The history of soccer has produced some exciting matches over the years. Whether it be international competition or club battles, a few stand out from the rest. This is a look at the 15 best soccer matches of all time.
1. Argentina – England, 1986 World Cup
- Score: Argentina 2-1 England
If there is one match everyone talks about in both Argentina and England to this day, it is the quarterfinal matchup in 1986. England felt like they had a team that was capable of winning the World Cup, and Argentina ultimately proved that they are capable of winning as well, as they went on to capture the championship a few matches later. The way they found themselves in that situation came down to a bit of luck, and a star solidifying his legacy.
With a tie score just after halftime, Argentine legend Maradona beat England’s keeper to a ball. Many thought that it was an impossible task for even a talented Maradona, and upon further review, it shows that a handball was missed that benefited Argentina. The refs never spotted it, and just a few minutes later, Maradona found a way to score what would be the game-winning goal.
The way he scored was truly remarkable, as he individually beat five English defenders before facing only the keeper in front of him. The clip solidifies himself as one of the best to ever play, and he did enough in the semifinals and finals to help Argentina win a trophy.
2. Uruguay – Brazil, 1950 World Cup
- Score: Uruguay 2-1 Brazil
In the early days of World Cup’s, the actual winner was decided by a group stage involving the four winners from the first group stage round. That means there was no knockout match format, which usually means there would not be any super exciting finishes. That was certainly not the case in 1950, as Uruguay found a way to shock Brazil.
To win the World Cup, Brazil only needed to draw in the final. Most thought that Brazil had everything locked up, but Uruguay scored twice in the last 25 minutes of the match to pull off the upset. The excitement, and the stage, makes this near the top of any list.
3. England – West Germany, 1966 World Cup
- Score: England 4-1 West Germany
Despite being a rabid soccer country, England has failed to win as often as any other fans would like. The one exception to that rule came in 1966 when they pulled off their one and only FIFA World Cup. How they were able to pull it off in the final was in extremely shocking fashion.
The match was tied 2-2 after 90 minutes of play, so it moved into extra time. Geoff Hurst, a man who scored one of the two goals earlier in the match, added two more to his total to become the only player in history to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.
To win the final in this fashion, on home soil, was truly remarkable for the entire team. It is shocking to many that they have not been able to hoist a trophy since, but they will always have this moment in history.
4. Italy – West Germany, 1970 World Cup
- Score: Italy 4-3 West Germany
Although neither team won the championship in the end, this battle in the semifinals was one of the best in World Cup history. There was not only a lot of scoring in the match, but both teams caught fire at different times.
Italy scored very early in the match, and it appeared as though they were ready to cruise to victory. However, West Germany found a way right before the end of regulation to even up the score and force extra time. What began as a 1-1 tie became a huge goal-scoring affair, as the teams combined for five goals in 13 minutes. No type of offense like that has ever been duplicated in World Cup history since.
Italy eventually found a way, but maybe they were a bit too tired to do much of anything in the final. Brazil cruised to a 4-1 win to add another World Cup to their collection.
5. Algeria – West Germany, 1982 World Cup
- Score: Algeria 2-1 West Germany
With just a limited number of teams making the World Cup, especially over 30 years ago, there are not a ton of monumental upsets. In 1982, Algeria shocked many by beating West Germany with two goals in about a minute of action. Midway through the second half, Algeria put together a string of offense that led to the stunning victory.
The offense is great, but the defense should also receive quite a bit of praise for holding off West Germany and their tactical offense late in the match. They were facing an onslaught to try to at least push for a draw, but they held on in the end.
6. Italy – Brazil, 1982 World Cup
- Score: Italy 3-2 Brazil
Brazil has been extremely dominant in World Cup history, claiming the trophy five times in history. While the country is very proud of the five titles, the 1982 World Cup felt like it was theirs for the taking. However, Italy had other ideas, putting together a very strong defense that held down Brazil enough to send them packing.
Brazil looked like they were well on their way to a championship run, but that all changed in the final match of Group C in the 1982 World Cup. Both teams were able to beat up on Argentina, but Italy showed just how strong they were with a combination of offense and defense that led to a near-perfect match.
Everything went back-and-forth, but Italy found a way to clinch the match in the 74th minute. After that, they road the defense to a win that would set a tone for the rest of the tournament. They would not face a tougher test the rest of the way, beating West Germany 3-1 in the final.
7. Belgium – Soviet Union, 1986 World Cup
- Score: Belgium 4-3 Soviet Union
The Soviet Union looked like an offense of juggernaut at 1986 World Cup, scoring nine goals in the first three matches in Mexico. They were still able to score pretty quickly against Belgium, but they couldn’t get enough stops to pull out of victory. Belgium stepped up their offense in ways no one had seen in quite some time, and that led to the country pushing their way to a semifinals run.
They ultimately finished in fourth place, but their play shocked many during the entire tournament. Many thought they were the one team that kept surprising teams, and nothing epitomized that team quite like the victory over the Soviet Union.
