The World Cup has produced hours of memorable moments, from the highs of classic tournaments like Mexico 1970 through to more conservative tournaments like Italia 1990 and South Africa 2010. The pressure of the occasion, and the natural tendency for teams at the group stages to avoid defeat, has often limited open, attacking football in recent years. Some of the best goals have consequently come in knock out stages and finals, where small tactical switches have enabled teams to push for equalisers and winners. Other World Cup goals have, however, been the result of moments of inspiration. Some of the best World Cup goals, in no particular order, include:
1 – Diego Maradona – Argentina 2, England 1, 1986
Still perhaps the best individual goal scored in a World Cup, Diego Maradona’s second for Argentina in a close fought quarter final in 1986 came soon after a controversial handball by the midfielder for the first goal of the match. Collecting the ball in his own half, Maradona wriggles his way through virtually the entire England side before sliding a shot past Peter Shilton.
2 – Carlos Alberto, Brazil 4, Italy 1, 1970
The capper to a brilliant final performance by the Pele-led Brazilian side, Carlos Alberto’s goal is difficult to beat. A languid passing move from the back by the Brazilians gradually builds momentum as they approach Italy’s box, before Pele lays the ball on to a charging Carlos Alberto to lash into the top corner.
3 – Geoff Hurst, England 4, West Germany 2, 1966
While Hurst’s earlier goal in the Final may or may not have crossed the line, the strike that completed his hat trick and sealed the World Cup for hosts England was more decisive. Deep into extra time, and with fans moving towards the pitch, Bobby Moore’s long pass finds Hurst in space, leading the striker to lash his shot high into the German net.
4 – Roberto Baggio, Italy 2 – Czechoslovakia 0, 1990
Although Baggio would have a more lasting impact on the 1994 World Cup for Italy, including an unfortunate penalty miss in the final, in the 1990 group stages he scored perhaps the tournament’s best individual goal. Swapping passes in midfield, Baggio shrugs off a series of challenges on a mazy run completed by an inch perfect shot.
5 – Dennis Bergkamp, Holland 2, Argentina, 1, 1998
Bergkamp booked Holland’s place in the semi finals with a wonderful piece of control. A long, dropping ball into the box is controlled by Bergkamp, before he swivels to lose his market and plants a shot into the bottom corner. The speed and the technique of the goal, coming in the final minutes of a tense match, was world class. Bergkamp emulated the feat with a similar goal for Arsenal a few years later.
6 – Michael Owen, Argentina 2, England 2 (Argentina 4-3 AET), 1998
Although Owen’s career would ultimately never reach its predicted heights, in 1998 he became a global star as a teenage substitute for Glenn Hoddle’s England. An aggressive second round match had already seen two goals before Owen broke onto a loose pass to charge through the Argentine defense, before finishing a style.
7 – Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina 6, Serbia & Montenegro, 0 2006
The best goal of a dazzling performance by the Argentines, albeit one that they couldn’t maintain across the tournament. Cambiasso finished a twenty man passing move that devastated Serbia & Montenegro.
8 – Pele, Brazil 4, Czechoslovakia 1, 1970
Another example of the 1970 Brazilian side’s cavalier football and one of Pele’s many great goals at the World Cup. Pele confirmed a comfortable win against Czechoslovakia, stealing into the box to chest down a pass and volley into the roof of the net, all seemingly in slow motion.
9 – Johann Cruyff, Holland 2, Brazil 0, 1974
Still one of the best sides to never have won the World Cup, a Johann Cruyff lead Holland dominated the 1974 World Cup but couldn’t overcome West Germany in the final. However, they showed their potential against Brazil, beating the champions 2-0. Cruyff collected one of the best goals of the tournament, arriving late in the box to calmly volley a diagonal cross into the back of the net.
10 – Zinedine Zidane, France 3, Brazil 0, 1998
In a controversial final that saw Brazil’s star striker Ronaldo suffer convulsions before the match, Zinedine Zidane stepped up to supply the two goals that put France on their way to their only World Cup victory. The first goal epitomized Zidane’s ruthless finishing at the tournament, with the midfielder bursting into the box to meet a corner with a bullet header that knocked the wind out of an already unsettled Brazil.
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