With just 37 short days until the World Cup gets underway in Brazil, we thought we’d begin to wet thine whistles with a series recapping the best goals ever scored at the 19 tournaments preceding 2014′s instalment.
We’re starting with a personal favourite from the second round game between Argentina and Mexico at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
#1 – Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina) vs Mexico, 2006
With the score locked steady at 1-1 from the 10th minute onwards, the game lilted along into extra time with Argentina’s much-fancied, star-laden side (who had previously powered through the group stages) struggling to make inroads against El Tri.
That was until the 98th minute, when Maxi Rodriguez (latterly of Liverpool) chested Juan Sorin’s sprayed pass into the air and UNLEASHED THE THUNDER to spirit the Albiceleste through to the quarters…
#2: Saeed Al-Owairan (Saudi Arabia) vs Belgium, 1994
The goal that saw Saudi Arabian striker Saeed Al-Owairan briefly dubbed “The Maradona of the Arabs” before fading back into footballing obscurity.
Just five minutes into the Saudi’s third and final group game, Al-Owairan proceeded to charge almost the entire length of the pitch, bobbing and weaving past several Belgian defenders before sliding his shot past Michel Preud’homme to score the only goal of the game and send his unfavoured country through to the second round…
#3: Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Holland) vs Uruguay, 2010
Giovanni van Bronckhorst captained Holland throughout their run at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, receiving an election into the Order of Orange-Nassau and letters after his name for his troubles, with the highlight of the veteran left-back’s tournament undoubtedly being his outrageous goal to open the scoring against Uruguay in the semi-finals – the penultimate game of his professional career (the less said about his final game, the better).
With just 18 minutes played, the ball wound up at Van Bronckhorst’s feet in a seemingly fairly innocuous position some 40 yards out from goal over on the left-hand side.
With everybody expecting a deep cross to be delivered as Gio wound up, it was at this point that the then-35-year-old unleashed an absolute Exocet of a shot past Fernando Muslera to put Holland 1-0 up, leaving the Uruguayan ‘keeper nursing a pair of lightly scorched gloves in the process…
#4: Pierre Njanka-Beyaka (Cameroon) vs Austria, 1998
Pierre Njanka-Beyaka was the very definition of a journeyman defender during his playing days, turning out for clubs in his native Cameroon, Switzerland, France, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and four or five teams in Indonesia before calling it a day, with a three-year stint at RC Strasbourg between 2000 and 2003 being the highest level he ever reached domestically speaking.
Indeed, Njanka’s first season at Strasbourg included a strange anomaly, as the club spent the entire league season in the bottom three before being relegated from Ligue 1 despite winning the Coupe de France!
As for Cameroon; the nomadic full-back won a not-too-shabby 47 caps for his country – scoring two goals over the course of his six-year international career.
Now, the latter of those goals we are sadly unable to vouch for, but Njanka’s first international goal was truly and unforgettably spectacular – coming, as it did, in the Indomitable Lions’ opening group stage game against Austria at France ’98…
#5 – Nelinho (Brazil) vs Italy, 1978
Brazilian right-back Nelinho scored one of the classic “did he mean it?” goals during the third-place play-off at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina; unleashing a shot that bent past Italian ‘keeper Dino Zoff so wickedly that the ball’s flight path almost has a corner in it half-way through – with Nelinho accused of flukery ever since, despite his repeated protestations…
Sensational, and we choose to believe that he meant every inch of that glorious parabola! While hosts Argentina won the tournament outright, Brazil went on to beat Italy 2-1 in the play-off to claim the bronze.
More to follow…