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Football: Greatest images

The sport of football is full of iconic images that have lived in the memories of supporters for days, months, years and even decades after the original events took place.

This article was originally published on 6 September 2022

One example of that involves former England captain Terry Butcher who, after sustaining a deep cut to his head during a crucial World Cup qualifier with Sweden in 1989, played on with just a bandage for protection and ended the game with blood pouring from the wound that turned his white shirt red.

Tuesday marks the 33rd anniversary of that match and subsequent iconic picture and it has given us an opportunity to look back at some of the sport's other most memorable images.

Butcher underlined England's spirit

For many, the image of a blood-stained Butcher punching the air with delight symbolises the heart and desire any player must show when they pull on the colours of their national team.

Butcher's heroic display enabled England to secure a 0-0 draw in Stockholm which ultimately helped Sir Bobby Robson's team qualify for the 1990 World Cup.

England of course went on to reach the semi-finals of that tournament where they were agonisingly beaten on penalties by eventual champions West Germany, as Butcher and his team again captured the hearts and imagination of supporters.

Gareth Southgate's current England team will need to show similar heart at this year's World Cup in Qatar - the Three Lions are priced at 11/2 to go on and be crowned world champions in the Middle East.

The hand of God

While England supporters will look back at that picture of Butcher with a sense of pride, the same cannot be said about the image of Diego Maradona punching the ball into the back of the net to help Argentina beat the Three Lions in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup.

The iconic 'Hand of God' moment saw Maradona leap for the ball alongside England goalkeeper Peter Shilton before using his arm to steer it beyond his opponent - an action that was not spotted by the match officials.

That put Argentina 1-0 up in the game before Maradona added an equally iconic second goal just four minutes later, this time he showcased his legendary skills to slice through the England defence before coolly slotting the ball beyond Shilton.

Gary Lineker did pull a goal back for England late on but it wasn't enough, as Maradona and Argentina not only went on to win the match, but they also ended the tournament as world champions.

Zizou leaves mark on World Cup final

Zinedine Zidane was perhaps the most talented player of his generation and he had already lifted the World Cup once before with France in 1998 as they prepared to take on Italy in the 2006 final in Berlin.

This would be Zizou's final match as a professional, as he had already confirmed his plans to retire, and he made the perfect start, scoring a penalty to put France in front inside seven minutes.

Italy soon levelled and the game eventually went to extra-time where Zidane, to the shock of the footballing world, was sent-off for headbutting Azzurri defender Marco Materazzi.

That is an iconic image in itself, but not as powerful as the one showing Zidane walking off the pitch and down the tunnel, with his playing career over and the iconic World Cup trophy left glistening behind him.

France went on to lose the final on penalties, but thankfully for Zidane the incident has not affected his legendary status amongst supporters too much.

Celebrating the ultimate success

It is no surprise that a lot of the iconic images we remember from football are from the World Cup, as that is the pinnacle of the beautiful game.

The images capturing winning teams lifting the trophy or celebrating their success are usually among the most memorable and for England that is no exception.

Every Three Lions Supporter, whether they were alive at the time or not, can smile when they look at the picture of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft after their 1966 World Cup final success over West Germany.

Likewise, Brazilian fans can look back at celebrations from their 1970 World Cup final victory over Italy with glee, particularly the image of Pele being lifted onto the shoulders of supporters as he savours a third success on the global stage.

This year's World Cup in Qatar could lead to similarly iconic images being captured, but which teams and players will be pictured come the final on 18th December?

Well that remains to be seen.

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