8. Argentina – England, 1998 World Cup
- Score: Argentina 2-2 England (4-3 After Penalties)
Twelve years after the memorable matchup in Mexico, these two countries once again faced off in France. This time, it would be in the Round of 16, but both teams felt very confident entering play.
There was plenty of star power on both sides, as England felt like they had players who could go up against any type of style pretty well. England had control of the match as well, but a late collapse led to a draw, and no one could gain an edge in extra time either.
Once it came down to penalties, it was anyone’s match. England couldn’t seem to get any type of rhythm on the penalty kicks, and lost 4-3 to go home devastated. Argentina would not be able to ride that magic this time around, as they lost the next match to the Netherlands. However, it was clear that Argentina was not exactly a very well-loved country when mentioned around English soccer fans during this time.
9. Italy – Germany, 2006 World Cup
- Score: Italy 2-0 Germany
Soccer can be frustrating without goals, but the Italy-Germany semifinal match was about as exciting as one could get. The match appeared to be heading to a 0-0 draw to be decided by penalty kicks. Somehow, someway, Italy broke through with the scoring in the 119 minute, and then scored just about a minute later to take home a 2-0 victory.
The two teams had chances early on in the match, but the offenses were not on the same page at certain times. There is no doubt that both teams had amazing defenses in 2006, but there should have been opportunities to score to break the scoreless draw before the 119 minute.
To top everything off, Italy was able to do this in front of Germany’s fans. Many were shocked at the result, and Italy rode the momentum to pull off a victory over France in the final. They actually needed a penalty shootout in the final, and they converted on all five of their kicks.
10. Netherlands – Spain, 2014 World Cup
- Score: Netherlands 5-1 Spain
After dropping a tough 2010 final to Spain, the Netherlands appeared to be out for revenge in 2014. Maybe it didn’t make up for a World Cup title loss, but an easy 5-1 victory pleased many Dutch fans during the tournament.
From the early minutes, it appeared like the Netherlands were playing at an entirely different level. They had an offense that was clicking on all cylinders, and they never really pulled back at any point. They would once again go deep into the tournament, but a loss in penalties in the semifinals to Argentina meant that they needed to settle for a third-place finish.
11. Germany – Brazil, 2014 World Cup
- Score: Germany 7-1 Brazil
The 2014 World Cup is memorable for not only the blowout above, but this one as well. In Brazil, Germany absolutely destroyed a stunned Brazilian team 7-1 in the semifinals. Many thought that Brazil could go all the way with their home country support, but Germany scored five goals in the first 29 minutes to put the match out of reach.
In the second half, Germany found a way to add two more goals, embarrassing the host nation and setting the stage for a World Cup victory by beating Argentina 1-0 in the final. Brazilian fans are still stunned by the result, and seeing such a dominant side go through a beat down like that is stunning.
12. Argentina – Iceland, 2018 World Cup
- Score: Argentina 1-1 Iceland
Argentina came into this group stage match with a ton of talent, headlined by Lionel Messi. Everyone expected them to cruise to a pretty easy victory, especially going up against an Iceland team that was mostly happy to be there. However, they showed early on that they were in it to compete, and they did exactly that by answering Argentina with a goal of their own in the middle of the first half.
Iceland‘s defense was able to shut down the powerful Argentina offense, and a 1-1 draw was essentially a win for the country. The team received a ton of attention for the match, and although they didn’t do much after, it was clear that no one will forget that draw any time soon.
13. Manchester United – Bayern Munich, 1999 Champions League
- Score: Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich
Simply put, these were the two most dominant club teams in the world at the time. Both teams found a way to dominate their domestic leagues, and win their cups. They were looking to add another piece of hardware to cap off the season in the Champions League final.
Bayern Munich took control early, scoring on a free kick and looking like they were going to go into prevent mode that would lead victory. However, Manchester United made the right substitutions to give their offense of boost, and two goals in stoppage time lead to a stunning come-from-behind victory.
14. Liverpool – AC Milan, Champions League 2005
- Score: Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (3-2 after penalties)
Not only did AC Milan enter the match as favorites, but jumping out to a 3-0 lead certainly seemed like they had everything locked up for the title. However, Liverpool never gave up, and although AC Milan helped out a little by melting, they deserve a lot of credit for scoring three goals and forcing what would ultimately be penalty kicks.
To this day, not everyone knows how Liverpool pull off the victory, but it was a fifth European crown for the club. It also is perhaps one of the most memorable come-from-behind victory in soccer history.
15. Barcelona – Arsenal, 2006 Champions League
- Score: Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
The final match to make this list is not without controversy, as Arsenal saw their goalkeeper sent off in the 18th minute after a foul. Arsenal knew they were in for a tough ride playing a man down, but they hung in late in the match, only to finally drop a tough 2-1 final.
The defensive strategy worked to a certain degree, as Barcelona couldn’t figure out exactly what to do to pull off the victory. It wasn’t until the 76th minute when they were able to equalize the match, and then four minutes later they found the net again to pull off the win.