There are plenty of reasons we watch football. We watch football to support our teams. We watch football for the entertainment. For the drama. For the stories. We watch football for the spectacular, show-stopping goals.
So tonight, in no particular order (although we did save the best for last), here are 25 goals and golazos especially powerful in their skill, artistry, power and magic. We've got some that happened in the past year; others that happened more than half a century ago. And there's certainly tons and tons more outside of the 25 we picked, so as always, add your own favorites in the comments.
Starting us off is a rather recent effort out of the MLS, in this case with Canadian outfit Vancouver Whitecaps. Designated player Eric Hassli wowed the crowd over the summer with a brilliant aerial loop that went right past Casey Keller and into the corner pocket.
In 2011, young Emirati winger Theyab Awana, then playing for UAE club Baniyas, made this oh-so-smooth backheeled penalty. There have been plenty of great backheeled goals and backheeled penalties made in the history of world football, sure, but none have been handled with such assuredness as Awana's.
Awana tragically passed away earlier this year following a car wreck. He was 21. But this clip and others are all-too-small indicators of the illustrious career Awana could have gone on to have.
This may seem like a normal set-piece at first, but consider the distance. Consider the power, the accuracy, the difficulty that comes with executing a perfect set piece. Consider that this is Ronaldinho now, in 2011, not at Barcelona in the prime of his career. Consider the amazing Flamengo choreographed samba line that comes after this golazo. Consider all these things, and you will understand its inclusion on this list.
Remember that time Zlatan Ibrahimovic played in the Eredivisie? You will now. The Swedish striker, then not quite the marquee name he is now, scored this breathtaking goal for Ajax in their win over NAC Breda. There's Hollywood suspense, dipping and dodging and at one point, Ibra even leaps over a defender.
Eurosport voted this goal "Goal of the Year" in 2004, and it could be up there for Goal of the Decade.
Our second set-piece entry comes from a 1997 El Clásico matchup in which Real Madrid's full-back, Roberto Carlos, launched a massive free kick that sailed over the wall of defenders and smashed right into the goal. To the game's current adept set-piece artists (Cristiano Ronaldo, et al): This is how it's done.
The 1954 World Cup was the site of "Das Wunder von Bern" (The Miracle of Bern), where an underdog West German side came from behind to defeat Hungary's "Mighty Magyars" and take home a World Cup win.
Rot-Weiss Essen's Helmut Rahn was the hero of the day, with this simple but brilliantly-executed strike that slotted in the side of the goal right past the Hungarian keeper, giving Die Mannschaft the 3-2 win and the title. And the crowd went wild.
This was the goal that made Yoann Gourcuff a household name in the footballing world. The up-and-coming star of Bordeaux was part of a team that had no trouble tackling PSG, and they were up 2-0 when he scored this brilliantly-executed wonder-goal, complete with a Marseille turn and plenty of fancy footwork in taking Sammy Traoré off balance before firing in the goal. Les Girondins would go on to win the match 4-0, and Gourcuff would become one of the most sought-after talents in Europe.
Matt Le Tissier is doubtlessly one of the greatest to ever play for Southampton, a figure so beloved for his skill and his loyalty to the club that Saints supporters call him "Le God." And Le Tissier must have pulled something celestial out for this 1993 wonder-goal against Newcastle United, in which he, upon getting the ball, manages to pass to himself, juggle and knock it about past the defenders and end on a brilliant finish. Bravo, sir.
Nagoya Grampus manager Dragan "Piksi" Stoijkovic didn't actually mean to score this amazing shot from 40 yards away. But he did. And it was awesome.
Roberto Baggio's fancy footwork from the 1990 World Cup was among the best the tournament had ever seen, but this graceful maneuver, where he hops, skips and leaps past the defense for an almost too-easy finish, is among his best moves.
During his time at West Ham United, the colorful Paolo Di Canio asserted himself as one of football's most gifted and entertaining figures, even if he was occasionally controversial.
But no one can argue that this 2000 goal against Wimbledon, a martial-arts-style flying scissor kick that sent the ball crashing into the goal was a legendary Premier League moment. The announcers put it best: "Sensational, even by his standards."
Liberian international George Weah has had plenty of brilliant moments on the pitch, but none could possibly compare with his goal for AC Milan over Verona. In addition to completing a marathon run with the ball from one end to the other, he maintains control after tripping over two Verona defenders and still. Keeps. Going. The finish is the sweetest reward at the end of a thrilling run.
One of a number of great players to come out of Brazil and shake up Europe in the late '90/early '00s, Rivaldo sealed his way into viral video/footballing legend status with a fantastic go-ahead goal for Barcelona in the last game of the season, sealing a win over Valencia and a hat-trick in the greatest possible way. Rivaldo heads the ball for control before delivering a piercing, gravity-bucking bicycle kick that sails right into the goal.
