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 II

    In Goals, goals, goals: Part I, I talked about how the FIFA Fever DVDs grouped goals into five different categories: blasters, headers, free kicks, solo goals and team goals. I then finished off by saying that I wanted to introduce another category.

    You might have been wondering what it could possibly be. The best volleyed goals? The best goals that included a back heel?

    In fact, itís a category that can include all of the above: significant goals.

    Now, sure, we can admire some outrageous net burster that put a team 3-0 up in the last minute of a group match but the goals that I remember most fondly are goals that really meant something. They were still goals of great quality but they also broke deadlocks or snatched victories or caused upsets or heralded the arrival of a player or a team. Even if they donít make any of these top ten lists, they may be more important than many of the goals that do.

    Iím going to mention a few significant goals. My list is certainly not exhaustive and it is limited to goals scored since 1982 because thatís the first World Cup I watched.

    Letís start with some goals I talked about in Part I and promised to come back to: Letchkov for Bulgaria v Germany in 1994; and Bergkamp for the Netherlands v Argentina in 1998. Itís fairly easy to see why these goals are significant. Letchkovís goal was responsible for one of the World Cupís great shocks, Bulgariaís come-from-behind quarter final win against Germany. Bergkampís also snatched victory in a quarter final when extra time was looming.

    Had these goals not been scored, history could have been different. Germany might have defeated Bulgaria in í94; Argentina might have eliminated the Dutch in í98.

    [Carlos Albertoís goal in the 1970 Final might exemplify everything that was great about that Brazilian team but, had he not scored that goal, Brazil would still have won the World Cup. So it's not a significant goal Ė except in showcasing that team's talents.]

    Three memorable goals from 1982 included: Karl-Heinz Rummeniggeís and Klaus Fischerís in the West Germany v France semi-final; and Marco Tardelliís goal for Italy in the Final against West Germany. I love the way Rummenigge poached his goal and Fischerís was a great bicycle kick. Of course, those goals also pulled the Germans back after they were two goals down in extra time. Tardelliís goal was a beauty (and was preceded by a nice build up) but his reaction was also unforgettable as it showed precisely what that goal meant.

    In 1986 we had plenty of important goals scored by Diego Maradona. Another Iíd add is Jan Ceulemansí goal for Belgium against the Soviet Union. The Belgian captain was unmarked but, with his back to goal, he did well to control a long ball from Stephane Demol, turn, and shoot past the great Rinat Dasaev. That goal also made the score 2-2 with about a quarter of an hour remaining and confirmed that the Belgians werenít going to lie down against a mighty opponent.

    The 1990 FIFA World Cup was a much maligned tournament but Iíve always maintained that the knockout matches produced some outstanding drama and a few wonderful goals. Letís start with the most underrated goal in World Cup history: Dragan Stojkovicís opener for Yugoslavia against Spain. It was late in the match; the score was 0-0; Zlatko Vujovic crossed from the left; Srecko Katanec headed on; and nothing was preventing Stojkovic from blasting the ball towards goal. After so much goalless play thatís what most players would have done. But Stojkovic knew that he might hit the ball straight against the goalkeeper so he held back on the shot (as Andoni Zubizarreta dived) and, after controlling the ball, he caressed it into the empty goal. Beautiful. Spain equalised and sent the match into extra time but that just allowed Stojkovic to hit the winner from a free kick.

    A candidate for my favourite World Cup goal was also scored in the round of 16 at Italia 90 Ė David Plattís volley (from Paul Gascoigneís free kick) for England against Belgium. Perhaps this is one of the best examples of the sort of goal I find memorable. Itís a great goal and a crucial one because it was scored in the last minute of extra time after two intense hours of play had failed to break the deadlock.

    Still in Italia 90ís round of 16, step forward Andreas Brehme. The full-backís beautiful curling effort against the Netherlands sealed West Germanyís win in a high octane encounter between tradition rivals.

    Another great goal that settled a round of 16 match in 1990 was Claudio Caniggiaís winner for Argentina against Brazil. After some inspired work by Diego Maradona, Caniggia accepted his pass, rounded Taffarel and stunned a Brazilian team that had done everything but score in the previous 80 minutes. I would also add Caniggiaís headed goal in the semi final against Italy to this category.

    OK, one more before we leave 1990 (who says it was a bad tournament?) and itís Eugene Ekekeís goal that put Cameroon 2-1 up in its quarter final against England; a wonderful goal (which, inevitably, involved Roger Milla) that gave the African nation the chance to produce one of the World Cupís biggest upsets.

    Letís move to some significant goals from 1994 Ė a tournament that is deemed to be better than 1990 but has (arguably) fewer memorable moments. Yordan Letchkovís goal has been covered but Iíd also add Hristo Stoichkovís sweet free kick which hit the back of the net just minutes earlier.

    England presented the Late Goals Show in 1990 with late equalisers and/or winners against Belgium, Cameroon and West Germany. In 1994, it was Italyís turn. Specifically, it was Roberto Baggio who scored a superb goal against Nigeria (when the Italians were minutes away from elimination in the round of 16) and followed up with another high quality goal against Spain (to clinch victory in a quarter final).

    Iíve already mentioned Bergkamp for the Netherlands against Argentina in the 1998 quarter finals and, in Part I, I talked about Owen for England and Zanetti for Argentina in the round of 16ís England v Argentina clash. The Owen and Zanetti goals are among the best of their respective groups (i.e. individual goals and free kicks) but they are definitely significant goals as well.

    Lilian Thuramís two semi final goals for France against Croatia in 1998 also deserve places in this category, particularly because Thuram was such an unlikely goal scorer.

    You might be thinking that the goals Iíve picked out are all from the tournamentís knockout rounds. Significant goals should not be exclusive to knockout rounds but some crucial goals scored in the group stage in recent World Cups have, nonetheless, been quite unremarkable.

    Think back, for instance, to FranÁois Omam Biyickís winner for Cameroon against Argentina in 1990. Omam Biyick rose high in the air but his header was tame and the Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido made a complete hash of it. Salif Diaoís winner for Senegal against France in 2002 isnít exactly a classic either.

    I remember jumping for joy when Norway upset Brazil in a group match in 1998 but the late winning goal came from the penalty spot. A more memorable goal from the 1998 group phase was Sunday Olisehís fabulous winner for Nigeria against Spain. Itís probably a significant goal but, in 1998, I didnít see Nigeria defeating Spain as a massive upset.

    One group phase goal that deserves a place in the significant goal category comes from the 2002 encounter between South Korea and Portugal which was settled by an excellent piece of skill by Park Ji-Sung. It was also a goal that confirmed that the Koreans should not be underestimated (though we already knew that the Portuguese were overrated).

    Another Korean goal from 2002 deserves a mention: Ahn Jung-Hwanís headed winner against Italy in the round of 16. By the way, both Ahn (against Italy) and Park (against Portugal) received fine crosses from Lee Young-Pyo before scoring.

    The last goal Iíll stick in this category (and, remember, my list is certainly not exhaustive) is Rivaldoís equaliser for Brazil against England in the 2002 quarter finals. Rivaldo finished beautifully after some great work by Ronaldinho and, critically, the goal was scored just seconds before half time. Had England taken a 1-0 advantage into the change rooms, the second half of that match might have been different.

    But despite all this talk about great World Cup goals, Iím afraid that there isnít a single goal that I am prepared to identify as the best in the tournamentís history. I can only share some of my favourites with you.

    This is an imprecise exercise but if your mind is made up, thatís great. Because thereís only one thing that really matters: how you feel and what you think when you see that ball hit the back of the net.

    I do have a favourite international goal Ė but it wasnít scored in the World Cup. It was scored in the second half of the Final of the 1988 European Nations Championship by a chap who is currently in charge of the Dutch national team.

    If you havenít seen that particular effort by Marco van Basten, do yourself a favour and get your hands on it. Try to imagine if ordinary footballers would have even tried to volley a shot at goal from a similar position without at least taking a touch. And just marvel at the angle that van Basten is on, knowing that anyone else audacious enough to attempt such a shot would have probably fired the ball into the stands.

    See the reaction of the late Rinus Michels (the then manager of the Dutch team) and, if you get English commentary, you might be lucky enough to hear the wonderful words of John Motson, ďoh Ö even Michels canít believe it Ö how do you stop Marco van Basten?Ē

    It would be nice if more major international tournaments were decided by a goal like that.

    But van Bastenís goal wasnít scored in the biggest competition of all. Maybe 2006 will produce the best goal in World Cup history.



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