Greatest Sporting Moments

Posted on: 10 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Watch the footage of ten sporting events, spanning a period of 40 years, which stunned the world of sport and those watching at home.

Sport, to paraphrase the late, great Bill Shankly, is not a matter of life and death. It's much more important than that.

Because, in sport, sometimes the impossible happens.

The world of sport has conjured up some memorable moments that have gone down in history. Be it for an amazing individual achievement, a world first or for a triumph against all the odds, everybody has their favourites.

We take a look back at 10 events over the past 40 years that each stunned the world of sport and those watching at home.

1) England win the 1966 FIFA World Cup (Wembley, 1966)

England won football’s World Cup for the first time since the tournament began in 1930.

A crowd of 93,000 spectators, including the Queens and Prince Phillip, filled Wembley Stadium to watch the host nation play West Germany in the final game of the 1966 championships.

Another 400 million people around the world watched the keenly fought match on television.

In the final moments of extra time, Geoff Hurst powered home his third goal to give England a 4-2 victory and to become the first man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final.


2) “Rumble In The Jungle” Mohammed Ali Vs George Foreman (Zaire, 1974)

In one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Ali regained his title by defeating champion Foreman in their bout in Zaire.

The fight, hyped as “The Rumble In The Jungle” was the first to be promoted by the legendary Don King and nobody gave former champion Ali a chance.

Foreman had won 37 of his 40 bouts by knockout, mostly within three rounds. Eight of his previous fights didn’t go past the second round. Ali saw an opportunity to outlast Foreman and capitalised on it, knocking him out in the eighth.


3) Maradona’s World Cup (Mexico, 1986)

Maradona captained Argentina to a second World Cup triumph in Mexico ’86 and it’s a World Cup that will forever be synonymous with him.

He scored 5 goals in that tournament, including two against England in one of the greatest ever World Cup encounters.

Both are among the most talked about goals in World Cup history.

The first was the infamous "Hand of God" and the second probably the greatest goal ever scored in a World Cup game, as he ran from his own half showing magic displays and leaving seven English players for dead before scoring.


4) Ian Botham’s Headingley Heroics (Yorkshire, 1981)

After fierce criticism in the newspapers, the England cricket team were on the verge of an embarrassing Ashes defeat against Australia at Headingley.

Ladbrokes had offered 500-1 against an England win and that seemed a generous price for an English team on the road to ruin.

With England in deep trouble at 105/5 in their second innings, Australia were heading for a comfortable innings win.

Ian Botham walked out to bat after Peter Willey made his way back to the pavilion but matters didn’t improve as first Geoff Boycott and then Bob Taylor were soon dismissed. At 135/7 an innings defeat looked certain.

When Graham Dilley joined Botham at the crease, Botham reportedly said, “Right then, let’s have a bit of fun…”. With able support from Dilley (56) and Chris Old (29), Botham hit out and by the close of play was 145 not out.

On the final’s day play there was time for just four more runs from Botham before Bob Willis was out and Botham was left on 149 not out.

Willis’ real contribution was with the ball. After Botham took the first wicket, Willis skittled Australia out for just 111, giving England a win by just 18 runs.

It was only the second time in history that a team following on had won a Test match.


5) “That tie breaker” John McEnroe Vs Bjorn Borg (Wimbledon, 1980)

The ice-cool Swedish champion Bjorn Borg against the brash John McEnroe who was snapping at his heels for the crown of the world's best player.

Borg's four-year reign at Wimbledon seemed over when the American sailed through the first set with his swinging, left-handed serve a dominant factor.

But Borg started to find the range with his heavy passing shots in the second set and looked on course for another title when he edged the third.

The Swede held two match points at 5-4 in the fourth set but McEnroe saved them with diving volleys.

The match was already destined to be the most memorable for years, but then came a tie-break the like of which may never be seen again.

McEnroe had seven set points and Borg five more match points, four on his own serve. McEnroe finally took it after 22 minutes and 34 contested points.


6) The Ball Of The Century (Manchester, 1993)

Also referred to as the “Gatting Ball” or “that ball” was the name given to a cricket delivery bowled by Australia’s Shane Warne to England’s Mike Gatting.

On the second day of the first test of the 1993 Ashes series in Old Trafford, Warne produced a spectacular delivery that bowled Gatting.

It became recognised as being of considerable significance in not just the context of the match or series, but in cricket in general, helping to revive the neglected discipline of leg spin bowling.


7) “That try” Barbarians Vs New Zealand (Cardiff, 1973)

The Barbarians final challenge match with the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park is celebrated as one of the best games of rugby ever to be played.

It was a game of attack and counter attack with rugby the winner. But the game will always be remembered for Welshman Gareth Edwards’ sensation try while playing for the Barbarians.

For the record the All Blacks lost 23-11, which translates to 27-13 in today’s scoring system, their only defeat of the tour.


8) Ben Johnson stripped of Olympic gold (Seoul, 1988)

Sprinter Ben Johnson was sent home from the Seoul Olympic Games in disgrace.

The Canadian was stripped of his 100m gold medal after testing positive for drugs.

Johnson had just arrived home in Toronto and had said he would appeal against the International Olympics Committee's verdict.

But the IOC said the athlete's intended defence - that a herbal drink he consumed before the race had been spiked - will not be accepted.

Samples of Johnson's urine were tested for drugs three days after the 100m final which Johnson won in a world record time of 9.79 seconds.


9) Boris Becker wins Wimbledon aged 17 (Wimbledon, 1985)

The West German teenager Boris Becker become the youngest ever player to win the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

Becker, a 17-year-old unseeded outsider before the tournament began, raised the coveted silver trophy above his head to rapturous applause on centre court.

