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Memory lane: Looking back at best World Cup semifinals in history

Jul 7, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

Semi-final Germany v Italy - World Cup 2006 Getty Images

Two World Cup semifinals are coming your way this week, as Brazil face Germany on Tuesday, then Argentina and the Netherlands clash on Wednesday.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a nice little trip down memory lane and reminisce about some of the best World Cup semifinals of past tournaments.

[ RELATED: How will Brazil-Germany line up? ]

There are plenty of thrillers to chose from, as there’s nothing quite like the tension of being one game away from getting the chance to win it all, or blowing it at the penultimate hurdle.

Here’s a look back at five World Cup semifinals that have lived long in the memory.

1958: France 2-5 Brazil 

With France and Just Fontaine ripping teams apart at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, many fancied Brazil’s young team to come unstuck in Stockholm in the semis. This game turned into an instant classic as Fontaine and Vava both scored within the opening 10 minutes. However it was a 17-year-old from Santos by the name of Pele who would then turn the game on its head, as his second half hat trick sealed the lopsided win as Brazil went on to beat hosts Sweden by the same score in the final. Attacking soccer at its best as two talented teams slugged it out in Sweden.

1982: France 3-3 Germany (Germany win 5-4 on penalties)

A pulsating clash from start to finish in Seville, as a Michel Platini inspired France took the game to Germany. Tied at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, the match then exploded into life as four more goals were scored in extra time. The game ended 3-3 and went to the dreaded penalty shootout. Germany (of course) won on PKs as this exhausting  match saw a clash of styles from two European superpowers.

1990: Italy 1-1 Argentina (Argentina win 4-3 on penalties)

The hosts were going up against Argentina and Diego Maradona, who was leading the reigning World Champions through a tumultuous tournament. At the time Maradona played for Napoli and his hero status was through the roof. This semifinal played out in his home stadium in Naples, as the locals were torn between cheering for their country and their idol, Maradona. Early on Italy went ahead through Toto Schillachi, but Argentina equalized in the second half through Claudio Caniggia. The game ebbed and flowed as tension gripped the air inside the Stadio Sao Paulo. Argentina were reduced to 10-men but hung on for penalties, as they knocked out the hosts in the most agonizing fashion.

2006: Germany 0-2 Italy (After Extra Time)

Once again the host nation came unstuck in the semifinals, as Germany were hit by two late sucker-punches. Locked at 0-0 for the entire match, entering the last two minutes of extra time Fabio Grosso scored a stunning curling effort with his left foot to break German hearts. The goal had been coming as Italy abandoned their defensive style in extra time and Jens Lehman and his woodwork somehow kept them at bay. Then as Germany pushed for a late, late equalizer, the Italians broke again and Alessandro Del Piero put the game to bed. Wonderful drama.

2010: Uruguay 2-3 Netherlands 

Oscar Tabarez’s Uruguay shocked everyone by making it to the World Cup semifinals but eventually came unstuck against a stacked Dutch side. Giovanni van Bronckhorst hammered home one of the best goals ever seen in World Cup history from 40-yards out early on, but Diego Forlan‘s swerving effort made it 1-1 at the break. In the second half both teams battled to go ahead but Holland broke through twice in the space of three minutes to go 3-1 up. Uruguay then hit back late on through Maxi Pereira’s free kick but the Netherlands held on to reach their first final since 1978.

  1. pf1977 - Jul 8, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    how do you not list the semi-final dubbed “the game of the century”? 1970 world cup, italy over germany 4-3 with 5 goals scored in extra time.

    • Joe Prince-Wright - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      Could have easily put that in there, plus many more, but stopped myself at picking five of the best.

      Hoping these next two WC semifinals turn into instant classics too!

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