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The Most Iconic Photos in World Cup History

Each World Cup produces its share of inspiring, controversial, emotional, and ultimately unforgettable moments. Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, here are our picks for some of the most stunning ones ever captured by the camera.

BLUE HEAVEN, 1978 VI-Images via Getty Images BLUE HEAVEN, 1978 A dramatic sky blankets Daniel Passarella, trophy in hand, as he's carried off by teammates in a raucous scene at El Monumental after host-nation Argentina defeated the Netherlands 3-1 to win the 1978 World Cup title on home soil. SKY'S THE LIMIT, 1966 Central Press/Getty Images SKY'S THE LIMIT, 1966 Normally, a photo wouldn't see the light of day if it was missing half a player's head — especially the player who scored the game-winning goal against Argentina in the 1966 World Cup quarter-final. But this shot of England's Geoff Hurst is famous in its imperfection. The way he’s soaring high, out of the frame, amplifies the gravity of the moment for Hurst and host-nation England. JOY AND PAIN, 1994 Mike Powell/Getty Images JOY AND PAIN, 1994 Italy's Roberto Baggio stands alone in his misery after missing the decisive penalty shot in the 1994 World Cup finals at the Rose Bowl — while Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel falls to his knees in celebration of his country's first title in 24 years, creating the ultimate image of contrasting emotions.

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STOMP RAVING MAD, 2006 Alex Livesey/Getty Images STOMP RAVING MAD, 2006 Zidane's head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final may be more remembered, but England forward Wayne Rooney's stomp on the groin of Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho a few rounds earlier was just as ruthless. Portugal would go on to eliminate England on penalties. "ALWAYS WITH US," 2010 Jamie McDonald/Getty Images "ALWAYS WITH US," 2010 The biggest goal in Spain's soccer history produced the defining picture of the 2010 World Cup. After his 116th minute strike put Spain up 1-0 over the Netherlands in the final, an ecstatic Andres Iniesta removed his shirt to reveal an emotional message — "Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros" — in honor of Spain's late captain who had died of a heart attack a year before. CROSS UP, 2010 Cameron Spencer/Getty Images CROSS UP, 2010 German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer can only watch as England's Frank Lampard scores off the cross bar to even their round of 16 match 2-2 — or did he? To the outrage of Lampard — and all of England — referee Jorge Larrionda judged that the ball did not cross the line. England would go on to lose 4-1, and goal-line technology was introduced in 2014. COMING OUT PARTY, 1958 Hulton Archive/Getty Images COMING OUT PARTY, 1958 Seventeen-year-old Pele introduced himself to the sports world in thrilling fashion at the 1958 World Cup. Everything he did on the pitch had an air of elegance, including this effortless defiance of gravity in the final against host nation Sweden. The soccer legend would score two second half goals to help Brazil to a 5-2 victory — still the youngest player to ever score in a World Cup final. WALK OF SHAME, 2006 Bob Thomas/Getty Images WALK OF SHAME, 2006 Zinedine Zidane’s infamous exit after headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi in extra time of the 2006 World Cup final against Italy was perfectly captured, as the dejected Frenchman walks with his head down, and past the trophy in the final World Cup match of his career. GAZZA'S TEARS, 1990 David Cannon/Getty Images GAZZA'S TEARS, 1990 This enduring image of England's Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne from 1990 is a powerful reminder of how heartbreaking the World Cup can be. After receiving a yellow card in the semi-final with Germany, the 23-year-old began to cry upon realizing he would miss the final if England were to prevail. The tears didn't stop there though, as Germany would go on to win the match on penalties. MARADONA VS. BELGIUM, 1982 Steve Powell/Getty Images MARADONA VS. BELGIUM, 1982 Appearing in his first World Cup, all eyes were on Diego Maradona in the summer of 1982 — literally, in the case of this famous photo taken during Argentina's group stage match against Belgium at Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. Ironically, Argentina would lose 1-0, but the picture is about more than just one match. Rather, it's a statement on the power of Maradona and the fear he instilled in opposing players. MAKING IT REIGN, 1982 Bob Thomas/Getty Images MAKING IT REIGN, 1982 The raw emotion flowing through Marco Tardelli, combined with the impending shower, after Italy’s 3-1 win over Germany in the 1982 World Cup final makes this as good as a celebration picture can get. "HAND OF GOD", 1986 Bongarts/Getty Images "HAND OF GOD", 1986 When Diego Maradona scored the opening goal of Argentina's 1986 World Cup quarterfinal against England by punching the ball into the net with the outside of his left fist, it created one of the most controversial moments — and greatest photos — in sports history. The play went unpenalized and Argentina won 2-1. Later, Maradona described the goal as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” CAPPING IT OFF, 1970 Popperfoto/Getty Images CAPPING IT OFF, 1970 A sombrero-clad Pele goes out on top after defeating Italy 4-1 at the Azteca Stadium to win his third and final World Cup title with Brazil in 1970. THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, 2014 Jeff Gross/Getty Images THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, 2014 44 minutes into the third match of the 2014 World Cup, the Netherlands' Robin Van Persie scored on a majestic mid-flight header, part of his country's 5-1 win in a replay of the 2010 final. #SuperVan is probably still trending in the Netherlands. HOMETOWN HEROES, 1966 Bettmann Archive HOMETOWN HEROES, 1966 For England fans, team captain Bobby Moore being chaired off the field in 1966 as he raises the Jules Rimet trophy remains the ultimate World Cup image. In front of a packed and proud Wembley Stadium, the host nation met its lofty expectations by beating Germany to earn its first and only World Cup title.



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