Watch and be amazed.
It wouldn't fully be a recap of genius goals without at least one entry from Pelé. This is the kind of goal that seems subtle if you just watch the end, but will haunt your dreams. Or at least, the recurring nightmares of the Swedish goalkeeper who couldn't reach Pelé's well-timed knock, which he made after getting the ball airborne over the heads of the defenders, running around the defender before firing the ball in.
The Hungarian national team of the 1950s was one of the best in the world, and throughout the decade, Ferenc Puskás and the "Mighty Magyars" dominated the international game. This goal from a 1953 international friendly between Hungary and England is one of those rare, beautiful examples of a team working together to create a brilliant, fluid path to the goal. Hidegkuti Nandor is the one who actually fires the shot into the net, but the legendary Puskás sets him up. This is what teamwork at its best looks like.
For another brilliant team effort, we fast forward about half a century to a 2006 World Cup match between Argentina and Serbia and Montenegro. In order to score this goal, the Argentines completed 25 passes with great foresight and fluidity, with the likes of Mascherano and Riquelme playing their parts in the orchestra before Esteban Cambiasso delivers the final blow. They make it look so easy.
Michael Owen has been an English football institution for decades, and although his career is looking as if it's in its twilight phase now, in the late '90s, there was no one better. This wonder goal, which he scored for England in the 1998 World Cup against Argentina, will forever be in the highlight reel of Three Lions' supporters' hearts and minds.
Ryan Giggs, Manchester United's master of the midfield, could have probably made this list with a number of goals. But none compare to his magnum opus in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.
On a gift from Patrick Vieira, Giggs wins the ball and makes a massive run, zigging and zagging in and out of the Arsenal defense closing in on him before squeezing in between two Gunners and firing the ball into the net. Brilliantly executed.
Zinedine Zidane is another figure who could probably be in here for a number of goals that he's scored. But his golazo for Real Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen stands above all others. There's the added drama of the competition, the fact that it was on his opposite foot, the crazy angle, the precision... truly one of the most entertaining goals ever scored in the Champions League.
The Saudi Arabian national football team made the World Cup for the first time in 1994 and performed at their highest level ever, advancing to the round of 16. Essential to their success was the work of midfielder and striker Saeed Al-Owairan, nicknamed "The Maradona of the Arabs" after this brilliant piece of footwork against Belgium in the group stages.
Al-Owairan moves nimbly past defenders and fires with great precision into the side pocket, and his work was considered one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time.
This 2007 Copa del Rey semifinal between Barcelona and Getafe wouldn't have been anything special had it not been for Lionel Messi, then still a teenager, scoring an explosive golazo that the pundits said mirrored Maradona's "Goal of the Century" (He would later net another goal and an assist in the Blaugrana's 5-2 victory.).
We had to find the version with the original Catalán commentary provided by the legendary Joaquim Maria Puyal. His excitement over Messi is contagious, and it's a sentiment that continues today, as Messi continues to prove he is the greatest player of his generation.
The Northern Irish giant could take up several spots on this list with his wizardry in the goal box, but this scorcher against Sheffield United, much in the vein of the Messi goal you just saw and the iconic Maradona "Goal of the Century," maintains expert control while beating the Sheffield defenders at breakneck speed before firing at just the right angle to hit the corner pocket of the goal. Brilliant, from start to finish.
For all his indelible contributions to Manchester United and the legacy he will always have there, one of Best's most genius goals actually was scored while he was playing in the North American Soccer League with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Toward the end of his career in 1981, Best's Earthquakes were taking on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers when Best took the ball, dribbled it past everyone, weaved in and out with the ease and grace he was known for at Old Trafford and scored a goal that the American announcer declared "the best soccer goal I've ever seen."
Also, the funky retro music and mildly annoying commentary just really add something to the clip.
The Ajax icon (probably) put countless kids all over Europe in hospitals as they attempted to mimic his expertly-fired bicycle kick shot from this 1986 victory over Den Bosch. As a reminder, never try this at home, kids.
Before there was Messi's Getafe "Wonder Goal," there was another Argentine legend, the great Diego Maradona. In what has been called the "Goal of the Century," Maradona expertly wove in and out of the English midfield and made an explosive, yet beautifully controlled run to seal Argentina's victory in the 1986 World Cup semifinal.
But England fans weren't exactly pleased with Maradona's performance. Just three minutes before that wonderful golazo, he scored the infamous "Hand of God" goal, a part-handball-part-header strike that will forever make him a less-than-beloved figure among England supporters.