Ranking Argentina's Greatest World Cup Goals
As one of the tournament's most successful nations, Argentina have enjoyed a long and glorious World Cup history. As always, the moments remembered most fondly are the goals that have flown in over the years.
This begs the question, just under two months from the tournament's kick-off in Brazil: Which are the finest strikes hit by the men in sky-blue-and-white stripes since the World Cup came into being?
Several factors have been taken into account when compiling this ranking. The importance of the game and the strength of the opposition were both key in determining where a particular goal made the list or if it made the cut at all.
But ultimately, all 15 goals on this list have one common factor. Beauty is king: If a goal does not bring a tear to your eye on rewatching, it does not deserve a place amongst Argentina's finest World Cup efforts.
15. Artime Sinks Spain
The Argentine campaign for England 1966 has been unfairly tarnished by scandal. Everyone remembers Antonio Rattin's red card and Sir Alf Ramsey calling the South Americans "animals," but less famous is the brave, attacking football played throughout the tournament by the nation.
Luis Artime's tap-in to open the scoring against Spain finished off a wonderful collective move from the team, who were in fine form until coming up against the eventual winners in the last eight.
14. A Cracker from Carlitos
Frozen out of the international set-up by coach Alejandro Sabella, it looks extremely unlikely that we will see Carlos Tevez in action at the upcoming World Cup. This means that pearls like his goal against Mexico at South Africa 2010 will not be repeated in 2014.
Carlitos picked exactly the right moment to let loose and send the Mexican goalkeeper scrambling, sending Argentina on the way to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory.
13. Corbatta Squeezes One Past West Germany
The failure of Argentina's star-studded squad in the 1958 World Cup was regarded as a national tragedy—even more so considering that the Albiceleste enjoyed a dream start thanks to the incomparable Omar Corbatta.
The Racing legend opened his World Cup account just two minutes into the first game against West Germany with a fierce strike, although the holders came back strongly and ran out eventual 3-1 winners.
12. Maradona's Greek Thriller
Diego Maradona's goal against Greece, while outstanding, was not the greatest of his World Cup career. For pure emotion and tension, however, few of the little maestro's previous strikes can match his effort in 1994.
Having come back from final heartbreak four years previously and soon to serve the drugs ban that could have finished him as a player, Diego's finish in the first match of the tournament was a wonderful team effort, capped by the iconic image of the legend screaming his return down a camera lens.
11. Bertoni Hits in 1982
While Diego Maradona's heroics ensured he would become the quintessential playmaker of the decade, the 1980s was a golden era for the Argentine attacking midfielder. Stars such as Ricardo Bochini, Claudio Borghi and Alejandro Sabella all made their names during this period, becoming fan favourites in their own right.
One member of that outrageously talented pool of players was Daniel Bertoni, who gave the Albiceleste one of their few highlights in 1982. Cutting in from the right, the winger dances past several El Salvador defenders before looping the ball into the corner, a shot that no keeper in the world could have saved.
10. Super Mario Punishes Peru
Valencia striker Mario Kempes was the only member of Argentina's 1978 World Cup-winning squad to play outside of his native country. An awesome feat of goalscoring soon proved that Cesar Menotti was spot-on in including the Cordoba native in his squad.
A chested-down free-kick and a deft one-two sent Kempes through to notch his second in a 6-0 thrashing of Peru, the game which confirmed the Albiceleste's place in a home final.
9. Batistuta on Target Against Greece
With an impressive 10 goals in 12 appearances, Gabriel Batistuta had an impeccable record during the three consecutive World Cups in which he represented Argentina. It is strange then that the former Fiorentina legend figures little in lists of memorable strikes for the nation.
This effort against Greece in 1994, however, summed up Batigol as a natural hitman. The No. 9 smashed a hat-trick in his World Cup effort; a powerful strike into the roof of the net here was the pick of the bunch.
8. A Perfect Counter for Onega
In an era still dominated by many kick-and-rush style teams, especially outside of South America, the 1966 Argentina side was a different prospect. Even when breaking forward from deep in their own half, the Albiceleste did so with class.
After Luis Artime had given his team an early lead over Switzerland, Ermindo Onega was on hand to assure victory, polishing off a rapid yet perfectly measured counter-attack that assured Argentina's place in the knockout stages.
7. Tevez Ties Serbia in Knots
Juventus star Carlos Tevez has always come alive at World Cup time. Four years before that swerving shot which downed Mexico, the Apache made a spectacular debut in the tournament as Serbia succumbed to an attacking display of the highest quality.
Coming in the same game as that infamous goal where the Balkan side are literally passed off the pitch, Tevez's first World Cup strike is nevertheless notable for containing two of the subtlest, best-executed nutmegs in recent memory.
6. Diego and Claudio Work Their Magic
Although it was short-lived, the attacking partnership of Diego Maradona and Claudio Caniggia was truly one of the most exciting of its time. The two Argentine talents gave us a heart-stopping conclusion when they took down Brazil together in Italy in 1990.
After the Albiceleste had spent almost the entire game on the ropes against their continental rivals, the deadly duo stepped up to rip apart the Selecao defence and keep Argentina on track for the final.
5. Belgium Fall Victim to Untouchable Diego
By the time Belgium and the World Cup semi-finals came around in 1986, there was to be no stopping the great Maradona. The European nation were blown away by the diminutive genius who scored both his nation's goals, one of which was another one for the highlight reel.
Carving up the Belgian defence in much the same way he unlocked England's back line in the previous round, Diego then finished with consummate class to once more stamp his authority on the tournament.
4. Pure Magic from Maxi
Gearing up for his third World Cup in Brazil, Maxi Rodriguez has often seen his talents underrated by observers. But over the course of a long and successful career, the versatile winger has done plenty to deserve high acclaim.
Rodriguez certainly has a claim to one of the finest goals ever scored in an Argentina shirt: an outstanding control and volley which helped take down Mexico in the 2006 quarter-final in Germany.
3. Kempes Hits in the Final
Although Argentina were the hosts and had reached the final in 1978 thanks to an emphatic win over Peru, the decider was by no means a foregone conclusion.
The Netherlands were without the talismanic Johan Cruyff, but a good part of the "Total Football" line-up which had narrowly gone down to West Germany four years before were in the team and in their prime.
But once more Mario Kempes was there to bring Argentina their first-ever World Cup trophy. The pick of his two goals came after a 1-1 draw in regular time, when he burst through the Dutch defence and finished the strike which set a 3-1 victory in motion.
2. 26 Passes and Goal
Many goals enter into the annals of history thanks to an outstanding individual play. But a certain few make the cut after a collective team effort more beautiful than any nutmeg, dribble or long-range screamer.
Esteban Cambiasso's finish against Serbia at Germany 2006, following 26 passes patiently drilled across the field by the imperious Albiceleste, will be remembered for many years to come.
1. Maradona's England Stunner
Let's be honest: If you've read this far, you know which spectacular strike should wear the crown.
Diego Maradona scored many amazing goals in his career, but only one would be dubbed the "Goal of the Century."
Having infuriated England with his first goal of the 1986 quarter-finals, which was steered in with his "Hand of God," Diego proceeded to dazzle them with an outrageous solo effort from his own half.