Keen to avoid the traffic on the way out of the stadium? Pained that your team are losing and want to end the suffering early? Tempted, in other words, to leave your seat before the last ball is kicked? Then resist the urge. It may be a cliché, but players convinced that a game is alive until the final blast of the referee's whistle have given us some of the most enduring moments in FIFA World Cup™ history. FIFA.com looks back over a rich legacy of last-gasp strikes.
Featuring prominently among the highlights from South Africa 2010 must be the explosion of joy among the United States ranks when Landon Donovan buried his team's winning effort against Algeria in added time. Sliding the ball past Rais M'Bohli, the USA midfielder handed his side three points, a place in the last 16 and top spot in their section. Well worth waiting for, in other words.
A few days previously, it was New Zealand who revealed a taste for the dramatic as time ticked down in their game against Slovakia. A defender by trade, Winston Reid trudged up the pitch for one last attempt at an equaliser and promptly headed in his first international goal to secure the Kiwis their first-ever point on the global stage. Slovakia were involved in another thrilling denouement in their Group F decider against Italy, Kamil Kopunek seemingly extinguishing La Nazionale’s hopes when he put his team 3-1 up in the 89th minute – then Fabio Quagliarella sowing some late doubt by reducing the deficit three minutes into added time.
Those are the most recent examples of manic finishes, but the tradition stretches a long way back, with the 1966 Final in England providing one notable example. The game owes much of its legendary status to its stirring climax as West Germany's Wolfgang Weber levelled the scores at 2-2 with a minute remaining. But it was England striker Geoff Hurst who had the last word with two goals in extra time, completing his hat-trick in the 120th minute. Re-corked after Weber's strike, the champagne could flow at last.
England posted further proof of their never-say-die spirit in the Round of 16 at Italy 1990, when they seemed destined for a penalty shoot-out against a Belgium team featuring the talents of Enzo Scifo, Eric Gerets and Michel Preud'homme. Spot-kicks ultimately proved unnecessary, though, as Paul Gascoigne chipped one last free-kick into the area in the final minute of extra time and substitute David Platt hooked a superb volley into the far corner. The goalscorer's celebration has gone down in FIFA World Cup legend too, Platt emerging from a huddle of players on the ground with a broad grin and bulging, disbelieving eyes.
That tournament was perhaps short on goals, but it delivered plenty of emotions as the closing moments of the meeting between West Germany and Colombia similarly demonstrated. Already through to the last 16, Die Nationnalmannshaft looked to have earned themselves their third win in three outings when Pierre Littbarski hit the target in the 89th minute, his goal also plunging Cafeteros fans into despair as it left their hopes of progress in tatters. They need not have doubted, as a minute later Freddy Rincon restored parity to send Colombia through.
Two days before that match, Uruguay booked their own ticket to the knockout phase – their most recent before they repeated the feat here in South Africa – in the 90th minute of their game with Korea Republic. Daniel Fonseca was the man who took the plaudits, heading in a free-kick at the far post to spark joy for La Celeste.
Four years on and Korea Republic felt the same emotions their opponents felt that day, even if they were unable to reach the last 16 themselves. Few fancied the Asian team's chances in their opening encounter against Spain and the form book was quickly followed as La Roja raced into a two-goal lead. The South Koreans never gave up hope, though, and grabbed an unlikely point courtesy of two strikes in the last five minutes, the latter coming on the stroke of full time from Seo Jung-Won, who 20 years later recalled his contribution as "a moment of pure happiness".
Saint-Etienne was the venue for a similar late swing at France 1998, when Mexico found themselves trailing 2-0 to the Netherlands and staring at a group-stage exit. Instead of surrendering their dreams, they clawed their way back into contention via Ricardo Pelaez with a quarter of an hour remaining before Luis Hernandez came good in the final seconds of added time. Mexico fans are never likely to forget Enrique Bermudez counting down the time left before El Tri’s elimination, the commentator intoning “Five, four, three, two…” and the blond marksman converting a desperate last chance on the "one" to catapult his side into the next round.
Of course, to score a late FIFA World Cup goal you need to be there in the first place, and that was where France went wrong in 1993, when they needed just a single point from their last two qualifiers at home against Israel and Bulgaria to clinch a place at USA 1994. Reuven Atar did the damage for Israel 93 minutes into the first fixture and Bulgaria’s Emil Kostadinov followed suit in the 90th minute of the second to leave Les Bleus crushed – proving once again to the watching football world that you should never leave your seat before the game is well and truly over.