Ask any starry-eyed youth taking their first tentative steps on the route to potential superstardom what their ultimate ambition would be and most - some kids are bound to say something different just to be awkward - would say that lifting the FIFA World Cup would take some beating.
Dreams of following in the footsteps of global icons such as Pele, Maradona and Zidane are the stuff of playground legend, with kids across the globe emulating their heroes whenever the opportunity arises.
A lucky few may one day get the opportunity to grace the world stage themselves, and write their own chapter in the glittering annals of world football.
For now those aspirations remain the stuff of make-believe, with the back pages of the local paper the closest they will get to global acclaim until their undoubted potential is spotted by a passing scout from a top club.
However, history shows us that anything is possible and if you want something badly enough you might just get it.
Here skysports.com takes a look at a few of those occasions from down the years when 11 fortunate so-and-sos from the four corners of the earth saw their childhood dreams fulfilled and stood proudly atop of the world.
Just being a winner, though, is not enough to justify inclusion on our list. We like our champions to do things in style. So here we run down those World Cup finals which set the pulse racing a little quicker than is medically advised.
Having seen his brainchild brought to life in 1930, World Cup Geppetto Jules Rimet will have been a mightily relieved man to see the first instalment of global battle on the football field produce a fitting finale. A six-goal thriller between two South American rivals was just what the tournament needed to raise its profile and earn respect among those who had previously turned their nose up at the idea - not mentioning any names, England. Imagine if the first ever World Cup final had been a turgid 0-0, with endless replays required - in the days before penalty shootouts - in order to determine a winner. Would the project have got off the ground? It seems unlikely, and the global spectacle we now enjoy today may never have materialised.
Having taken the crown in controversial circumstances in 1934, with Benito Mussolini widely assumed to have had a major say in the destination of the trophy on home soil, the Italians became the first side to defend their title in France four years later. Few could deny they deserved to take the accolades on this occasion, with the Azzurri prevailing in a breath-taking contest. A frenetic opening 35 minutes brought four goals, while the rest of the game proved to be equally as enthralling. The competition was now firmly established in the football calendar, with the format growing all the time. The outbreak of war in 1939 would curtail its progress, but the World Cup was here to stay.
The art of defending appears to have been a lost art form during the early days of the World Cup, with the first five finals producing 23 goals. The 1958 showpiece proved to be no different, with Brazil and Sweden finding the target on seven separate occasions. Such a game makes the cut of our favourite finals just for pure entertainment value alone, but it is also worth noting that a certain Samba striker shot to fame during this tournament - and bagged a brace in the final. Edison Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele if you prefer, was an unknown 17-year-old when he arrived in Europe as one of the less-heralded members of the Brazil squad. A few short weeks later he was the name on everybody's lips, laying the foundations for a career which would see him go on to become one of, if not the, greatest player of all time.
A personal favourite, but then I am extremely biased. As an Englishman it is difficult not to get excited when reminiscing about the exploits of Bobby Moore and co during a glorious summer in the swinging 60s. True, the events may have unfolded decades before I and many others were born, but that is not the point. Any game which ends 2-2, after late drama, sees a Russian/Azerbaijani linesman take centre stage following a debatable decision and includes a hat-trick from a player who would not have even have been playing were it not for an untimely injury to a team-mate, cannot be overlooked - wherever your allegiances may lie. Geoff Hurst is obviously the treble hero I allude to, and - given the dismal failings of every team since 1966 - the image of Moore hoisting the trophy aloft, and the sight of Nobby Stiles jigging down the touchline, will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of football fans everywhere. Alright, maybe not. Perhaps it was just us Englishmen who enjoyed it after all.
Who were the greatest team ever to play the game? The Hungarian side which included Puskas and Kocsis? The Dutch era of Cruyff and Neeskens? Or the Brazil 1970 World Cup team? It is difficult to argue against any of those mentioned, but the general consensus appears to be that Brazil shade it - just. It is easy to understand why, as the show the men in gold and blue put in against Italy that year was football at its most sublime. The Italians must have feared that they could have been on the wrong end of a spanking, as a quick glance through the Brazilian line-up that day is like reading through a list of football's who's who. Felix, Brito, Piazza, Carlos Alberto, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele and Rivelino. Beat that!
