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
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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