To say that soccer is popular around the world would be a massive understatement. From Nordic countries at the top of the globe to Australia way down under, it is a highly competitive sport that sucks in its viewers.
European teams like Spain, France, and Portugal have long been considered powerful and have faithful followers that are not even from those countries. England soccer fans are notorious for their fanaticism. South America has its fair share of love for the sport. Brazil has acquired many world championships, and you don’t have to be Argentinean to identify their blue and white striped jersey anywhere in the world.
When two nations face each other out on the pitch, it can lead to some nail-biting, jersey-pulling intense and memorable moments.
Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting international soccer games played since the year 2000.
2002 FIFA World Cup
(Brazil v Germany)
As with the Olympics, soccer fans have to wait a long four years for the excitement that is the World Cup. Jerseys get dusted off, patriotism and fanaticism hit a fever pitch, and everyone lays odds on their favorites. But what happens when two juggernaut soccer teams like Brazil and Germany face off on the field?
The German men’s soccer team is famous for their machine-like precision, and Brazilian players are known for playing with heart and scoring incredible shots. In 2002, the FIFA World Cup was hosted by Japan and Korea, and the first time Brazil and Germany would face each other would be in Yokohama.
No points were scored during the first half of the game as both countries tried to work on their strategies on how to beat the other. The closest call came during the 44th minute when Brazil’s Kleberson’s goal attempt hit the crossbar.
Although the German team had the ball most of the first half, they failed to capitalize and score. Germany kept passing the ball to their goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who kept kicking the ball to the other side of the pitch where Brazil and Germany would battle over possession.
Once the Germans secured the ball, they’d inevitably pass it back to Kahn who would start the process all over again.
In the 67th minute, Rivaldo aimed to score, but Kahn was able to block the shot. However, instead of catching the ball and throwing or kicking it back out into the field, Kahn bounced it off his chest, unaware that Ronaldo would be in the right place at the right time to catch the rebounding ball and score a goal.
Germany continued their attempts to score, but in the 79th minute, the Rivaldo and Ronaldo combination struck again as Rivaldo steps over the ball, leaving Ronaldo wide open to sink the ball into the right-bottom corner of the goalposts.
Until the end of the three minutes of injury time past the 90-minute mark, Germany and Brazil continued to duke it out, but in the end, Brazil was the victor with two goals, and Germany was stunningly unable to produce any.
2006 FIFA World Cup
(France v Italy)
Germany was the host country for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and they rolled out matches in 12 different stadiums for over 3 million attendees. It was also the first time that huge screens were allowed to show the games out to the public in urban areas, but it was the final match that drew approximately 715 million viewers.
France had beaten Italy with a score of 2 – 1 during the UEFA Euro 2000. Many speculated that France would prove they were the superior team and win again when they faced off again for the FIFA final, and others argued that this was Italy’s chance to get revenge for their previous loss.
The pressure to win faced by both teams caused immediate friction. In the sixth minute of the game, Italy’s Marco Materazzi fouled France’s Florent Malouda within the goal box. France’s team captain Zinedine Zidane took the penalty kick from the spot where Malouda was brought down by Materazzi and scored the game’s first goal within the first ten minutes of the match.
Zidane’s goal made him the fourth player to score three goals during a World Cup tournament putting him in the ranks of international soccer giants like Brazil’s Pele.
Less than 20 minutes into the game, Materazzi attempted to redeem himself for the foul that led to France’s point by scoring a goal with a header. Numerous fouls were called throughout the combative match with yellow cards picked up by Italy’s Zambrotta and France’s Malouda and Diarra.
But the score remained 1 – 1 and the game went into extra time. During the second half of extra time, during the 110th minute, Zidane drew a red card for headbutting Materazzi and knocking him off his feet. It was Zidane’s last game as a footballer, and he was sent off the field.
The game went into penalty kicks with Italy securing victory over France with a score of 5 – 3 in the showdown.
2014 FIFA World Cup
(Spain v Netherlands)
This memorable match of Spain versus the Netherlands wasn’t in the final round or even semifinal round; it was actually during the first stage. However, it still drew a lot of attention and had everybody talking due to the highly unexpected results.
Spain was the reigning champion, having won the World Cup in 2010, so they were the favorite to win. They had also not allowed the opposition to score any goals against them in the six games they had played at the World Cup before the Netherlands match.
Spain maintained possession early on in the game and around the 27-minute mark, Diego Costa was tripped by the Netherlands’ Stefan de Vrij which resulted in the referee calling for a penalty kick. The kick, taken by Xabi Alonso, became a goal and Spain was up 1 – 0.
In the 42nd minute, Spain’s David Silva passed up the chance to score a second goal. The Netherlands’ Van Persie scored with a header that sailed over keeper Iker Casillas to level out the game. Shortly after halftime, Arjen Robben was able to get past Spain’s Gerard Pique to land the second goal for the Netherlands.
After that, it was seemingly all downhill for Spain with the Netherlands relentlessly scoring more goals seemingly back to back during the 64th minute, 72nd minute and 80th minute. The defending champions had been dealt a humiliating defeat with the Netherlands scoring five goals to Spain’s one.
No one could believe what they had just witnessed. The last time Spain had conceded five goals was when they lost to Scotland in 1963.
2014 FIFA World Cup
(Brazil v Germany)
Sometimes things come full circle in the world of soccer.
In 2014, Brazil was the host country for the tournament. Germany and Brazil had not played against each other in a World Cup since Brazil beat Germany in the final round of 2002. This time they would be facing each other in the semifinal to determine who would move on to the final to play for the title of world champion.
Both teams are regarded as dominant with Brazil having won five FIFA world cups, including the 2002 victory over Germany. Germany had been crowned world champion by FIFA three times prior to 2014. This was a “rematch” many die-hard soccer fans had been waiting to see. However, Brazil would be without two of their most influential players, Neymar and Thiago Silva.
The match had barely started when just 11 minutes later, Germany’s Thomas Muller scored the first goal past keeper Julio Cesar. About ten minutes after Muller’s scoring play, he attempted again, but Cesar was able to block it. However, the ball rebounded, and Miroslav Klose was able to convert it into another point for Germany, making it 2 - 0.
A mere two minutes after Klose’s goal, Germany’s Phillip Lahm crossed a pass that midfielder Tony Kroos drove into the net giving Germany their third point. Brazil’s defense was nonexistent, and the players seemed to be in disbelief when two minutes later Kroos scored again.
Brazil’s downward spiral on their home turf continued when Germany scored their fifth goal just under half an hour since the match had started. Brazilian fans were crying in the stands, as their beloved team was down 5 – 0 during halftime and hoped there would be a miracle when their players came out for the second half.
However, it was not to be as Germany scored two more goals in the second half and a stunned Brazilian team scored their only goal during the 90th minute leaving the final score at 7 - 1.
Germany went on to the final round and won their 4th FIFA World Cup.