Becker was also the first German ever to win the title, and the first unseeded player.

He had dominated the match from the start, taking just three hours and 18 minutes to overpower eighth-seeded Kevin Curren, a South-African-born American.


10) Red Rum’s third Grand National win (Aintree 1977)

Red Rum achieved an unmatched historic treble when he won his third Grand National in 1977, following two previous success’ in 1973 and 1974.

He came in second in 1975 and 1976. In his first two victories, he was ridden by Brian Fletcher. However in 1975, when L’Escargot was victorious, Fletcher was blamed for costing him victory by holding him back.

In 1976, Tommy Stack replaced Fletcher but was held off by Rag Trade. The following year Stack rode him to his triumphant third National win, considered the greatest horse racing moment in history.

Not surprisingly, Red Rum became one of the best known and most loved racehorses in the UK and Ireland.


Here’s a selection of some of the most memorable sporting moments over the past 40 years that didn't make our top.

Do you remember any of these great sporting moments?  


1953: Stanley Matthews and Blackpool win the FA Cup
1954: Roger Bannister’s four minute mile
1956: German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann plays on with a broken neck in the FA Cup final


1963: Henry Cooper knocks down Mohammed Ali at Wembley
1967: Celtic win the European Cup
1968: Don Fox’s missed kick in the rugby league Challenge Cup final
1968: Bob Beamon smashes the long jump world record at the 68 Olympics
1968: Tommie Smith and John Carlos's Black Power Salute in the Mexico Olympics
1968: Manchester United win the European Cup
1968: Gary Sobers hits six sixes in one over


1970: George Best scores six goals for Manchester United against Northampton
1970: Gordon Banks’ save off the line against Brazil in the football World Cup
1970: Carlos Alberto’s wonder goal for Brazil against Italy
1972: Ronnie Radford’ winning goal for Hereford against Newcastle in the FA Cup third round.
1972: Mary Peters wins gold in the pentathlon
1972: Mark Spitz wins seven swimming Olympic gold medals in Munich
1974: Johann Cruyff invents the “Cruyff turn” at World Cup ‘74
1974: Dennis Law’s backheel relegates Manchester United
1975: Arthur Ashe wins Wimbledon
1977: Liverpool winning the European Cup
1977: Virgina Wade wins Wimbledon
1978: The University Boat Race ends in farce as Cambridge sink
1978: Archie Gemmill’s goal for Scotland against Holland in the 1978 World Cup


1980: Rivals Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett battle it out in the Moscow Olympics
1981: Ricky Villa’s goal for Tottenham against Manchester City in the FA Cup
1983: Barry McGuigan wins world featherweight title
1984: John Barnes goal against Brazil
1984: Carl Lewis wins 4 gold medals in one Olympic Games
1984: Mary Decker is tripped by Zola Budd during the 3,000m final at the Olympics
1984: Daley Thompson retains decathlon gold at Los Angeles Olympics
1984: Torvill and Dean's Bolero gold in the Sareijevo Winter Olympics
1985: Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis's Black Ball finish
1986: Nigel Mansell’s tyre-blowout in the Australian Grand Prix
1987: Pat Cash wins Wimbledon
1988: Van Basten's volley wins Euro 88 for Holland
1988: Eddie the eagle, winter Olympics
1989: Michael Thomas's last minute goal wins the title for Arsenal


1990: Gazza’s 1990 World Cup tears after losing the semi-final
1990: Martina Navratilova wins her ninth Wimbledon title
1992: Derek Redmond completes the 400m helped by his father at the Barcelona Olympics
1994: Brian Lara's 375 against England
1994: Motor racing legend Ayrton Senna crashes and dies
1994: Devon Malcolm gets hit on the helmet and then takes 9-57 for England against South Africa
1995: Eric Cantona’s infamous kong-fu kick at a Crystal Palace fan
1995: South Africa win ’95 rugby World Cup
1995: Jonah Lomu beats England by himself
1995: Rene Higuita's Scorpion kick for Colombia against England
1996: Stuart Pearce’s penalty celebration against Spain and Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss against Germany
1996: Mohammed Ali lights the Olympic flame at the ’96 Games in Atlanta
1996: Frankie Dettori wins seven races in a day
1997: Naseem Hamed fighting Kevin Kelley at Madison Square Garden
1997: Jeremy Guscott's match winning drop kick for the British Lions in South Africa
1997: “The Bite Fight” Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield’s ear
1998: David Beckham’s sending off against Argentina in France ’98
1999: Manchester United’s amazing comeback to beat Bayern Munich at win the Champions League
1999: Lance Armstrong beats cancer to win Tour de France


2000: Steve Redgrave's record breaking 5th Olympic gold medal
2000: Cathy Freeman wins gold in the 400m
2000: Denise Lewis wins heptathlon gold
2001: Germany 1 England 5
2001: Tiger Woods wins four consecutive major championships
2001: David Beckham’s late free kick against Greece
2003: England win the rugby World Cup
2004: Kelly Holmes wins Olympic double
2005: Liverpool’s stunning comeback to beat AC Milan for the Champions League
2005: England’s first Ashes series win since 1987
2006: Liverpool Vs West Ham FA Cup final
2006: Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in the World Cup final
2008: Rafael Nadal’s marathon match with Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final

Do you agree or disagree with our compilation of sporting memories? What’s your favourite sporting moment? Do you remember any of our top 10?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. Alternatively, share your thoughts in the 50connect forums.

Share with friends


You need to be signed in to rate.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned!