Paul Marcuccitti

Paul Marcuccitti is a passionate soccer fan from Australia who will share his views about the World Cup in this column.

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Goals, goals, goals: Part I

    A few columns ago (I canít keep up with him), Peter Goldstein contributed to the never ending discussion about the greatest World Cup goal. Few subjects spark debate like opinions of great goals. If you donít believe me, start a thread on a popular football or World Cup forum stating why a particular goal is the best in history and then watch what happens.

    In his excellent column, The Greatest Goal?, Peter wrote that itís all personal taste. I agree. Nothing is sillier than having a month-long exchange with some tragic on the other side of the world about why goal x canít possibly be better than goal y and that anyone that thinks goal x is better is a retard Ė especially this person who is somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 kilometres away.

    This subject has been on my mind since I watched the FIFA Fever DVDs. If you donít have them, and youíre not constrained financially, buy them immediately. FIFA Fever has some shortcomings but it should still be a part of every World Cup fanaticís collection. The reason is fairly simple: you have a great collection of highlights from past World Cups and other tournaments packaged onto two DVDs. You may not be able to get your hands on some of the footage on FIFA Fever any other way.

    One of the great things about FIFA Fever is the way itís broken up into chapters. There are 17 on each DVD that are between five and ten minutes long and they have different themes. Some chapters focus on classic games, some on great teams, etc. That means that if you feel like skipping a chapter, itís quite easy (unless youíre using a VCR). They donít necessarily follow on from each other.

    There are five chapters devoted to great goals because the goals are divided into five groups: blasters, headers, free kicks, solo goals and team goals. In his column, Peter used three rough groups (individual goals, assisted goals and team goals) and he also has some sub-groups.

    Iím going to add a few perspectives but first I need to give you a warning. The FIFA Fever DVDs include a top ten countdown of goals in each category. Iíll be making some comments about those countdowns and, in doing so, Iíll reveal some of the goals selected (by FIFA). So if you havenít seen FIFA Fever and you want to watch it without knowing anything about the content of its top tens, youíll need to stop reading now.

    Weíll start with the blasters from FIFA Fever, or, as Peter described, the spectacular shot. FIFAís top three are all from 1978. In first place is Arie Haan (v Italy), followed by Nelinho (v Italy) and Haan again (v West Germany). Peterís favourite in this category is Nelinhoís and thereís no doubting the quality of that strike, particularly because of the angle the Brazilian shot from. Haanís goal against Italy is just as special as it was hit from an extraordinary distance.

    I have a couple of favourites in this category: Sergei Aleinikov for the Soviets against Hungary in 1986; and (this might be a bit of a surprise) David Nareyís strike for Scotland against Brazil in 1982.

    Iím not suggesting that these goals are better than Haanís or Nelinhoís but they stand out for different reasons. I like Aleinikovís goal because of the pace that he approached the ball with Ė it just added to the thrill of the moment. The goal also put the Soviet Union 2-0 up in the 4th minute and, at that point, we knew that it would be a hard team to stop.

    I make a lot of jokes at Scotlandís expense but that doesnít mean that I lack affection for the Scots and, despite their string of disappointments, they have been responsible for some great World Cup moments. Nareyís goal is a bit underrated but he had a bit to do before he hit the ball and the space in front of him was being closed down (which is a rarity among the top goals selected by FIFA in this category). Most players that try a shot in a situation similar to Nareyís miss by a mile.

    Aleinikovís goal got 4th place in FIFA Feverís list of blasters but Nareyís didnít get into the top ten. By the way, was there something special in the Argentinean air in 1978? How did that tournament produce so many goals from long range?

    Letís move on to headers. This is one area where I have a clear favourite: JŁrgen Klinsmann against Yugoslavia in 1990. What I especially love about this goal is the way he threw himself at Andreas Brehmeís cross. Klinsmann was also well forward of the near post but he made a perfect connection with the ball.

    FIFA Fever only placed this goal 5th and (just to show how personal these matters can be) I have difficulty seeing how anyone can justify two or three of the headers that are rated ahead of it.

    Yordan Letchkovís header for Bulgaria against Germany in 1994 got into 3rd place; Jared Borgetti (Mexico v Italy, 2002) was 2nd; and Pelť (Brazil v Italy, 1970) was 1st. Pelťís goal deserves a high place but it is not the best header. It has surely been given extra points because itís Pelť, itís Brazil, and itís the 1970 World Cup Final.

    Borgettiís goal shows the difficulty of categorising goals. It was a fine header Ė no doubt about that Ė but it was also a great team goal because the Mexicans strung a lot of passes together before scoring. Yet when FIFA Fever gets to its list of best team goals, Borgettiís is ignored. Perhaps FIFA decided that a goal couldnít feature in two different categories.

    Letchkovís goal against Germany is certainly one that sticks in my mind but for a different reason which Iíll come back to.

    Free kicks provide a great source of stunning goals. FIFA Fever has chosen Bernard Genghini (France v Austria, 1982) as the World Cupís best ever but I would give the nod to the free kick that FIFA placed 2nd, Eric Wynaldaís wonderful strike for the USA against Switzerland in 1994.

