The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final is now set, with its two participants earning their way into the match in very different ways.  First it was Germany absolutely demolishing host nation Brazil by the score of 7-1.  Brazil fell behind 5-0 before the 30th minute was over, a result as shocking to the worldwide audience as it was to all the Brazilians both in attendance in Belo Horizonte and across the country.

A day later, Argentina and the Netherlands played a much tighter, evenly matched game and took a scoreless tie into penalty kicks.  There, Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero stopped two of the first three Dutch shots while his teammates didn’t miss a single kick.

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Now we’ve got what should be a great final ahead between Argentina and Germany.  In anticipation of the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, lets wind back the clock and take a look at some of the best World Cup Final’s from over the years (in no particular order).

1970- Brazil vs. Italy

The 1970 Brazil National team was one of the best to ever play in the World Cup.  Led by the great Pele, the Brazilians marched through the group stage with wins over Czechoslovakia, England and Romania and then took down Peru and Uruguay in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

The Italians won their group despite only winning one game and drawing the other two but picked things up in the elimination rounds.  After beating Mexico in the quarters Italy took down West Germany in the semifinals in a game that has been known as the Game of the Century ever since.

Brazil controlled the final match, winning 4-1 for a then-record third World Cup championship.  With the three-time win came the original World Cup trophy, the Jules Rimet Trophy, which had been awarded to every winner of the tournament since 1930.  As stipulated by Rimet when the trophy was made, the first three-time winner would be able to keep it in perpetuity.  It was also the third World Cup victory for Pele which is something that no other footballer has been able to accomplish.

2006- Italy vs. France

A match that is remembered as much for its great play as it is for the infamous penalty by French star Zinedine Zidane, the 2006 final was only the second ever to be decided by penalty kicks.  Italy’s march to the final was showcased by defense as they only allowed one goal through the entire group and knockout stage, with the lone goal being scored in their 1-1 draw against the United States.

France needed help getting out of the group stage after drawing in their first two matches.  Needing a win against Togo combined with a loss by South Korea to advance, the French got what they needed and advanced to the knockout stage.  Once there, France faced a gauntlet of great teams, beating Spain, Brazil and Portugal to reach the final against Italy.

Both sides scored goals in the first 20 minutes of the final but the game would go into a stalemate after that which took the game all the way to penalties.  Italy hit a crossbar late in the first half and Zidane was robbed by a great save during extra time.  That’s when things got very interesting as Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi in the chest after the two got into a mix up away from the ball.  Zidane was sent off and Italy would come out on top after converting on all five of their penalty kicks.  The win gave Italy its fourth World Cup championship.

1966- England vs. West Germany

England’s only world cup victory came during one of the best overall World Cup’s in the tournaments history.  An added bonus was that England won on their home soil as the host country.  They drew their first match against Uruguay before capturing wins over Mexico and France to advance past the group stage. Wins over Argentina and Portugal pushed the English squad to the final.

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The West Germans also won two and drew one during the group stage, though they outscored their three opponents 7-1 during those three matches.  The dominance continued into the knockout rounds as they took out Uruguay and the Soviet Union by a combined score of 6-1 to reach the final against England.

Both teams scored goals before the 20th minute and took the 1-1 tie into halftime.  England thought they had the winner when Martin Peters scored in the 78th minute but a controversial goal that appeared to brush the hand of Karl-Heinz Schnellinger brought the game back to even in the 89th minute.  Replays showed that the ball actually struck Schnellinger in the back.

England was the aggressor during most of extra time and went ahead in the 101st minute on Geoff Hurst’s second goal of the match which was almost as controversial as the last goal.  Hurst’s shot nailed the crossbar and appeared to cross into the goal, but it took a meeting between the referee and lineman for the goal to be awarded.  Later, with West Germany pressing in the final minutes, Hurst found the ball in the final minute and scored his third goal to seal the win for England.

1950- Uruguay vs. Brazil

Still thought of as the biggest upset in World Cup history, Uruguay was able to take down Brazil in a match played at the Maracana in Rio de Janero.  With around 200,000 people packing the Maracana in hopes of seeing Brazil capture its first World Cup title, all the Brazilian team needed was a draw to capture the championship.

A scoreless first half was dominated by the host nation and Brazil finally broke the scoreless tie in the 47th minute.  An undeterred Uruguay squad continued to be patient and play their way and eventually they were rewarded with the equalizer in the 66th minute.  It didn’t take long for Uruguay to move ahead as Alcides Ghiggia scored in the 79th minute, silencing a stadium that had been rocking just 15 minutes prior.

Uruguay held on for the shocking victory and won their second World Cup in just their second appearance.  Brazil and its fans were in total shock after what is still considered the greatest upset ever in a World Cup.

1994- Brazil vs. Italy

In a rematch of the 1970 World Cup Final, the 1994 match featured the teams that had won the most World Cup championships.  Brazil won their group by outscoring Russia, Cameroon and Sweden by a combined score of 6-1.

Italy had a tougher road to get out of the group stage as for the first time ever, all four teams in the group finished with the same amount of points.  They also all had the same goal differential (zero) so the tiebreaker came down to goals scored.  Mexico won the group with three goals scored while Ireland and Italy tied with two goals apiece but both were able to advance.

The final wasn’t anything special through 120 minutes, though there was a fair amount of chances on both sides.  It was however the first ever World Cup final to be decided in penalty kicks.  Both teams failed to convert on their first attempts but each made their next two.  Italy’s Daniele Massaro missed on the team’s fourth attempt and then after Dunga scored for Brazil, Roberto Baggio missed his chance to tie up the shootout, giving Brazil its fourth World Cup title.

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