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A-Z of the World Cup

There have been some memorable moments throughout the history of the World Cup and we have put together our A-Z as we count down to the start of the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

A - Alf Ramsey

Sir Alf Ramsey, to give him his full title, was of course the manager that led England to their first, and so far only, major men's international tournament success, as his side claimed glory at the 1966 World Cup on home soil.

England beat Germany 4-2 in the final at Wembley after extra time, with Geoff Hurst famously scoring a hat-trick, but it was Ramsey that masterminded the success and he was deservedly knighted the following year.

Gareth Southgate will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Ramsey and lead England to World Cup glory this year. The Three Lions are 8/1 to go all the way in Qatar.

B - Battle of Nuremberg

There have been some infamous World Cup matches over the years and the Battle of Nuremberg is right up there.

This was a round of 16 contest between Portugal and the Netherlands at the 2006 World Cup, a match that was won 1-0 by the former thanks to a Maniche strike, but that does not tell the whole story.

In a bad-tempered contest, referee Valentin Ivanov issued 16 yellow cards and four reds, setting a new record for most cards shown at a FIFA-administered international tournament and making sure the fixture was to be forever known as the Battle of Nuremberg.

C - Cameroon beating Argentina

The opening match of the 1990 World Cup pitted tournament minnows Cameroon against reigning champions Argentina and there was only expected to be one winner. However, the Indomitable Lions had not read the script.

Francois Omam-Biyik scored the only goal of the contest during the second half for Cameroon to seal one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.

Cameroon went on to top the group and became the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup, while Argentina recovered well and made it to the final where they were beaten by West Germany.

The Greatest - World Cup Shocks: Cameroon 1-0 Argentina

D - Disgrace of Gijon

Another infamous World Cup match came during the group stage in 1982 when West Germany faced off against Austria.

With the other match in the group between Algeria and Chile having been played the day before, these two teams knew a win by a one or two-goal margin for the West Germans would be enough to send both teams through at the North African side's expense.

West Germany took the lead inside the first 10 minutes and that was the end of the scoring, as both teams seemingly settled for the result that saw them both go through.

There was uproar following the match and this led to FIFA changing their rules to ensure the final two games in each group would be played simultaneously to prevent a repeat of the Disgrace of Gijon.

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E - Essam El Hadary

Former Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary made history at the 2018 World Cup as, at 45 years, 161 days he became the oldest player ever to feature at the finals, surpassing the previous record held by Colombian Faryd Mondragon by over two years.

El Hadary featured in Egypt's final group game against Saudi Arabia and, in doing so, he also became the oldest player to make his debut appearance at a World Cup finals.

The veteran unsurprisingly retired from international football that same year, although he was still playing at club level for Nogoom FC until 2020.

F - Just Fontaine

A little bit of artistic license with this one given it's his surname, but former France striker Just Fontaine deserves his place on any World Cup A-Z.

Fontaine only played at one World Cup, when the tournament was held in Sweden in 1958, but he certainly left his mark, scoring 13 goals in six appearances, including four against defending champions West Germany, as France ultimately finished third.

The former striker still ranks fourth on the list of highest goalscorers in World Cup finals history, with the three men in front of him, Gerd Muller (14), Ronaldo (15) and Miroslav Klose (16), having all played at multiple tournaments.

G - Graham Poll

Graham Poll was a respected referee that officiated in the Premier League from 1993-2007 and was FIFA listed for 11 of those years.

However, the now 59-year-old is best known for his gaffe at the 2006 World Cup when he issued three yellow cards in the same match to Croatia defender Josip Simunic during their Group F clash with Australia.

According to reports, Poll forgot to note down Simunic's name after issuing his first caution, he then booked him again in the 90th minute before eventually sending him off when handing out a third yellow in stoppage time.

The match finished 2-2 as Australia progressed to the knockout stages, but Poll didn't, as he was cut from the tournament following his high-profile error.

H - Hand of God

Diego Maradona was one of the greatest players and characters the sport of football has ever seen and that was certainly epitomised during the 1986 World Cup quarter-final clash between his Argentina side and England.

With the score at 0-0, Maradona jumped for a loose ball with the much taller England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, but it was the Argentine superstar that got their first, as he punched the ball into the back of the net.

Remarkably this was not seen by the match officials and the goal, which would be forever known as the Hand of God, was allowed to stand.

Just four minutes later, Maradona went on to score one of the greatest World Cup finals goals of all time, summing up his mercurial genius in the process, while he would ultimately lead Argentina to overall glory and be named the tournament's best player.

World Cup Icons - Diego Maradona

I - Mwepu Ilunga

Zaire were making their debut at the World Cup finals in 1974, but they had already lost their opening two group games by the time they faced reigning champions Brazil.

