10 Most Iconic World Cup Goals and the Stories Behind Them
Held every four years, the FIFA World Cup remains the biggest showpiece sporting event across the globe, and next summer's tournament in Brazil is shaping up to be just as extravagant as those that have preceded it.
The 2014 edition will be the 20th World Cup tournament and over the past 19 editions over 2,000 goals have been scored over an 80-year period. Of course, some have been scrappy tap-ins, others of crucial importance while some have been tremendously iconic moments.
With that in mind, here is Bleacher Report's look at 10 of the most iconic World Cup goals and the stories behind them:
Pele: Brazil vs. Sweden 1958
The 1958 World Cup in Sweden has long been remembered as the birthplace of a legend and the international tournament that brought Pele to global consciousness.
And if the tournament in its entirety is remembered for bringing Pele to worldwide attention, then it is his first goal during the final that has long been the enduring image of the tournament.
Having become the tournament's youngest-ever scorer during the quarter-final win over Wales and the youngest hat-trick scorer in the semi-final win over France, the young Brazilian saved the best for last with a show of stunning magnificence in the final.
Taking a driven vertical pass on his chest in the face of a heavy challenge, Pele killed the pace on the ball, before flicking it quite brilliantly over the head of another defender, before firing a powerful low volley past the goalkeeper.
It was a goal that was both marvelous for its technical quality, as well as for the sheer pace at which Pele produced such majesty.
1958. Brazil have just won the World Cup. Pele is emotional pic.twitter.com/GDG8ptrRdt— The League Magazine (@Theleaguemag) April 21, 2013
Geoff Hurst: England vs. West Germany 1966
While the goal itself remains iconic due to being the completion of Hurst's hat-trick and for it still being England's only world crown to date, it is arguably best remembered for the legendary commentary from the late, great English football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme.
His words have immortalised the moment, which saw supporters begin to spill onto the field believing the match to be over as Hurst raced clear into the West German half.
With impeccable timing, Hurst slammed a left-footed shot into the top corner, just as Wolstenholme enthused: "They think it's all over—it is now."
The 120th-minute strike from Hurst remains the latest goal scored in any World Cup final so far, as well as, of course, the only treble scored in a World Cup final.
Carlos Alberto: Brazil vs. Italy 1970
Largely seen as the best World Cup goal ever, Brazil's fourth during their 4-1 World Cup final win over Italy in Mexico in 1970 was a wonderfully worked goal that saw a usually stout, resolute defence, featuring some quite exceptional defenders, played through as though they weren't even there.
1970 had been a magnificent tournament, full of goals and tremendous matches—Brazil 1-0 England, West Germany 3-2 England, Italy 4-3 West Germany—and had been the first widely available to armchair supporters in colour.
And this final, most wondrous of goals was the perfect denouement for the tournament.
Deep in their own half, deep-lying midfielder Clodoaldo began the move with a wonderful show of footwork to evade Italian pressure before passing to Rivelino on the left touchline.
From there, Rivelino clipped an arching ball down the line, which was expertly brought under control by the brilliant winger Jairzinho. He switched the ball inside to Pele, who trapped the ball before laying wide for the onrushing full-back Carlos Alberto.
Right on cue the Brazilian skipper rifled a thunderous low strike past Enrico Albertosi to bring the tournament to a quite fitting end.
Love this. Brazil's Carlos Alberto lifts the World Cup in 1970 pic.twitter.com/cx13kTKyv9— The League Magazine (@Theleaguemag) February 24, 2013
Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God': Argentina vs. England 1986
"A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God" was how Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest player of all time, described arguably the greatest act of cheating that the beautiful game has ever seen.
Argentina and England were old foes on the international stage. Their quarter-final clash in 1966 had been a violent one, while the 1982 Falklands War was still fresh in people's minds. This was El Diego's personal act of retribution.
The game had been tight—two sides that were more dogged and dour, then outstanding in attack—but as long as he was on the field of play, Maradona was likely to have a say.
And just six minutes into the second period with the match still tied at 0-0, he scored the most infamous goal in World Cup history.
Cutting in from the left, Maradona played a diagonal pass slightly behind Jorge Valdano, which ran only to England's Steve Hodge. Hodge attempted to sweep the ball clear, but mishit his clearance high into his own penalty area, where an on-running Maradona would leap to challenge England 'keeper Peter Shilton.
