The 2022 World Cup is finally here, and it has dominated our brains for the last few weeks, both as sports fans and creatives (keep your eyes peeled for some KP World Cup content next week). So we decided our Friday Five had to be dedicated to The Beautiful Game, and some of our favorite moments from the 21st Century World Cups. These are moments seared into our memories, for a variety of reasons. Some defied the odds, and inspired hope in underdogs and scrappy upstarts. Others defined legacies, for good and bad. And, of course, some of these moments just made us say "holy shit." For whatever reason, these five plays, goals, and performances will live with us forever -- and got us amped up to see what the 2022 Cup has in store for us.
Landon Donovan's Game-Winner
No other 21st-Century moment could top our list other than Landon Donovan's epic, extra-time game-winner against Algeria back in 2010. Anyone who even loosely follows soccer probably remembers where they were for this goal, as it was the peak of US Men's Soccer this century. While the women's side has had a lot of international success, no men's American team has been able to make much noise in the World Cup. But in 2010, Donovan's shocking last-minute score pushed the US into the Knockout Stage, and there was a glimmer of hope. It felt like watching the end of a feel-good sports movie. Even still, the call from the broadcast gives us goosebumps. You can feel the pure emotion, exhilaration, and relief through the screen, even twelve years later. Landon Donovan was the face of the USMNT for at least a decade, and this was a legacy-defining moment for a great player who could never get his squad over the hump. While the US was quickly dispatched by another tourney upstart, Ghana, in the next round, we will always have the joy that Donovan's winner brought us. =
We go from a national legend at the pinnacle of his career, to one at its bottom. But despite (or because of) the infamy of the moment, Zinedine Zidane gave us a World Cup Final we'll never forget. As time wound down in the 2006 Final between France and Italy, the legendary French scorer absolutely leveled Marco Materazzi with a headbutt that sent the football world into a frenzy. If Twitter had been around in 2006, it might've taken days for the internet to recover from the blow. Zidane, a player who had scored crucial goals for his country and helped lead them to the 1998 Cup, ended his international career on a truly ignominious note. Italy eventually went on to win the title on penalty kicks, which, in any other year, would have been the story coming out of the game. What a way to end a World Cup! But instead, it was the headbutt heard 'round the world. Even to this day, it is one of our clearest, earliest World Cup memories. And while he is one of the greatest players ever, and currently a terrific coach, Zidane will probably always be most remembered for the foul. That's just how massive the World Cup stage is.
RVP's 'Flying Dutchman' Header
From 2010 - 2014, there were few international sides as exciting as Netherlands. They played a fast-paced, attacking style, led by a player with one of the best Youtube highlight reels around: Robin van Persie. Netherlands is also known, however, as a bit of a cursed team on the international stage. They just can't win the big one. But despite falling short in both 2010 and 2014, The Dutch Eleven might just be the most memorable team from the era. And no goal of theirs stands out more than van Persie's "Flying Dutchman" header that kicked off an absolute beatdown of Spain in the 2014 Group Stage. Spain was the defending champ, having topped Netherlands in the 2010 Final, so it was a revenge game on the world's biggest stage. And the Dutch answered the bell. Van Persie's header was truly miraculous, and looked even cooler on replay and in still images. He flew out of nowhere to score the goal and open the floodgates, as Netherlands romped, kicking off a run to the Semi-finals. While Netherlands' time as annual contenders ended pretty quickly, we'll always have that four-year run, where the Dutch were must-watch TV -- and our favorite side to use in FIFA.
Mbappé's 2018 Masterclass
Heading into the 2018 World Cup, Kylian Mbappé was an up-and-coming 19-year-old trying to help France reach the pinnacle of World Football for the first time in 20 years. And then, he accomplished something that only Pelé had done before him. Mbappé tore up the tournament, scoring four times, including once in the Final against Croatia. This was the first time a teenager had scored twice in one World Cup Match or in the Finals since the GOAT did it in 1958, and they were truly highlight-reel worthy moments. Mbappé blowing by defenders became a theme of the tournament, and you couldn't go on the internet without seeing the French teenager's face. Now, just four years later, and the 23-year old superstar is the highest paid player in the world, and arguably its greatest talent. No matter how good he gets, though, it'll be hard for Mbappé to reach the heights he did in the summer of 2018. His blazing speed and finishing moves were awe-inspiring, and captured global attention like few athletic achievements can. While a 20-year championship drought might not seem like much for most sports fans, it was certainly weighing heavily on the French side. And it was the youngest of the bunch that delivered in the biggest moments.
James Rodriguez's Stunner
Before Mbappe in 2018, James Rodriguez was the breakout star in the 2014 World Cup, leading Colombia to some shocking victories. In particular, the image of Rodriguez hammering home a volley against Uruguay might be burned into our brains forever. The strike was eventually named Goal of the Year, and for good reason. Even eight years later, the replays still made us audibly gasp. The sheer ambition and audacity to even attempt this shot is remarkable, especially for a player who was just 22 at the time. We aspire to be as confident in our abilities in anything as James Rodriguez was at that moment. Like the other international breakouts on this list, Rodriguez made Colombia one of our go-to sides in FIFA at the time -- or at least he made them more appealing when the randomizer landed on them. Unfortunately, his time in the spotlight was short-lived, and 2014 was really the peak of James-Mania. We won't even see the scorer or his Colombian teammates in this year's World Cup. Instead, we'll have to watch that volley on repeat for hours -- which really isn't that bad of an alternative.