The 7 greatest FIFA World Cup individual performances
It is difficult to forget certain things in your life. Your first kiss, your first heartbreak, and an exceptional performance from a top athlete. Whether you are a Real Madrid or a Barcelona fan, Ronaldo’s bicycle kick in the 2018 Champions League semi-finals against Juventus will be eternally etched in your memory. A great performance never ends on the field; it is written and talked about for years to come. We are still talking about Virat Kohli’s match-winning knock against Pakistan in T20 World Cup 2022.
The biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, is just around the corner. Almost every legend has been featured in this grand event representing their respective country over the years. But somehow, only some of them have given us the performances to remember. Let’s have a look at seven such memorable renditions in the history of the FIFA World Cup.
Zinedine Zidane vs Brazil, 1998 Final
Zinedine Zidane became a benchmark for midfielders with his blistering performance against Brazil in the finals of the 1998 World Cup. The legendary midfielder took the Stade Velodrome stadium by storm with his two clutch goals within the first 45 minutes of the match.
Zidane defined the meaning of grace every time he touched the ball that night. Each of his passes pierced through Brazil’s defence. France won the World Cup 3-0 against Brazil, with Emmanuel Petit scoring the final goal for the hosts. Zidane was named the “Man of the Match” and the rest is history.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Spain 2018 Group Stage
Cristiano Ronaldo has carried his side a lot of times in his glorious career. But to do it in a World Cup match against a team like Spain makes it more special. The Portuguese skipper scored a mesmerizing hattrick against Spain to steal a point against them in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo also became the first player in history to score in eight consecutive international tournaments.
Ronaldo grabbed his maiden World Cup hat trick when his side needed him the most. What makes this performance more special is Ronaldo’s 88th-minute free-kick to equalize the score against Spain. A once-in-a-generation show by the greatest of all time.
James Rodriguez vs Uruguay, 2014 Round of 16
The 2014 World Cup was a life-changing campaign for James Rodrigues. 22-year-old James Rodriguez won it for his side against Uruguay with a spectacular brace in the Round of 16 stage. The former Real Madrid player became an overnight success as Colombia went on to
win the match 2-0 against Uruguay. Rodriguez created history with his performance as he carried Colombia to their first-ever World Cup quarter-finals.
Rodriguez’s first goal against Uruguay, which was an exceptional volley, was described as “one of the greatest goals the World Cup has ever seen” by none other than Uruguay’s manager of the time, Oscar Tabarez. James won the Golden boot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and was soon signed by Real Madrid after the World Cup for a historic sum of 90m euros (£71m), making him the 4th costliest player of the time.
Diego Maradona vs England, 1986 Quater-final
“A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” this might be the most iconic line said by any footballer in the history of the sport. We don’t actually need to say who said it and when. Diego Maradona is coined as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, footballers to ever grace this beautiful sport. He was passionate, a genius, and a serial winner. He was loved by all, except, umm, some of the English fans for obvious reasons.
Maradona scored the infamous “hand of God” goal against England to knock them out of the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup. However, the “hand of God” wasn’t the only talking point about Argentina’s win over England. Maradona also scored arguably the best goal of his career just 4 minutes after his first goal. Maradona’s second goal against England in 1986 was also named the ‘Goal of the century’. Gary Linekar scored a consolation goal for England in the 81st minute.
Pele vs France, 1958 Semi-final
“So you think you are Pele? a very common line used in the 70s and 80s, even by someone who has never watched a game of football. Pele was the first real superstar of the game and was globally known for his majestic aura in the world of sports. Pele was born to play football, and he has the stats to prove it. There are many songs written about his greatness, and his performance against France in the 1958 semi-final is just one of them.
France was leading Brazil in that particular semi-final of the 1958 World Cup until Pele stepped in. A 17-year-old Pele, the youngest player in that World Cup, scored a hattrick to carry Brazil to the finals. Pele also scored a brace during Brazil’s 5-2 win against Sweden in the 1958 FIFA World Cup finals. Pele scored a total of six goals in just four appearances in the World Cup of 1958 and never looked back.
Ronaldo vs Germany, 2002 Final
The 2002 World Cup is fairly remembered for “that” haircut by the Brazilian Ronaldo. The legendary striker inspired almost an entire generation of teenagers to pick that haircut unintentionally. The real reason why Ronaldo adopted that look was to distract the media from writing about his ever-lasting knee injury. Against all odds, Ronaldo made it to Brazil’s squad in the 2002 World Cup after recovering from a severe knee injury.
Ronaldo was the star performer for Brazil in the finals against Germany, where he scored both goals to win for his team. Ronaldo comeback from a career-ending injury and became the highest scorer of the 2002 FIFA World Cup with a total of 12 goals. Ronaldo found the net against every opponent except England in the 2002 World Cup. But his performance in the finals against Germany was the best version of the Brazilian ace.
Kylian Mbappe vs Argentina, 2018 Round of 16
Kylian Mbappe’s worth is now in gold, and it is not a metaphor. No offer is good enough that will convince PSG to let him go; ask Florentino Perez. Very few players can match Mbappe’s stature in modern-day football, one of them being Manchester City’s Erling Haaland. Kylian Mbappe is touted to be the next legend of this game. Kylian Mbappe is a generational talent, and he has shown glimpses of his greatness since he was a boy.
Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager after Pele to score a brace in a FIFA World Cup match, a record which stood since 1958. Kylian Mbappe achieved this feat against Argentina in the 2018 Round of 16 clash. Kylian Mbappe’s brace helped France to edge past Argentina in a thrilling 4-3 encounter. Kylian Mbappe was the best player on the pitch that night despite the presence of Lionel Messi.