The Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ has already reserved itself a place in the history books as the victors are set to join the select band of previous world champions. With the Netherlands and Spain now making their last preparations, looks back at the showpiece matches from years gone by that helped shape the beautiful game.

Uruguay-Argentina, Uruguay 1930 (4-2)
The Estadio Centenario was the venue for the maiden FIFA World Cup Final between the hosts and Argentina, and the locals must have feared the worst at half-time as La Albiceleste went in boasting a 2-1 lead. Staring at defeat, Uruguay seized the upper hand after the restart and found the net through Pedro Cea, Victoriano Iriarte and Hector Castro to receive the Trophy from Jules Rimet himself. The following day was unsurprisingly declared a national holiday in Uruguay to allow the people to celebrate the landmark win in style.

Uruguay-Brazil, Brazil 1950 (2-1)
Following Italy’s triumphs on European soil in 1934 and 1938, the FIFA World Cup returned to South America in 1950, with Brazil charged with hosting the event. A Seleção were naturally determined to claim glory on home soil and took the lead two minutes after the break, but the 173,850 fans packed into the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro were about to be silenced as Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia turned the match around for Uruguay. Considered one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history, this game lives on in Brazilian folklore as the Maracanazo, the tragedy of the Maracana.

West Germany-Hungary, Switzerland 1954 (3-2)
Known universally as the ‘Miracle of Berne’, the 1954 Final ended in an unlikely victory for West Germany over the heavy favourites. The ‘Magical Magyars’ looked set to live up to their billing when they raced into a 2-0 lead through Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Czibor, but Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn soon put the outsiders back on level terms before Rahn delivered what proved the decisive blow with six minutes remaining. The result was met with rapturous joy back in West Germany, where people were tuned in to the exuberant radio commentary of Herbert Zimmermann. His passionate burst of emotion at the final whistle has long since become the stuff of legend: “Over, over, over! The game is over! Germany are world champions after beating Hungary 3-2.”

Brazil-Sweden, Sweden 1958 (5-2)
Brazil finally joined the elite group of world champions thanks largely to the efforts of a youthful Pele in 1958. Having earned his side a place in the showpiece game thanks to a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals, Edson Arantes do Nascimento became the youngest ever player to register in the Final with a pair of strikes aged 17 and 249 days. His first, and Brazil’s third, was a thing of beauty and one of the most recognisable goals in the history of the game, O Rei collecting the ball in the area, flicking it over a defender and beating the goalkeeper with a thumping volley. Pele then rounded off the scoring in the last minute to secure A Seleção the first of their five FIFA World Cup crowns.

England-West Germany, England 1966 (4-2 a.e.t.)
Alfred Hitchcock himself would have been proud of the twists and turns offered up by the 1966 Final as England downed West Germany after extra time to lift themselves to the global summit for the one and only time in their history. The hosts had looked destined to sew things up in normal time until Wolfgang Weber made it 2-2 with a minute to go, but Geoff Hurst ensured they would not be denied by notching two more efforts in extra time to become the first player to plunder a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup Final. The fans at Wembley Stadium greeted his third by racing on to the pitch to salute their hero.

Netherlands-West Germany, West Germany 1974 (1-2)
Having settled into such a majestic rhythm on their route to the Final, few doubted that the Oranje were about to savour their maiden FIFA World Cup success. Rinus Michels’s charges went into the last game unbeaten and fresh from seeing off holders Brazil thanks to goals from Johan Neeskens and Johan Cruyff, and they quickly went ahead from the penalty spot. Neeskens converted just a minute and a half into the match to grab the fastest ever goal in a FIFA World Cup Final, but he and his team-mates were pegged back when Paul Breitner also struck from the spot. It was then left to iconic marksman Gerd Muller to shatter Dutch dreams close to half-time, his goal enough to secure Die Nationalmannschaft their second world title. The Netherlands fell short at the final hurdle against Argentina four years later and will be hoping for a case of ‘third time lucky’ this evening.

West Germany-Argentina, Italy 1990 (1-0)
This encounter was a rematch of the 1986 Final, when Diego Maradona and Co gifted Argentina their second success, but this time the outcome would be very different. With Franz Beckenbauer in the dugout, West Germany snatched the slenderest of triumphs courtesy of an Andreas Brehme penalty five minutes from time. As Die Nationalmannschaft celebrated their third FIFA World Cup crown, Der Kaiser could pride himself on having matched the feat of Brazil’s Mario Zagallo by becoming only the second man to hoist the coveted Trophy aloft as both player and coach.

Brazil-France, France 1998 (0-3)
Four years after adding a fourth star to their shirts, Brazil advanced to yet another Final intent on clinching their fifth global title. They were about to have those plans utterly spoiled, however, as Aime Jacquet’s men subjected the South Americans to a heavy 3-0 loss. Zinedine Zidane did much of the damage with a pair of headers from corners and Emmanuel Petit put the seal on a commanding win late on as France took up membership of the club reserved for previous winners. The images of a sea of people on the Champs-Elysees that July evening and the euphoria of then President Jacques Chirac will live long in the memory.

Germany-Brazil, Korea/Japan 2002 (0-2)
The first showpiece game to be held beyond European or South American shores belonged to Brazil’s Ronaldo, the powerful striker helping himself to both goals to clinch Brazil their fifth world title and earn himself the adidas Golden Boot. A Canarinho full-back and captain Cafu also wrote his name into the annals of the game by appearing in his third FIFA World Cup Final, while for both sides on display it was their seventh overall.