Monday, November 16, 2009

The top 10 World Cup goals

So many great World Cup goals, so hard to narrow it down to 10. Maradona’s solo effort against England clearly won a FIFA poll so let's start there.

1. Diego Maradona, Argentina vs. England 1986

The biggest personality on planet football has been in the spotlight for 30 years but his playing career peaked with this glorious 10-second burst. Coming four minutes after his notorious Hand of God goal, he took the ball 10 metres inside his own half and, with peerless control, mesmerised five England defenders. Looking to pass as he entered the box, his path was blocked on all sides, so he just kept running. A sweet shimmy put Peter Shilton on his butt and Maradona poked the ball into a gaping net. The moment is immortalised in a statue outside the venue, the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Later in the tournament, Maradona similarly confounded the Belgium defence for another solo spectacular.

2. Dennis Bergkamp, Netherlands vs Argentina 1998

Maradona’s goal was drawn out torture in comparison to this – the Argentinians were garrotted from behind as Bergkamp’s strike in the final minute of the quarter final knocked them out of the Cup. Frank de Boer struck a 50-metre diagonal pass which Bergkamp, a player of sublime touch, cushioned to the ground with the top of his foot. A quick drag back left Robert Ayala scrambling and before he could recover, Bergkamp had drilled it home from a tight angle with the outside of his right boot. Pure grace, lightning speed of thought and a killer finish.

3. Saeed Owairan Saudi Arabia v Belgium 1994

Like Maradona’s, this was an exhilarating solo goal. Owairan took the ball deep in his own half and began slowly, increasing his pace after burning off the first challenger and the space opened in front of him. When two defenders challenged him in the box, perhaps wary of conceding a penalty, their tackles were meek and, taking route one down the centre, he smashed his shot past goalkeeper Michel Preud'homme. The finish gave the Saudis a shock 1-0 victory.

4 Manuel Negrete, Mexico vs Bulgaria 1986

Negrete’s acrobatic strike came at the Azteca Stadium days before Maradona scored his wonder goal. Outside the box and to the left of goal, Negrete dealt with a bouncing ball by juggling twice and then playing an aerial one-two with a teammate. When it came back above waist height he was facing the sideline. Negrete jumped high and, with a spectacular swivelled left foot volley, planted the ball across the keeper and into the far bottom corner.

5 Carlos Alberto, Brazil vs Italy 1970

One of the ultimate team goals, the fourth in a 4-1 final defeat of Italy came as the final flourish of a tournament in which the Brazilians were on a different level to their opponents. All but two Brazilian outfield players had a touch. Midfielder Clodoaldo beat four Italian challenges with wonderful skill before passing to Rivelino, who chipped forward to Jairzinho on the left wing. With the defence hanging off, the ball was played inside to Pele who paused before rolling it into space on the right. Carlo Alberto arrived in perfect sync to strike home into the far corner. “We only realised how beautiful the goal was after the game,” he said later.

6 Pele, Brazil vs Sweden 1958

This was the tournament that introduced Pele to the world and he showcased his amazing touch with this goal in the final. Leading 2-1 at the time, Pele’s breathtaking goal arrived in the 55th minute and sent Brazil on the way to a 5-2 triumph. Inside a crowded box, he controlled a high pass on his chest and in doing so took it past the nearest defender. As the next player dived in, Pele dinked it over his head, ran around him and met the ball on the volley, placing it past stunned goalkeeper Karl Svensson.

7 Arie Haan, Netherlands vs Italy 1978

A quick and short freekick was taken just inside the Italian half and Haan took control of the ball. After a couple of short touches he unleashed a 40 metre monster to beat one of the all time great goalkeepers, Dino Zoff. There have been many long range specials in the World Cup but often their success is helped by players catching the keeper off guard. Zoff was well placed on his line but could do absolutely nothing as the ball smashed in off the far post and helped the Netherlands to a 2-1 victory.

8 Michael Owen, England vs Argentina 1998

Then 18 years old and as fast as he would ever be, Owen’s goal hinted at a glorious future for him and his country. He had been left out of the opening matches and then scored as a substitute against Romania before coach Glenn Hoddle yielded to public pressure and brought him to start against Argentina. Taking a chipped through ball from David Beckham, a clever first touch with the outside of his boot put him a step ahead of the defense and he beat off challenges from Roberto Ayala and José Chamot. Despite moving at blistering pace, he managed a shot over the keeper which was both deft and powerful. Beckham was later sent off and England lost on penalties.

9 Maxi Rodriguez, Argentina vs Mexico 2006

The score was 1-1 after just 10 minutes and no further goals came in normal time despite a pulsating end-to-end encounter. Eight minutes into extra time, Juan Sorin floated a cross field pass to Rodriguez, who had moved into a space on the right hand corner of the penalty box. Given a little breathing room by the nearest defender, Rodriguez chested the ball square and then walloped a volley up and over Mexico keeper Oswaldo Sanchez. The breathtaking goal was enough to put Argenitna through the second round match 2-1.

10 Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina vs Serbia & Montenegro 2006

The first goal on this list took 10 seconds of solo genius. This one was at the other end of the scale. There were 24 passes in a 55-second move that showcased the very best in team play. The white-shirted opponents chased the ball as it pinged forwards, backwards, left and then right. Cambiasso had the third last and final touches with an audacious Heranan Crespo backheel sandwiched in between and opening up the space for the final shot. Martin Tyler, calling the game for SBS, declared “that is one of the all time great World Cup goals” and it deservedly drew parallels with the goal the incredible talents of Brazil built for Carlos Alberto.