The 2014 FIFA World Cup will begin on Thursday, June 12, in Brazil, where the world’s greatest soccer players will compete and display their skills for a global audience.
This year’s event, the 20th incarnation of the world’s preeminent soccer tournament, marks the first time since 1978 that a South American nation will host the World Cup. Teams from 32 qualifying nations will play 64 matches across 12 different Brazilian cities to determine which country will earn bragging rights as the world’s triumphant soccer squad.
Ironically, Brazil and Argentina are considered the odds-on favorites to win this year’s tournament, with handicappers placing their odds of victory at 3-to-1 and 5-to-1, respectively. International superstars such as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar will each try to lead their teams to glory.
Regardless of their efforts, this year’s competitors will have to work hard to carve out a legacy amid the World Cup’s storied history. Since its inception in 1930, the tournament has produced countless iconic moments, from Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 quarterfinal to French team captain Zinedine Zidane’s headbutting of Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final.
A photo essay of 13 of the World Cup’s most memorable moments can be viewed below.
Brazil's Lucas heads the ball during his team's 1954 World Cup match against Hungary in Berne, Switzerland, June 28, 1954. The match ended in a riot after several players were sent off by referee Arthur Ellis.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/Topham
English referee Ashton sends Italian player Ferrini from the field during their 1962 World Cup match against Chile in Santiago, June 2, 1962. Ferrini is seen with his head bowed as his teammates Salvadore, Janich and Mora argue with Ashton.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/Topham
Queen Elizabeth II presents the 1966 World Cup trophy to England captain Bobby Moore after England beat West Germany in the final at Wembley Stadium, July 30, 1966.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/MSI
England captain Bobby Moore swaps shirts with Pele of Brazil after their 1970 World Cup match at Jalisco Stadium in Mexico, June 7, 1970.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/MSI
Germany's Franz Beckenbauer makes a sliding tackle on England's Alan Ball during their 1970 World Cup quarter final at Guanajuato Stadium in Mexico, June 14, 1970.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/MSI
Germany's Franz Beckenbauer fouls a Dutch defender during their 1974 World Cup final against Holland at Olympic Stadium in West Berlin, July 7, 1974.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/MSI
Argentina's Daniel Passarella is carried by jubilant fans after Argentina beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final at Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, June 25, 1978.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/MSI
England's Bryan Robson reacts after missing an open goal against Czechoslovakia during the 1982 World Cup at Estadio San Mames in Bilbao, June 20, 1982.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/Sporting Pictures
Argentina's Diego Maradona beats England's Peter Shilton to the ball to score the first goal with his hand, which later became known as the "Hand of God," during the 1986 World Cup quarter final in Mexico City, June 22, 1986.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/Mirrorpix
England's Alan Shearer is congratulated on his equalisier from the penalty spot by David Beckham during their match against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup in France, June 30, 1998.Photo: Reuters/Action Images/Jim Steele
Italy's Marco Materazzi falls on the pitch after being head-butted by France's Zinedine Zidane during the 2006 World Cup 2006 final in Berlin, July 9, 2006.Photo: Reuters/Peter Schols/GPD/Handout
Fans celebrate Italy's 2006 World Cup victory outside the Colosseum in Rome, July 9, 2006.Photo: Reuters/Dario Pignatelli
Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup final against Netherlands at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, July 11, 2010.Photo: Reuters/Jerry Lampen