Holland had been tipped to take the crown in West Germany in 1974, but came up short in the final against the hosts. Four years on they were once again expected to be among those challenging for honours when the competition got serious. Sure enough they made a second consecutive final, and yet again they were unable to turn their promise in success. Perhaps they were blinded by the wave of ticker tape which greeted the arrival of the players onto the field - an enduring image from the finals which were held in football-mad Argentina - or maybe they just were not good enough. Either way, the tournament ended up belonging to Mario Kempes, with the mulleted frontman picking up the Golden Boot as he helped fire the hosts to a first World Cup triumph.
The intimidating surroundings of the Santiago Bernabeu took centre stage in 1982 as Italy and West Germany locked horns for the right to be called the best side on the planet. In the end it was the Italians who prevailed in a game which is memorable more for the actions of one man than the contest overall. It took 57 minutes for the deadlock to be broken in the Spanish capital, before a further three goals ensured a thrilling climax helped paper over the cracks of what had been a forgettable contest for the most part. One of those who helped to drag the match away from the jaws of the mundane was Italy midfielder Mario Tardelli. Not renowned for his goal scoring prowess, the Juventus ace lost it big time after smashing home his side's second. His wild-eyed, head-shaking, screaming celebration has gone down in football folklore and just goes to show that footballers really do care - or at least they used to.
West Germany ending up on the wrong end of a World Cup final scoreline appears to be a running theme here doesn't it, but I assure you that it is not intentional. Any nation that can find such consistency over a prolonged period of time should he heralded, even if they did come up short on more than one occasion. In 1986 their was luck was well out as they crashed headfirst into a Diego Maradona-sized whirlwind. The Argentine magician had already put paid to the hopes of Uruguay, England and Belgium, scoring the greatest goal EVER in the process, before he got a go at the Germans. He failed to find the target in the biggest game of all, but was at his buccaneering best as he got his hands (or the hands of God, depending on your viewpoint) on the World Cup trophy. The game itself produced three goals in the last 15 minutes, including an 83rd-minute winner, and if that is not enough to get you off your seat, then you really should not be watching football.
As is often the case with big games, certain matches will forever be associated with the actions of one man. Think the Stanley Matthews FA Cup final, or Marco Van Basten's volley at Euro 88, or Tardelli's fit in 82. Some, though, are such luminaries in the sporting world that they have two matches in which their actions provide the focal point of post-match discussion for years to come. One such man is French legend Zinedine Zidane. The first of his moments in the sun came in 1998, as he led France to glory on home soil. A two-goal salvo in a final showdown against Brazil, which was supposed to represent Ronaldo's coming of age, cemented the mercurial playmaker's place on the list of all-time greats. The fact that he had almost thrown everything away by getting himself needlessly dismissed during a group game against Saudi Arabia only served to further prove that Zidane was indeed a special, special player.
Such was Zidane's lofty standing in the world game following his exploits at the 1998 World Cup, and in the years building up to the 2006 tournament, that a moment of utter madness was unable to tarnish his image. Eight years on from his mesmeric display at Stade de France, Zidane had led unfancied France to another World Cup final. Having announced his decision to retire at the end of the competition, surely the script had already been written and the fat lady told to start warming her vocal chords. Not so. He did open the scoring with a ridiculously nonchalant penalty after only seven minutes, but Marco Matterazzi soon levelled matters. Then, with the game having trundled into extra-time, the two men with their names on the scoresheet were involved in one of the most infamous on-field tussles. Matterazzi, it is claimed, aimed insults at Zidane and, with the issue taken too far for the Frenchman's liking, he then retaliated by drilling his head into the defender's chest. Off he duly went, and with him went France's hopes. The incident is now viewed with some hilarity, but at the time it is fair to assume that there were not too many Les Bleus supporters trying to conceal their childish giggles.
In the world cup,I've been a Germany supporter since 1982. Never underestimate the Germans and the game isn't over till the referee blows the final whistle.How many times have we seen the German comeback ! In South Africa the Germans will rise to the occassion once more under the leadership of my favourite player Michael Ballack.
Posted 15:06 22nd December 2009