The Central African nation were also losing this game when they conceded a free-kick in a dangerous area, but instead of allowing the Brazilians to take it, right-back Mwepu Ilunga broke from the wall and booted the ball away.

Ilunga was booked for his troubles and later revealed he did it in a protest against unpaid bonuses for the squad. Zaire exited the tournament after losing all three games, conceding 14 goals and scoring none.

J - Jules Rimet

Jules Rimet was the third President of FIFA between 1921-1954 and arguably the most important, as under his leadership the World Cup was born, with the first tournament being held in Uruguay in 1930.

Rimet is credited as the inventor of the World Cup and for his efforts he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1956 and posthumously was made a member of the FIFA Order of Merit in 2004.

The first World Cup trophy was also named after him and was used until Brazil were allowed to keep the prize following their third success in 1970, as per the request of Rimet.

K - Kuwait Royalty

Kuwait qualified for the World Cup in 1982 and, despite failing to get out of their group, they left a lasting impression.

Trailing 3-1 to France in their second group game, it looked like Kuwait had conceded a fourth goal when Alain Giresse struck, but the defenders claimed they had stopped playing after believing they had heard the referee blow his whistle.

It was not just Kuwait's players that protested the call, as Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the country's prince and FA president, ran onto the pitch and threatened that the team would walk off if referee Myroslav Stupar did not change his decision.

Remarkably Stupar did reverse his call - to the disbelief of the French - but Les Bleus did go on to add a fourth late on through Maxime Bossis, although it was Kuwait creating all of the headlines afterwards.

L - Luis Suarez

It's remarkable enough being involved in one World Cup controversy, never mind two, but that is the honour, or ignominy that befits Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.

First of all during a quarter-final clash with Ghana in 2010, Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line to deny the West Africans a late winner in extra time and he then proceeded to celebrate on the side of the pitch after the subsequent penalty was missed.

Then, four years later, Suarez was found to have bitten Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during a group stage match. This was not the first time the forward had been found guilty of such an act and he was subsequently issued with a four-month ban.

M - Mario Zagallo

Mario Zagallo is arguably the most decorated person in World Cup history, as he has lifted the trophy twice as a player with Brazil in 1958 and 1962, then as manager in 1970 and as an assistant in 1994.

The mastermind behind arguably the greatest World Cup team of all time in 1970, Zagallo's success at those finals saw him become the first person to win the tournament as both a player and a manager.

Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Didier Deschamps of France have since matched that achievement, but it is fair to say that Zagallo could be regarded as Mr World Cup.

N - Night of Seville

The 1982 semi-final between West Germany and France was one of the all-time classic matches, with Die Mannschaft booking their place in the final on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw in Seville.

However, the six-goal extravaganza is not the main reason this match sticks in the memory, instead it is the horror tackle by West German goalkeeper Harold Schumacher on French defender Patrick Battiston.

Battiston was knocked unconscious, lost two teeth, suffered three cracked ribs and damaged vertebrae, but remarkably was not even awarded a foul. The defender played no further part in the contest, while Schumacher helped his side reach the final.

O - Oleg Salenko

Oleg Salenko only won eight caps for Russia, scoring six goals, with all six of those strikes coming at the 1994 World Cup as he shared the Golden Boot with Bulgaria's Hristo Stoichkov.

What makes Salenko's achievement all the more remarkable is that five of his goals came in the same match - the 6-1 victory over Cameroon in the group stage - a feat no player has achieved before or since.

The former Rangers forward is also the only player to have won the Golden Boot despite his nation exiting the competition at the group stage. Salenko played in three matches at USA '94, while the man he shared the honour with, Stoichkov, featured seven times.

P - Pickles the dog

The hero that found the stolen Jules Rimet Trophy, Pickles the dog, certainly deserves his place on this list.

England were due to host the World Cup in 1966, but just months before the tournament started the trophy was stolen whilst on display at an exhibition in Westminster.

It took seven days for the trophy to be found, but it wasn't the police or the football authorities that uncovered its whereabouts, it was instead a four-year-old black and white collie called Pickles, who saved the day and perhaps played his own unique role in England winning the World Cup.

Q - Qatar

Qatar will not only be playing at their first World Cup finals this year, but they are also the first country from the Middle East to stage the event after first being announced as the 2022 hosts in 2010.

The Maroon will be hoping to create further World Cup history at their home finals and they are 10/3 to qualify for the knockout stages from Group A, which also contains Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.

R - Roger Milla

Roger Milla is without doubt one of the most iconic African footballers of all time, with the Cameroon forward having represented his country at three World Cups in 1982, 1990 and 1994.

At Italia '90, Milla scored four goals as Cameroon reached the quarter-finals, which was seemingly a fitting swansong for the then 38-year-old, who became the oldest ever scorer at a World Cup during those finals.

