World Cup 2014: Ranking the Top 20 Goals from Group Stage Games
The World Cup Group Stage brought us an incredible tally of 136 goals.
There have been a huge variety of strikes, from searing volleys to scruffy tap-ins. While every team's goal will have sparked celebrations in their homeland, some will be remembered more fondly than others.
In this piece, we rank the top 20 goals of the Group Stage.
20. Asamoah Gyan vs. Portugal
Sometimes the brilliance of a goal is down to the pass as much as the finish. Kwadwo Asamoah's stunning cross with the outside of his left boot was undoubtedly one of the most skillful moments of the group stage.
Asamoah Gyan's emphatic header wasn't too bad either, and made him the highest-scoring African in World Cup history.
19. Moussa SIssoko vs. Switzerland
The fifth and final goal of France's thrashing of Switzerland was a flowing move that ended with Karim Benzema passing in to the path of Moussa Sissoko.
Without breaking his stride, Sissoko hit the ball with his instep, sending it zipping in to the far corner.
18. Eduardo Vargas vs. Spain
This intricately-worked goal typified Chile's exhilarating start to the tournament.
After Xabi Alonso carelessly gave the ball away in midfield, Chile embarked on a rousing series of quick runs and passes that ended with Charles Aranguiz squaring for Eduardo Vargas to knock the ball beyond the stranded Iker Casillas.
17. Mathieu Valbuena vs. Switzerland
Many of the goals in this list are the consequence of remarkable individual feats. This, by contrast, was a superb team goal.
France broke swiftly from one end of the field to the other, with Olivier Giroud the key man in a raking counter-attack. Giroud burst away down the left-wing, showing surprising pace, before playing a perfect square pass for Mathieu Valbuena to finish off.
16. Thomas Mueller vs. USA
It's rare that a rebound is regarded as a great goal. However, when Tim Howard pushed Per Mertesacker's header out to the edge of the box, Thomas Mueller produced an outrageously calm side-footed finish to score with a first-time effort.
Earlier in the group stage, Mueller had grabbed a scruffy hat-trick against Portugal. However, there was nothing untidy about this cool strike.
15. Marcos Urena vs. Uruguay
Costa Rica have been the surprise package of the World Cup thus far, and this goal summed up their fearless attitude and attractive approach play.
Arsenal's Joel Campbell picked up the ball on the right before playing a delicious through-ball which bisected the Uruguayan defence. Marcos Urena raced on to it, and produced a perfectly-angled finish which rolled neatly in to the far corner.
14. Neymar vs. Cameroon
The pressure on Neymar at this World Cup has been enormous. Thus far, he has thrived under the scrutiny.
Against Cameroon, Brazil were desperate for the victory to ensure finishing top of the group. After Cameroon pulled the score level at 1-1, the Brazilian fans were understandably anxious. However, Neymar soon calmed their nerves by collecting a Marcelo header, skipping inside and finishing low to the keeper's left.
It was a goal with the elegance and flair that has characterised Neymar's start to the tournament.
13. Ahmed Musa vs. Argentina
Ahmed Musa scored twice against Argentina, but it is the first of his goals that makes this list.
Receiving the ball on the left edge of the penalty area, he stepped on to his stronger right foot before whipping a shot around the goalkeeper and in to the side-netting. It was an accomplished finish from one of the tournament's breakout stars.
12. David Villa vs. Australia
David Villa's final goal in international football was one to remember. With the ball crossed low across the six-yard box, he produced a cheeky backheel to find the far corner of the net.
Villa's goal ensured he finished his Spain career with customary class.
11. Jermaine Jones vs. Portugal
After picking up the ball on the edge of the box against Portugal, USA's Jermaine Jones thrashed a shot in to the far corner of the net.
It wasn't just the sheer velocity of the strike that made this goal significant. This goal ignited a nation's hopes, and announced USA to the world as a growing power in the game.
10. Luis Suarez vs. England
Luis Suarez scoring against England felt inevitable. What couldn't have been anticipated was the sheer beauty of the goal.
