sensational show in victories over Scotland, New Zealand and the Soviet Union.

But the Class of '82 were knocked out by an Italian team which contained not only the meanest defenders in the tournament but also the peerless striker Paolo Rossi.

Rossi, in some people's eyes, should not have been playing in the tournament.

In 1980 he had been banned for three years after being implicated in the Totonero betting scandal.

But his ban was reduced to two years on appeal, allowing him to be picked by manager Enzo Bearzot for the 1982 World Cup squad.

He played poorly in the early group games but burst into life when it came to the business end of the competition.

Rossi scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Brazil, then scored both goals to beat Poland 2-0 in the semi final and scored the all-important first goal in the 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.

Many neutrals were rooting for Italy because of a horrific tackle in the semi-final by German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher that left French defender Patrick Battiston in hospital.

Schumacher was not even booked and the tournament's greatest player, Michel Platini, missed his best chance of reaching a World Cup final.

The 1982 tournament also saw a huge upset — Northern Ireland beating Spain 1-0 — and the biggest score in World Cup history when Hungary beat debutants El Salvador 10-1 in Elche.

1990 Italy (won by West Germany)

It was perhaps poetic that in the summer of 1990, only months after the Berlin Wall had fallen and just as the deal to reunify Germany after 45 years was being agreed, it was the West Germans who won the World Cup.

They beat England in one of the most memorable semi-finals in history.

The drama had begun in the tournament's first match — hosts Argentina, captained by the great Diego Maradona, were beaten 1-0 by Cameroon in a huge upset.

Hosts Italy unearthed a gem of a striker, Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci, who won the Golden Boot with six goals in the tournament.

But Italy lost their semi final to Argentina, who awaited the winners of England v West Germany.

The Germans took the lead on the hour, through defender Andy Brehme, but England striker Gary Lineker — nowadays a TV presenter and Twitter personality — equalized with ten minutes to go.

The game went into extra time and when England's best player, Paul Gascoigne, was booked for a foul he knew that meant he was suspended for the final, if they made it. Gascoigne — better known as Gazza — was famously seen on TV screens in tears as the game went on.

He need not have worried because England fluffed the penalties and the Germans went through to meet and beat Argentina in the final.

1970 Mexico (won by Brazil)

England traveled to Mexico to defend the trophy they had won in 1966 (a tournament that narrowly missed out on a place in the top five) when they were hosts.

The omens were not good though, as talismanic captain Bobby Moore had been arrested in a jewellery shop in Colombia, accused of theft.

The so-called Bogota Bracelet incident almost put the mockers on Moore's chances of playing in the World Cup, but he was conditionally released just in time to join up with the squad in Mexico.

West Germany gained revenge for their defeat in the 1966 final when they beat England 3-2 in the quarter final. England led 2-0 at one point but the Germans equalized with eight minutes to go and scored the winner in extra time.

The Germans lost a pulsating semi final, 4-3, to Italy after extra time.

Italy were leading 1-0 but the Germans equalized in the last minute of the game to take it into extra time.

There were five more goals in extra time with Gianni Rivera scoring the winner only seconds after Gerd Mueller had scored.

In the final Brazil trounced Italy 4-1 with the last goal, by Carlos Alberto, being probably the beat team goal ever scored.

The tournament is also remembered for England goalkeeper Gordon Banks' extraordinary save which kept out a seemingly unstoppable header from Pele, although Brazil still won the match 1-0.


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