Peter Goldstein

Peter Goldstein is a professor at Juniata College in Pennsylvania in the USA. He has been World Cup crazy since 1966. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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My 25 favorite World Cup goals, 1982-1998

    Everyone loves goals, and everyone has their favorites. In this column I'll rank my 25 favorite goals of the last 5 World Cups, starting in 1982. Note that this is not an attempt to rank the "greatest" goals; many outstanding goals, some of which are very famous, either don't appear here at all or rank lower than in the usual lists. This is just a purely subjective list of my personal favorites, the ones that not only thrilled me when I first saw them on live television, but continue to thrill me as I see them on tape again and again.

    Why start at 1982? In one sense, it's arbitrary, since I've got some great favorites from earlier cups too (Archie Gemmill and Arie Haan in 1978, Johann Cruyff in 1974, Jairzinho in 1970, etc.). But 1982 is, to my knowledge, the first cup for which commercial videotapes are available that show ALL the goals of the cup. (I've been told there's a tape for 1978, too, but I've never seen it -- if you know where I can find one, please let me know!) So you can sit in your living room and replay every single goal, not just the famous ones, and make your own individual list. Plus, the tapes allow you to judge all the fine points. So I've started at 1982.

    Some notes on descriptions. In general these are described from the attacker's point of view, so if it says "inside the left post," that means the left post as the attacker sees it, the right post as the keeper sees it. On occasion it'll be more convenient to go from the keeper's point of view, and there I'll make it clear with a phrase like "just to the keeper's right" or something like that. Also, there will be times when I can tell who the other players involved are, and times when I can't. I'll mention the players I know, and leave the others anonymous.

25) Juan Cayasso, Costa Rica vs. Scotland, 1990. From one of the surprises of the tournament, one of the most memorable team goals. With the slow, steady movement typical of Latin American teams, the move starts about the midfield line on the left. A Costa Rican advances about 15 yards, then under pressure passes directly ahead of him to a teammate. The teammate lays it right back to the original passer, who then sends it to a third man in the middle of the field. He in turn sends it out to the right side to the fullback, moving up with plenty of space. The fullback moves inside, then passes to Claudio Jara just inside the area, directly out from the middle of goal. Jara, facing right, stops it with his right foot, then with the same foot sends a perfect backheel behind him and to Cayasso, who runs onto it from the left about 8 yards from goal and finishes neatly into the far corner.

24) Didier Six, France vs. Kuwait 1982. Michel Platini, on the right side of the field about 45 yards out, lofts a ball for Six, who has beaten the offside trap. It looks like it'll be a bit high -- but he gets to it about the top of the arc and executes a spectacular running chest trap and volley, crashing it with his left foot to the keeper's left and into the net. Simple in conception, brilliant in execution.

23) Julio Cesar Romero, Paraguay vs. Mexico, 1986. Trailing the host team 0:1 in the final minutes, Paraguay gets a throw-in from the right about level with the top of the penalty area. A Paraguayan receives the throw-in, then turns, and sends a left-footed cross into the box. Romero, coming across from left to right about 10 yards from goal, hurls himself at the ball, and with a remarkable twisting header sends it behind him to the left and into the corner of the net, just out of the reach of the keeper. Superb flair.

22) Michael Owen, England vs. Romania, 1998. No, not the solo run against Argentina, but a goal just as fine in its own way. David Beckham sends a pass too far for Alan Shearer, who runs it down almost on the by-line 8 yards to the right of goal. He whacks it with his right foot back into the middle, where it caroms off Paul Scholes' right foot, pops in the air, then lands about six yards from goal just right of center. Scholes turns to get it, but out of nowhere Owen comes sliding in from the left to bang a right footed shot high into the left corner of the net. A great bit of goal-poaching; what's most impressive is the power and placement of the shot.

21) Victor Ikpeba, Nigeria vs. Bulgaria, 1998. Wilson Oruma (I think), about 25 yards out just to the left of center, fakes a shot, then passes to his right for Daniel Amokachi, at the top of the area to the right of the arc. With a first touch he side-foots it neatly to his right to Ikpeba at the penalty spot. Ikpeba, facing the right touchline, is set for a touch with his right foot, but suddenly dummies and lets it go by, as the Bulgarian defender misses with a tackle. He then pivots, runs to his left to meet the ball, and toe-pokes it with his right foot just in time to get it under the keeper. Beautiful.

20) Manuel Negrete, Mexico vs. Bulgaria, 1986. A clever piece of skill, then an explosion. Negrete, moving toward goal in the middle about 25 yards out, gets a pass from the right, but it's a little too high, about waist level. Using only his left foot, his first touch flicks it in the air, his second stabilizes it, and when it drops in front of him, his third sends it to his left at knee level to a teammate near the top of the area to the left of the arc. Negrete proceeds into the area, the teammate's first touch sends it in the air back to him, and out of nowhere Negrete executes a dazzling left-footed scissors kick into the side netting just inside the right post.

19) Wim Kieft, Holland vs. Egypt, 1990. The Dutch weren't at their best in 1990, but for this one brief moment they showed all their marvelous, eccentric artistry. A perfect through ball from 40 yards out sends Marco van Basten clear just to the left of the area. He makes an unusual cross with his left foot -- a sort of casual flip into the box. It bounces untouched, and Frank Rijkaard, coming in hard at goal, delivers a flying dummy, leaping completely over the ball. Then on the second bounce, Kieft, standing near the penalty spot, facing the left touchline, golfs a shot with the outside of his right foot high into the net. As odd and whimsical a goal as you'll ever see.

18) Dennis Bergkamp, Holland vs. South Korea, 1998. If anyone's looking to get me something for Christmas, go with a Dennis Bergkamp highlight tape. Has there ever been another big man with such a precise touch in the penalty area? His winning strike against Argentina at France '98 is justly famous, but this one's my favorite. He comes out with his back to goal to meet a pass in the middle of the arc, fighting off a defender as he does so. He turns toward goal, finds the ball at his feet and another defender coming straight at him. He beats the man by tapping the ball with his left foot over to his right foot and then quickly with the right foot sending it back to the left, a few yards ahead. With a third defender closing, he catches up with the ball and right-foots it just inside the left post. I'll miss him this summer.

17) Josimar, Brazil vs. Northern Ireland, 1986. Josimar had recently emerged as the right back for Brazil, and was still comparatively unknown before Mexico '86. But he scored two of the finest goals of the tournament. In this one, he takes the ball about 40 yards out in space on the right. The Irish don't pressure him, so he moves ahead until he's about 27-28 yards out, then suddenly unleashes a stunning right-footed curving rising blast that ends up in the upper left corner of the net. Pat Jennings never has a chance.

16) Christian Vieri, Italy vs. Norway, 1998. Davor Suker won the Golden Boot at France '98, but for my money Vieri was the top striker of the tournament. From an inside right position about 20 yards in his own end, Luigi Di Biagio sends a beautiful through ball straight ahead for Vieri, who's moving slightly from left to right. Vieri reaches the ball about 40 yards from goal, steps over it and turns straight for the goal line, the ball on his left. Ten yards further on, as defender Dan Eggen closes from behind and to the left, Vieri touches it for the first time, pushing it with his left foot ahead to keep it from the defender. With Eggen all the while trying to pull him down, Vieri keeps running straight ahead, meets the ball at the top of the area with his right foot, pushes it slightly farther ahead, then catches up with it about 10 yards from goal and sends it low under the keeper into the far corner. I love this goal for Vieri's power and skill, but what makes it extra special is the geometrical precision -- the ball and Vieri never deviate from the straight line.

15) Diego Maradona, Argentina vs. England, 1986. Well, you knew this one had to be here. I think the reason it's so low on the list is that it's been shown so very many times. No need to describe it, except to point out that the beginning of the sequence, which often is treated as kind of an introduction, is as brilliant as the rest. He pivots twice in tight space, including a beautiful backheel, before setting off on the famous run. The cool finish at the end is also remarkable. For Maradona fans who think I've shortchanged him, there's another Diego goal coming up later on this list.

14) Roberto Baggio, Italy vs. Spain, 1994. A graceful, masterful player, whose World Cup highlights would fill a full-length video. My own favorite is this quarterfinal game-winner against Spain. A pass out of the back finds Dino Baggio, inside his half on the left side of the center circle. He flips it ahead on the left to Giuseppe Signori. About 40 yards from goal, with his first touch, Signori lobs it over a defender toward the penalty area and into the path of Baggio, running at goal from the middle of the field. Zubizarreta comes out to challenge, but Baggio gets there a moment sooner, and in one smooth motion neatly side-foots it to the right out of the keeper's reach and steps over his legs. He then follows the path of the ball to the right and drives it in from a narrow angle, just ahead of Abelardo, who is arriving on the line. Baggio at his best.

13) Leo Clijsters, Belgium vs. Uruguay, 1990. The Belgians have a reputation for being dull, but they've put together some very fine goals over the years. This one starts with a neat Jan Ceulemans backflick near the midfield line, which goes to a Belgian on the left wing. He advances, sends it back to Ceulemans, who sends it first-time back to the left for a speedy overlapping Michel de Wolf. From about 8 yards out just to the left of the area, de Wolf sends an inch-perfect cross to the far post, and Clijsters comes in with a thunderous header back across the goal and into the far side netting.

12) Sunday Oliseh, Nigeria vs. Spain, 1998. One of the most frequently replayed goals of the tournament. Nigeria has a throw-in from the left about 10 yards from the goal line. The ball comes all the way into the penalty area, where Hierro clears it straight out with a header. The ball bounces twice, and Sunday Oliseh, about 30 yards from goal, "returns it with interest," as they say -- which in this case means a crushing right-footed half volley that screams by Zubizarreta just inside the left post. Almost incidentally, it's the winning goal of the game.

11) Josimar, Brazil vs. Poland, 1986. Josimar's first goal in this tournament was all power; this one is all finesse. He gets the ball about 25 yards out on the right, gets inside one defender with a neat right-footed move, then leaps over a tackle from a second defender. He's now at the top of the area near the right edge. The first defender has caught up to him, but he rides the man until he's only about 9 yards from the goal line. The defender finally tries the tackle, but Josimar eludes him, keeps going, and now 5 yards from the goal line, as yet another defender approaches, he fires a hard, high, right-footed shot into the side netting just inside the far post. With the moves and the perfect shot from a narrow angle, it's a classic.

10) Salvatore Schillaci, Italy vs. Uruguay, 1990. Toto Schillaci scored a number of fine goals at Italia '90, but this was the most spectacular. Zenga punts it deep into the Uruguayan half, where Roberto Baggio, with a beautiful touch, deflects it to Aldo Serena. Serena, with his own fine touch, leaves it for Schillaci near the top of the arc. Schillaci pivots and blasts a physics-defying left-footed shot: going straight at the middle of the goal, it rises steadily, looks like it's going over the goal entirely, then dips at the last moment and goes just under the bar into the back of the net.

9) Romario, Brazil vs. Russia, 1994. Bebeto takes a corner kick from the left, a sort of mild in-swinger. Several players leap in the box, but the ball somehow manages to float over everybody as it heads for the far post. Romario, jostling with his marker 7 yards from goal and about even with the far post, makes a sudden slip inside, and as the ball is just about to land untouched, stabs it with his right foot and sends it just inside the post. A remarkable combination of agility, instinct, and deadly finishing, and I don't think I've ever seen a goal from a corner quite like it.

8) Florin Raducioiu, Romania vs. Sweden, 1994. One of the greatest quick reaction goals of all time. In a USA '94 quarterfinal, with only a few minutes to go in regular time and Romania trailing 0:1, Gheorghe Hagi takes a free kick from about 35 yards straight out. As he drives the ball, Raducioiu, a few yards to the left of the penalty spot, slips behind his marker and moves toward the goal line. The ball deflects viciously off the Swedish wall -- and suddenly is right in the path of Raducioiu. All the time moving toward goal, Raducioiu blocks it with his left knee, then just at the top of the six-yard box he drives it with his right foot high into the far side netting. Stunning.

7) Diego Maradona, Argentina vs. Belgium, 1986. This goal has always been overshadowed by the solo run against England, but it's just as brilliant. He takes the ball about 35 yards out in the middle, and dribbles forward until he's confronted by 3 defenders. He blithely cuts between the one straight ahead and the one on his right, and is now near the top of the arc. And then as a 4th defender comes at him, he goes to the left once more, and in the finest stroke of all, pushes the ball ahead of him a few yards to make sure it's safe from the defender. He catches up with the ball about 9 yards out and to the left of goal, and sends it over the onrushing keeper into the net. The whole sequence is so smooth, so effortless, you'd think he was doing it against some kids in his backyard.

6) Eugene Ekeke, Cameroon vs. England, 1990. From the classic quarterfinal, a goal of ballet-like grace and geometrical beauty. Ekeke starts the move just inside his own end on the left touchline. He sends it to the right for Cyril Makanaky, who moves diagonally left and leaves it back for Ekeke, who advances toward the middle. Then Ekeke sends it ahead and to the left to Roger Milla who, with his back to goal, traps it, drags it back with his right foot, turns and heads forward. Meanwhile, Ekeke takes a great circle route to the right through the England back line, and Milla times the pass perfectly, finding him about 12 yards from goal. Ekeke coolly puts it first-time into the left corner over the advancing Shilton.

5) Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Mexico vs. Belgium, 1998. A nice ball from Jesus Arellano about 40 yards out finds Ramon Ramirez in space on the left edge of the penalty area, and from 12 yards out he sends a cross to the far post. Blanco comes flying in feet first, and with his left leg fully extended and parallel to the ground, somehow manages to meet the ball with the outside of his left foot and bang it between the keeper and the post. My highlight tape contains the original live call from the British broadcasts, and the announcer says only "Well, how on earth did he do that?" Watch it a hundred times, and if you figure it out, let me know.

4) Falc„o, Brazil vs. Italy, 1982. A very simple, very famous goal. Brazil, needing a draw to advance to the semifinals, trails 1:2 in the second half. Junior starts out on the left wing, pushing up slowly, then beats one man, moves inside, and passes to Falc„o, who takes it just outside the penalty area about 5 yards to the right of the arc. As Falc„o takes possession, Toninho Cerezo circles around him and to the right, and one of the defenders (I think Marco Tardelli) goes with him. Then Falc„o feints ever so slightly to the right, and another Italian defender, moving in that direction anyway, is caught off balance. That leaves Falc„o momentarily unmarked. He moves slowly but confidently to his left, and blasts an awesome high left-footed shot past a helpless Dino Zoff. Brazil still loses the game, and Italy goes on to win the World Cup, but Falc„o's goal is the one that everyone remembers.

3) Jordan Letchkov, Bulgaria vs. Germany, 1994. Another simple and famous goal, Letchkov heading the winner in the quarterfinals to send the Germans home. The tape shows some interesting subtleties, the first of which is Yankov's clever move to get past his man before delivering the cross from the right. It's often been pointed out that Letchkov was marked by Thomas Haessler, the smallest man on the field. But when you see the tape, you see that Haessler's lack of height doesn't matter so much. The ball isn't delivered that high; the key is that Letchkov gets inside of him near the penalty spot to reach it. There are three great things about the finish. The first is the position of Letchkov's arms, spread out wide, almost as if he's ready to dive off the high board. The second is the precision placing of the header, at medium height just inside the left post. The third-of course!-is that beautiful bald head.

2) Eder, Brazil vs. USSR, 1982. The Brazilians have a history of great long-range shooters: Garrincha, Rivelino, Branco, Roberto Carlos, etc. In 1982, their man from distance was the left-footed Eder -- in a second round game against Argentina, one of his free kicks practically broke the crossbar. This goal comes from Brazil's opening match, when they were tied 1:1 with the USSR with only a few minutes left. A weak Soviet clearance gives a Brazilian possession just to the right of the area about 14 yards out. He sends the ball back and to his left, to Socrates. Except Socrates doesn't play it -- standing almost perfectly still, he executes an incomparable dummy, letting the ball go straight through his legs. And here comes Eder, charging from deep. With his first touch he deftly flips the ball into the air, and with his second, from about 24 yards out, he drills an absolutely unstoppable shot inside the right post. Dasayev, the Soviet keeper, doesn't even move. One of the undisputed all-time great goals.

1) Frank Vercauteren, Belgium vs. Paraguay, 1986. This goal came in a relatively obscure game, so it may not be well known, but for me it's a clear #1. It brought me out of my chair when I first saw it on live TV, and still leaves me wide-eyed in wonder. The sequence starts with a long punt by Belgian keeper Jean-Marie Pfaff to the right side of midfield. With back to goal, a Belgian player brings it down, stumbles a bit, then sends it to his right to another Belgian coming in hard. He takes it, feints once, then sends it to his left to Jan Ceulemans, who comes to meet it with back to goal. Ceulemans stops it neatly with his right foot, then quickly spins and sends a pass farther to the left, into the path of Frank Vercauteren, who has circled around Ceulemans and into space. Vercauteren is approaching the ball at the top of the area a couple of yards to the left of the arc, with the defense closing fast from the right. He has three options: he can drive a shot on the run, he can dribble towards the goal line, or he can look for a teammate at the far post. He does none of these. Instead, in a moment of inexplicable inspiration, he chips the ball -- a flawless, breathtaking, first-time left-footed chip that leaves the Paraguayan keeper, standing five yards off his line, utterly helpless. The ball floats over him and into the far corner. Equal parts intelligence, precision, and sheer magic, it's my all-time favorite goal, World Cup or otherwise.



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