Shilton, a resounding favourite to deal with the situation thanks to an eight-inch height advantage, leaped to punch clear, but was beaten by the disguised hand of the artful Maradona.
Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser allowed the goal to stand having not seen the infringement. England were out of the World Cup thanks to "the hand of a rascal," according to manager Sir Bobby Robson.
Mexico World Cup 1986 - Diego Maradona - 'Hand of God' - Argentina 2-1 England pic.twitter.com/HVamFIPBJv— Classic Football (@RevisitFootball) August 21, 2013
Diego Maradona's 'Goal of the Century': Argentina vs. England 1986
Just four minutes elapsed between the World Cup's most infamous goal and probably its best individual one. And that it was the same man involved, Diego Maradona, is just typical of the man.
Perhaps no footballer has ever split football fans down the middle as much as the Argentine magician.
To those who don't worship at the Church of El Diego, he is nothing more than a cheat who would go on to fail drug tests and has repeatedly fallen foul of the law in a number of countries.
However, to others, he is the greatest player to ever play the game, a genius capable of leading those around him and improving their performances; he could make a mediocre collective, champions.
And this goal, since acclaimed as the "Goal of the Century" portrayed Maradona at his very best.
Receiving the ball some 10 metres inside his own half, Maradona proceeded to escape a tight situation with some mesmeric footwork before driving through the heart of the England team, leaving four players trailing in his wake—none of whom got anywhere near him.
Then, inside the penalty area, he dragged the ball around goalkeeper Peter Shilton before sliding it into the empty net. It was nothing short of breathtaking, perfectly executed and was the crucial goal as Argentina emerged with a 2-1 win to secure their semi-final place.
Diego Maradona scores the Goal of the Century in Argentina's 2-1 win over England at the 1986 World Cup pic.twitter.com/sUP4CA7IMo— World Sports Pics (@WorldSportsPics) August 14, 2013
Dennis Bergkamp: Netherlands vs. Argentina 1998
Arguably the best match of the 1998 tournament, Netherlands and Argentina put on a masterful spectacle in Marseille in their quarter-final encounter.
And to round off the match came possibly the best goal of the tournament and one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time.
Heading into stoppage time with the score tied (despite Argentina being down to 10 men after Ariel Ortega's red card) extra time appeared all but a certainty.
But when Dutch defender Frank de Boer fired a raking 60-yard diagonal pass in the direction of Dennis Bergkamp, time appeared to stand still as the Arsenal No. 10 produced the kind of moment that mere mortals can only dream of.
Leaping into the air, Bergkamp beautifully brought the ball under his spell with the silkiest of touches, before cutting inside Roberto Ayala seemingly all in one movement. With the ball sitting perfectly on the half-volley, Bergkamp finished the job with a glorious rising finish with the outside of his right boot.
In theory, it was perfect. In practice it was even more so, and you can expect it to forever stand the test of time as one of the World Cup's greatest moments.
Papa Bouba Diop: Senegal vs. France 2002
Perhaps the greatest World Cup for shocks, this was the goal that prepared the world for what was to come.
France headed into the tournament in Japan and South Korea riding on the crest of a wave. Reigning champions from four years previously and having won the 2000 European Championship also, Les Bleus, featuring the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, were seen as a wonderful team full of power, technique and class.
However, with Zidane arriving in Asia struggling with a thigh injury, they were without their talisman for their opening match against newcomers Senegal. Nevertheless, victory was widely expected for the holders.
But under the astute guidance of Frenchman Bruno Metsu—who has sadly recently passed away—Senegal lined up in a counterattacking 4-5-1 formation and with El-Hadji Diouf a willing runner up front, they caused the French problems with their quick transitions and all-round tenacity.
And it was from one of these transitions that the Lions of Teranga shocked the world. Youri Djorkaeff was dispossessed in midfield by Salif Diao, who quickly sprung Diouf down the left.
Diouf then sauntered past an awful attempted challenge from Frank Leboeuf before picking out Papa Bouba Diop in the middle. His first effort was awful, hitting an already prone Fabien Barthez, but the ball ricocheted back to the midfielder—nicknamed The Wardrobe—and he put the ball into the empty net.
The match would end in a 1-0 win for the Senegalese and would act as a symbol on two fronts: the start of a World Cup of shocks—where pre-tournament favourites Argentina were dumped out at the group stage, while unheralded nations Turkey and South Korea both made the semi-finals—and the end of France's dominant mystique since their 1998 success.
