Although Sunday’s World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain will already be the 18th final in the history of the competition, history will be made when the two teams play at Soccer City in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
For the first time a European country will win the World Cup outside Europe and for both countries a victory would be the first time that they manage to achieve success at the highest stage in world football.
The first World Cup final in 1930 saw the hosts Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 in a game that saw two balls being used as both sides insisted on playing with their ‘own’ ball.
Four years later, Luis Felipe Monti played in his second World Cup final, but this time the Buenos Aires-born player ended up on the winning side.
However, the defender did not represent his native Argentina, but was playing for the 1934 hosts Italy, who beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 after extra-time.
In 1938 the Italians became the first champions to successfully defend their title as they beat Hungary 4-2 in the final, which was played in Paris.
The Second World War then caused a 12-year interruption and when the World Cup finally resumed in Brazil in 1950, the hosts were the overwhelming favourites.
It was the first — and to date only — time that no final was played and Brazil needed only to draw their final game in a four-team round-robin against Uruguay to win the World Cup for the first time. But the 1930 champions pulled off a stunning 2-1 victory for their second title.
Four years later it was the turn of Germany who stunned the overwhelming favourites Hungary 3-2 in what was to be known as the miracle of Berne.
Brazil finally won their first title in 1958, when a 17-year-old Pele first grabbed the world’s attention. He scored twice in Brazil’s 5-2 victory in the final against Sweden.
Pele was injured four years later and missed the final when Brazil beat Czechoslovakia 3-1.
The 1966 final between the hosts England and Germany will forever be remembered for the so-called Wembley goal that saw a goal being awarded for a Geoff Hurst shot that might — or might not — have crossed the line. It was England’s third in a 4-2 victory.
In 1970 Pele was again in the starting line-up as Brazil trounced Italy 4-1 in the final — which is still widely considered as the best-ever final.
The next two editions saw home victories with Germany beating Netherlands 2-1 in 1974, while the Dutch also lost four years later against Argentina, who won 3-1.
Italy won their third title in Spain in 1982, when Paolo Rossi inspired the side to a 3-1 victory against West Germany, who also lost the 1986 final to Argentina by the same score.
In 1990 the two countries met again in the final, but this time the Europeans prevailed as a penalty scored by Andreas Brehme five minutes from the end gave West Germany their second title against Argentina, who ended the game with just nine men.
The 1994 final was the first time that the championship match ended goalless as Brazil and Italy failed to break the deadlock in 120 minutes.
Brazil won the resultant penalty shootout 3-2, with Roberto Baggio missing the decisive penalty for Italy.
Brazil’s hopes of becoming the first country since they themselves managed in 1962 to successfully defend the title were scuppered by two goals from Zinedine Zidane for hosts France, who beat Brazil 3-0 in the final.
There was some controversy ahead of the match as Brazilian superstar Ronaldo was initially included in his side’s line-up, but then failed to take to the field.
The first World Cup co-hosted saw Brazil secure their fifth title with a 2-0 victory against Germany in South Korea/Japan.
2006 in Germany saw the second time a final had to be decided on penalties, with Italy prevailing 5-3 against France after the two sides finished 1-1 after extra-time.
Zidane, who eight years earlier had been his side’s hero, became the villain this time around after being sent off for a head-butt.
And so the focus turns to Soccer City, where Spain and Netherlands will compete in the World Cup’s 18th final, with probably only Paul the psychic octopus knowing at this stage, which team will become the eighth country to win the World Cup.
Keywords: 2010 FIFA World Cup