Edinson Cavani lofted a perfectly-weighted cross towards Suarez, who cushioned his header over the outstretched hand of Joe Hart and in to the far corner.
Although Suarez's late winner would prove to be the more important goal, this was undoubtedly the most aesthetically pleasing.
9. Gervinho vs. Colombia
As Arsenal fans will attest, Gervinho can be an incredibly frustrating player to watch. However, since moving to Roma he has shown improving levels of consistency. This summer, he has capped a strong season with two World Cup goals, with this effort against Colombia being the superior strike.
Dribbling infield from his station on the left-wing, Gervinho samba-swerved his way past two defenders before blasting a shot in to the near post. It was an electric demonstration of his natural talent, and an indicator of what he can achieve when he's playing with confidence.
8. James Rodriguez vs. Japan
James Rodriguez was one of the undoubted stars of the group stage. This goal was the cherry atop a stunning set of performances.
Rodriguez skipped beyond two challenges before clipping expertly over the advancing goalkeeper. It was a moment of breathtaking skill, befitting a player at the very top of his game.
7. Lionel Messi vs. Bosnia-Hercegovina
This was the goal that told the world that Lionel Messi is determined to make this his World Cup.
While his rival Cristiano Ronaldo has crashed out at the group stage, Messi's progress has been relatively serene. In this particular goal, he slalomed between a couple of challenges before finding the bottom corner with an unerringly accurate shot.
6. Xherdan Shaqiri vs. Ecuador
Xherdan Shaqiri showed that Lionel Messi isn't the only diminutive left-footer capable of changing the game with an audacious piece of skill. Just a matter of minutes in to Switzerland's match with Honduras, he cut inside from the right before bending a beautiful shot in to the far top corner.
Shaqiri's stunning strike was the first of a hat-trick that saw Switzerland progress to the next round at the expense of Ecuador.
5. Lionel Messi vs. Nigeria
This was only the second direct free-kick to be scored in the tournament. However, while there has not been a huge quantity of set-piece goals, this particular effort single-handedly ensured the quality remains satisfactory.
Messi curled home his strike from nearly 30 yards, leaving the impressive Vincent Enyeama no chance.
4. Arjen Robben vs. Spain
Arjen Robben is arguably the World Cup's form player. His finest moment to date was this individual goal against Spain, racing from the halfway line before rounding Iker Cassilas.
Having gone round the goalkeeper, Robben had the peace of mind to look up before smashing the ball past the two defenders on the line.
3. Lionel Messi vs. Iran
Lionel Messi's goal against Iran has already been heralded as one of the iconic moments of the 2014 World Cup.
Carlos Quieroz's side had produced a spirited defensive display to leave the Argentines staring at a 0-0 draw. However, Messi had other ideas, mustering a spectacular last minute-winner with a delicately curled shot which found its way in to the far corner. With one swing of his left boot, Messi simultaneously broke Iranian hearts and yet won those of many fans across the globe.
2. Tim Cahill vs. Netherlands
Every player dreams of scoring a wonder goal at the World Cup. Tim Cahill has now lived that dream.
Against the Netherlands, he conjured a truly magical volley. With the ball dropping out of the air, he struck a left-footed shot that flew towards the goal before thundering in off the crossbar. For 34-year old Cahill, this goal will undoubtedly go down as a career highlight.
1. Robin Van Persie vs. Spain
This is the greatest goal of the 2014 World Cup Group Stage.
Some may wonder why Robin van Persie's header has been selected ahead of Lionel Messi's curled strike against Iran or Tim Cahill's thumping volley against the Dutch.
The answer is simple: this goal is unique. Few have seen anything like it before. Van Persie met Danny Blind's cross-field pass with an astonishing diving header that looped over Iker Casillas from fully 15 yards.
This goal was significant, too. It sent Spain on their way to a cataclysmic defeat, and edged the Netherlands towards qualification. However far the Dutch go in this tournament, they'll look back at Van Persie's header as the moment that started it all.
Which is your favourite Group Stage goal? Let us know below.
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