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The Greatest Football Matches Ever (In my humble opinion)
Football in General
Member Name: paulie1975
Football in General
Advantages: Games that changed football for me
Disadvantages: Not a thing
It can be incredibly difficult to judge a beautiful football match, to some it is the ebb and flow of an English Premier League game, 90 minutes of breathless athleticism with some skill thrown in. To others it can be the cat and mouse of Italian football, where teams use strategy, nuance and no little cunning to outwit and beat their opponents. For others Spanish football with its tone set around pass and move produces the beautiful game, but who is right?
I have watched a lot of football over the last 30 years and think it impossible to tell you all of the greatest games, I can mention significant ones, for me these represent either games where the entire dynamic of the game may have evolved or gone backwards, or simply games where excitement and/or skill have simply drawn me into the game without memory of anything but that moment. I could have included more matches such as the wonderful 4-3 Newcastle v Liverpool game where Kevin Keegan's cavalier ideals were never more fully formed, or the utterly enthralling England v West Germany match in Italia 90, or Germany v Holland match in the same tournament, but for me these are the games which have for me possibly had an effect (I hope) on the way people believe football should be played.
These are my picks as the best games, but I accept this is entirely subjective and others may have their own views, which I would love to hear:
England 3 Hungary 6 1953
I have only watched this game on DVD, but have read so much about it, at the time, England with a team of renowned stars felt that they had some birthright to be the greatest football team in the world, whilst this was disproved with a shock 1-0 loss to the USA in 1950, that was still regarded as a shock result. This result however shook World football to the core, for Hungary to come to Wembley and not only outscore England but to outplay them with a system that was light years ahead of the industrial English tactics was a huge lesson to the world that tactics and skill can beat power and pace. The Hungarian team lined up in their famous formation with Nandor Hidegkuti playing in the hole between midfield and attack with the ferocious Ferenc Puskas up front. England had an excellent team, but had no idea how to stop the man in the hole and thus Hidegkuti ran the show creating and scoring goals for fun. The spectacle was a lesson for English football, the press and the English fans that good organisation and preparation were key. That there were 9 goals a raft of incredible performers and some stunning goals just added to the fun for all. For excellent performers like the brilliant English defender Billy Wright, this match would always leave an indelible stain on their reputation, but for England, one of the players who took such a hiding, Alf Ramsey, decided to use this organised strategy as his blueprint for the finest moment in English football, 1966.
France 1 Brazil 1 1986
This was a football match for lovers of the game, the beautiful Brazillians against the equally attractive French, for 90 minutes the teams passed, moved, Platini shimmied, Socrates planned his teams next move, Zico moved like a footballing ballerina whilst Tigana counteracted his skills perfectly, they played football perfectly but could not unlock the other team, despite a goal each, the game was eventually decided by penalties, a system much fairer than the toss of a coin, but more damaging to the player who eventually is forced to accept responsibility for his teams loss. France won the match on penalties knocking out a wonderfully flowing Brazil team and the last great team from that nation for at least 8 years. This was one of the last games where both teams offered creative abandon, with some defensive muscle and danced around each other beautifully for 120 minutes of captivating football.
Ajax 2 Inter Milan 0 - 1972
I chose this because again Ajax brought something new to football, the ideal of 'Total Football' something only a nation as naturally giving as the Dutch could provide, in essence the idea was that every player in the team was technically adept enough to cover their colleagues, therefore the defenders could attack and strikers play as the last man. In many ways the architect of this system was the astounding Johann Cruyff, but he was supported by wonderful players such as Horst Blankenburg a sweeper who could pass the ball 60 yards, or the dynamic Rudi Krol a defender who attacked like a winger. This team took on one of the most powerful football teams of the era, Internazionale of Milan in a show piece European Cup Final in 1972 and ran them ragged as the ephereal Cruyff scored twice and the team ran rings around their stronger opponents. This performance very much dictated how the dutch and to a lesser extent Barcelona would play into the future, this can be seen in current Barcelona Manager Pep Guardiola's style of management, as an acolyte of Cruyff's.
Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3 - 2005
One of the most extraordinary feats of football I have ever seen, at half time in the Champions league final, AC Milan were destroying Liverpool 3-0 with a threat of more to come, as Liverpool failed to deal with the silky Brazilian Kaka and the imperious Pirlo, they were picked off for fun and looked amateur as the wonderful Maldini scored in the first minute and then Chelsea reject Hernan Crespo got a double before half time. Coming out for the second half pushed by the introduction of German Didi Hammann to shackle Kaka, Steven Gerrard began to run the show, first scoring a wonderful goal, then pushing forward to create the chance for Smicer to score and finally winning the penalty which Alonso converted to make it 3-3, as the goals went in Milan's confidence disappeared and whilst they continued to press during normal and extra time, each miss or stop from Liverpool dented their confidence further until they were spent by penalties and watched helplessly as Liverpool proved that spirit and heart can sometimes overcome a technically superior foe. This was a game to show anyone who believes that footballers don't care anymore, whatever Gerrard's limitations in an England jersey, this performance was one of the most dynamic and incredible of any player in a Champions League final, ably supported by fine players such as Xabi Alonso and Jamie Carragher.
Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0 - 2010
I mention this match as it was such a clear team performance, Barcelona have a team of outstanding individuals who perform with a team ethic, whilst Real have a wonderful coach and individuals but still perform as individuals. As the game began, the marvellous Messi ran between lines forcing defenders and midfielders to chase him, the incredible Xavi (My favourite footballer), controlled the game with 114 out of 117 passes completed, this statistic is incredible, but his interplay with his defence, midfield and attack meant that Barca controlled the game, his control and eye for an opportunity brought goals for himself and others, but with over 500 passes completed Barca won through technical and physical superiority, passing, moving, team players developing routes to goal from endless angles.
Xavi was ably assisted by the sublime Iniesta (is there any better midfield pairing on the planet) and the underrated Busquets, whilst they had the extraordinary Messi supporting the ultimate predator, David Villa, a player who knows where the goal is but is renowned in Spain for his humility as a team player.
The players of Real eventually realised the only way to get near their opponents was to foul and rough up the Barca players as an only option of slowing or disrupting their play, I enjoyed this as it was clear from the smile on Lionel Messi's face as Sergio Ramos was sent off for one too many scything challenges, that he knew, good football and teamwork had won out.
As Barcelona players moved between positions, strikers tackling, defenders attempting shots on goal, it showed what football can be and proved that a team can play with strong, positive ideals, be fast, strong and creative without being negative. It was a wonderful performance, the best i've seen in 20 years and challenged the rest of the world to follow their lead and catch up playing beautiful football. Guardiola is a wonderful manager and he adopted a really good team which he has made great. Mourinho was gracious in defeat and took it in good spirit accepting that this would now motivate him and his players to improve rather than believe the hype, perhaps we will see more games of this standard if Real are as good as their word.
All of these games are available to watch on DVD, I would implore you to watch a couple even to see how football has evolved technically and physically.
Review also on Helium
Summary: The Greatest Football Matches Ever (In my humble opinion)