However, four years later and aged 42, Milla was still playing for the Indomitable Lions and he scored at the 1994 tournament against Russia to break his own record, while he is also the only outfield player to have featured at a World Cup aged 40 or above.

S - Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's four!

Arguably the most famous piece of football commentary of all time, "Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's four!" is the line uttered by BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme as Geoff Hurst completed his hat-trick to make it 4-2 to England in the 1966 World Cup final against Germany.

Those iconic words have been repeated by generations of football supporters in the 56 years since, while it has also been used on numerous occasions in the mainstream media, including on the New Order song "World In Motion" and as the name for the BBC's satirical sports quiz show 'They Think It's All Over'.

T - The Miracle Match

The Miracle Match is the name of the film that is based on arguably the greatest shock in World Cup finals history when a United States team largely made up of part-timers beat tournament giants England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte in 1950.

Haitian-born forward Joe Gaetjens was the hero for the US, scoring the only goal of the game in the 38th minute, as the Americans humbled an England team containing stars such as Tom Finney, Stan Mortensen and a certain Alf Ramsey.

It was an astonishing win for the US, but not enough to see them qualify for the next round as they lost to Spain and Chile in their other group fixtures, while England also exited the competition early, with their sole win coming against the Chileans.

U - Uruguay

The first winners and hosts of the World Cup in 1930, Uruguay have continued to punch above their weight in international football, as they are the smallest nation by population to have ever reached the final of the competition.

Uruguay have not just won the World Cup once, as they repeated their 1930 trick 20 years later, and even with more and more nations becoming competitive on the global stage in recent years, they continue to reach the latter stages of tournaments.

Indeed, La Celeste have made it through to the knockout stages of the last three World Cups, including a run to the semi-finals in 2010, while they also lifted their 15th Copa America in 2011 - a record no one can better in South America.

Diego Alonso's current Uruguay side are 40/1 to go all the way and lift the trophy for a third time in Qatar.

V - Vava

No player has scored more goals in the World Cup final than former Brazil star Vava, who netted twice in the 1958 final against Sweden before notching another in the 1962 showpiece with Czechoslovakia.

Vava is in good company, as his tally of three goals in the World Cup final can only be matched by legendary compatriot Pele and England's hat-trick hero of 1966, Geoff Hurst.

The former Vasco da Gama and Atletico Madrid star is also one of only four players to have scored in two different World Cup finals. A feat that seems remarkable as he only ever represented Brazil on 20 occasions.

W - Norman Whiteside

Former Northern Ireland international Norman Whiteside broke onto the scene as a teenager with Manchester United in the early 1980s and he holds the distinction for being the youngest ever scorer in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals.

Whiteside is also the youngest player to have found the back of the net for Man Utd, while he became the youngest player to feature at a World Cup in 1982 when he played for Northern Ireland against Yugoslavia aged just 17 years, 41 days.

The now 57-year-old did not score at those finals, but he did find the back of the next four years later in Mexico against Algeria, although injury later forced him to bring his career to an end aged just 26 in 1991.

X - Daniel Xuereb

Not a name known by many, but former France striker Daniel Xuereb has the distinction of being the first player whose surname began with the letter X to feature in a World Cup finals match.

The former Paris Saint-Germain and RC Lens star achieved the unusual feat when he came on as a substitute during the 1986 semi-final which France lost to West Germany 2-0.

Xuereb may have only played 24 minutes at a World Cup, in a match that ended in defeat for his country, but he was able to create his own bit of unique history in the process.

Y - Youngest player in the final

The youngest player to feature in a World Cup final was a certain Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or as we know him Pele, who at 17 years, 249 days did not just play in the showpiece match against Sweden in 1958, he also scored two goals as Brazil claimed the first of their world titles.

Pele would go on to win two more World Cups with Brazil in 1962 and 1970 - scoring again in the latter - while also becoming one of the greatest footballers of all time.

In total, Pele scored 12 goals in 14 World Cup appearances, a record that can only be bettered by four men.

World Cup Icons: Pele

Z - Zinedine Zidane

Mercurial Frenchman Zinedine Zidane played at three World Cups, scoring a brace as France claimed their first title in 1998 before injury saw him play a peripheral role as Les Bleus exited the competition at the group stage in ignominious fashion four years later.

The 2006 finals in Germany were to be Zidane's last, not only as an international, but also as a professional footballer, and he seemingly used that as inspiration as he helped France reach another final.

Zizou even opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the final, but opponents Italy soon levelled and the game went to extra time.

It was during the extra 30 minutes when Zidane reacted to comments made by Italy defender Marco Materazzi by forcefully headbutting him in the chest, sending his opponent to the ground and leaving referee Horacio Elizondo with no choice but to send him off.

Zidane then had to walk past the glistening trophy as he made his way down the tunnel and he could do nothing as France lost the match 5-3 on penalties.

World Cup Icons: Zinedine Zidane

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