David Beckham: England vs. Argentina 2002
In 1998, Argentina had seen off England on penalties following a somewhat tumultuous clash. Four first-half goals, including Michael Owen's Maradona-esque slalom, had so entertained watchers but the overriding image was that of England midfielder David Beckham being sent off for a petulant kick on Diego Simeone.
Immediately after the tournament, Beckham was vilified across the country for his actions, blamed for England's demise; shirts with his name on were burned and he was subjected to a various kinds of abuse up and down the land.
Nonetheless, the following years had seen quite the turnaround in Beckham's public perception. Handed the captain's armband by Peter Taylor for a friendly against Italy, he had continued in that role under Sven-Goran Eriksson and had become the figurehead for the English game.
His heroics in the 2-2 draw with Greece, including a last-minute free-kick to cement qualification to the 2002 World Cup, earned him hero status among England supporters—quite the turnaround.
However, still Beckham had one last ghost to exorcise: that of St. Etienne. And in the Sapporo Dome on June 7, Beckham's transformation from national disgrace to hero was complete.
Under a challenge from Mauricio Pochettino, England striker Michael Owen had crumpled in a heap—what do you mean it was a dive?—and Beckham took the responsibility of taking the penalty himself.
Old foe Simeone tried to put the Manchester United midfielder off, but the England skipper duly drove the ball down the centre past Pablo Cavallero.
Four years after leaving a World Cup in disgrace, Beckham found his redemption.
Ronaldo: Brazil vs. Ghana 2006
By no means was this O Fenomeno's best goal. Nor was it his most important—the pair he scored in the final four years beforehand surely take that honour.
But for what it meant beyond the simple parameters of a 3-0 win for the Selecao in their second-round clash with Ghana, this was perhaps the finest on a personal level.
In 1994, Ronaldo was a mere 17-year-old and part of the Brazil squad that claimed a fourth world crown, albeit without playing any part. At France '98, Ronaldo was the tournament's outstanding player, winning the Golden Ball and scoring four goals. However, the enduring memory has been of a man who wandered around the final aimlessly as his side were beaten 3-0 by the hosts.
Four years later, having lost more than two years of the intervening period through career-threatening injury struggles—he didn't play a single international during 2000 or 2001—Luiz Felipe Scolari brought Ronaldo back as his No. 9 for the 2002 tournament, and he was the top scorer with eight goals.
After becoming a Galactico with Real Madrid, the 29-year-old Ronaldo arrived in Germany 2006 two goals shy of Gerd Mueller's goals record. He netted twice to equal the great German poacher, then a goal in Dortmund would mark him out as the greatest World Cup goalscorer.
Within five minutes, he had slipped past the Black Stars defence onto a beautifully disguised through pass from Kaka, and the rest is history.
Esteban Cambiasso: Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro 2006
Under the astute guidance of Jose Pekerman and built around the languid playmaking of Juan Roman Riquelme after the disappointment of 2002, this Argentina looked the real deal.
Aside from Riquelme, La Albiceleste were brimming with attacking talent—including the likes of Hernan Crespo, Javier Saviola, Carlos Tevez and a 18-year-old wunderkind by the name of Lionel Messi—while a back line encompassing the likes of Juan Pablo Sorin, Roberto Ayala and Gabriel Heinze were well-trained in football's darker arts.
Pre-tournament predictions saw them cast among the favourites, despite their position in the so-called Group of Death with the Netherlands, Ivory Coast and Serbia. And during their rout of the Serbs in their second game, they produced one of the greatest goals any World Cup has ever seen, with a quite remarkable 25-pass move featuring every one of Argentina's outfield players getting a touch.
Riquelme and Villarreal teammate Sorin were at the heart, recycling play effortlessly down the left side and across the field, before Saviola, Crespo and Inter midfielder Cambiasso combined with devastating effect, with the latter firing high into the roof of the net from 12 yards out.
It was a goal iconic because of its sheer magnificence but also because it came in a performance—a 6-0 hammering—that indicated that Pekerman's side could claim international football's greatest trophy for the first time since 1986.
However, having been so effective in possession, Pekerman sacrificed his key attacking players to hold on to a 1-0 lead against Germany in the quarter-finals, a move that only sought to undermine his side's confidence as they gave away their advantage and succumbed to a penalty shootout defeat.
Nonetheless, the goal remains as one of the World Cup's most iconic—a quite unbelievable display of patience and cohesion.