    Teůfilo Cubillas deservedly got into 4th place for his outside-of-the-foot effort for Peru against Scotland in 1978 but David Beckhamís 1998 classic for England against Colombia was only 8th. Beckhamís should be higher Ė his control over that shot was complete.

    One free kick made the top ten for being well worked and it was Tomas Brolinís goal for Sweden against Romania in 1994. Argentinaís equaliser against England at France 98 (finished by Javier Zanetti) was also a clever goal and perhaps unfortunate not to be among FIFA Feverís top ten free kicks.

    The solo goals, or individual goals, are probably the most lauded of all. The FIFA Fever DVD tells us that eight of the 10 best goals of all time (as voted by users of are solo goals. They are all famous so Iíll list the DVDís full top ten:

#10 Archie Gemmill, Scotland v Netherlands, 1978
#9 Manuel Negrete, Mexico v Bulgaria, 1986
#8 Lothar Matthšus, West Germany v Yugoslavia, 1990
#7 Roberto Baggio, Italy v Czechoslovakia, 1990
#6 Saaed Al Owairan, Saudi Arabia v Belgium, 1994
#5 Gheorghe Hagi, Romania v Colombia, 1994
#4 Diego Maradona, Argentina v Belgium, 1986
#3 Pelť, Brazil v Sweden, 1958
#2 Michael Owen, England v Argentina, 1998
#1 Diego Maradona, Argentina v England, 1986

    Most of these goals were also mentioned by Peter in his column and he has some of them in different groups (underscoring how difficult it is to agree on how a goal is categorised). He also gave honourable mentions to: Jairzinho (Brazil v Czechoslovakia, 1970) and Bobby Charlton (England v Mexico, 1966).

    These are all magnificent goals and they are difficult to rank because there are so many differences between them. For example, I have often argued that, in some ways, Maradonaís goal against Belgium was better than the one against England. The English players didnít force Maradona to change direction and heís therefore able to run towards the goal in a straight line. Yes, against Belgium, Maradona gained possession much further forward. But the defenders made him do something that he didnít have to do against England Ė veer off his line and move to his left, away from goal. Nevertheless, he screwed his shot back across the goalkeeper and inside the far post.

    Michael Owenís goal was one that literally had me jumping out of my chair. It combined skill, pace and strength. His first touch, to take David Beckhamís pass, was sublime. He then held a player off as he accelerated, went around another defender and finished brilliantly (and all at high speed).

    Two of the goals in the top ten are just there because of the finish, not for any inspired movements past opposition players. They are: Manuel Negreteís (a scissor kick) and Gheorghe Hagiís (a long-range lob over the goalkeeper).

    Again we come to the problem of putting goals in separate groups. In his column, Peter (rightly) had a category for assisted goals and he included Negreteís goal in it because of the work done by Javier Aguirre. He also counted Dennis Bergkampís winner against Argentina in 1998 as an assisted goal.

    As the assisted goal category doesnít exist on FIFA Fever, the DVD counts Bergkampís goal as an individual goal. It didnít make the top ten but we know that FIFA decided that it was an individual goal because, before each top ten is shown on FIFA Fever, we see a lot of other goals which were some of the best that missed the countdown in that category.

    Irrespective of how you group it, Bergkampís goal is another favourite of mine and Iíll explain that later too.

    Finally we have team goals. Peterís favourite team goal (indeed, the goal that he rates as the greatest ever), Salif Diao for Senegal against Denmark in 2002, was only 7th on the FIFA Fever DVDís list of top team goals. I wouldnít call it the greatest ever goal but it certainly deserves a much higher ranking than 7th.

    Even more bizarrely, FIFA Fever ranked Diego Maradonaís goal against Greece in 1994 in 4th place on this list. Sure, there were some nice touches in the build up to that goal but I wouldnít have had it in the team goalsí top ten.

    Bernard Lacombeís goal for France against Italy in 1978 got into 3rd place; Ilie Dumitrescu (Romania v Argentina, 1994) was 2nd; and, you guessed it, Carlos Alberto (Brazil v Italy, 1970) was 1st.

    The top three goals are all worthy. I particularly like Lacombeís, a move that started with the goalkeeper and included a fabulous burst down the wing by Didier Six. Italyís players must have ended up wondering what on earth they did to deserve being on the wrong end of so many great goals throughout the 1978 tournament.

    Two goals from France 98 might have been unlucky to miss FIFAís top ten team goals: Patrick Kluivertís for Netherlands against Argentina; and Victor Ikpeba for Nigeria against Bulgaria. Maybe there werenít enough moves for these to be called team goals but both were executed so well that they were made to look easy. I especially love the way Dennis Bergkamp cushioned his header for Kluivert.

    Before we conclude discussion about team goals, let me remind you that FIFA Feverís list ignored Jared Borgettiís goal for Mexico against Italy four years ago. Even though it rated in 2nd place on the list of best headers, itís still one of the World Cupís best ever team goals.

    Now, without wanting to add further confusion, I want to introduce another category.

But youíll have to wait for Part II.



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