The 15 Best Goals in World Cup History
The World Cup has seen its share of incredible teams, players, and rivalries. But it’s also seen some unbelievable goals in its nearly 90-year history. Here are the best 15 goals in World Cup history.
15. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst — Netherlands vs. Uruguay, 2010
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst shocked fans and the world with his 2010 goal against Uruguay. Van Bronckhorst received a pass about 40 yards out from the net. Instead of dribbling it to work the ball a little closer or send a pass to another teammate, Van Bronckhorst decided to chance the shot himself. It soared through the air and landed right in the back of Uruguay’s net.
Fans on both sides were shocked, but no one more than Fernando Muslera, Uruguay’s goalkeeper. The Netherlands made it to the World Cup final, but the team lost 1-0 to Spain in extra time. Van Bronckhorst chose to end his personal career on a high note and retired following the tournament. But Van Bronckhorst’s magical goal lifted the team to the final.
Next: This team’s goal made a statement in their World Cup debut.
14. Saeed Al Owairan — Saudi Arabia vs. Belgium, 1994
Saudi Arabia made their FIFA World Cup debut in the United States in 1994. And Saeed Al Owairan stole the show with his unbelievable goal. They lost to the Netherlands but were able to pull out a win against Morocco to keep afloat in the tournament. But it wasn’t until they played Belgium that the team really put themselves on the map.
Al Owairan got the ball about 70 yards from the Belgium net, and he went on an incredible run — the whole 70 yards — to net a goal that would carry Saudi Arabia into the round of 16. The incredible poise and footwork makes it one of the World Cup’s best goals of all time. Saudi Arabia was eliminated after losing to Sweden 3-1 in the round of 16. But the team made a statement in their debut, thanks to Al Owairan’s goal.
Next: This player couldn’t celebrate his own goal, but it was still incredible.
13. David Platt — England vs. Belgium, 1990
England played Belgium in the round of 16 in the 1990 World Cup, and it was a nail biter from start to finish. Both teams were tied 0-0 by the end, and the game went into extra time. But David Platt had an incredible volley, kicking the ball seemingly blindly into the net. It looked as if Platt wasn’t entirely ready for the shot and took a chance out of nowhere. But it paid off for the team, and they defeated Belgium 1-0.
After the game, however, Platt couldn’t join in on the celebration, since he was asked to take a random drug test immediately following the game’s end. Since he was dehydrated, it took him nearly an hour to successfully complete the test. By the time he returned to the locker room, the excitement was basically over. And though he’ll never forget the euphoria he felt upon scoring, he never got much of a chance to celebrate afterward with his team.
Next: This goal was one of the best in history, but it couldn’t win the game.
12. Archie Gemmill — Scotland vs. Netherlands, 1978
In order for Scotland to advance past this round of the cup, the team needed to score at least three goals more than the Netherlands. The team lost to Peru, then had a draw with Iran, which meant a three-goal win was their hail Mary to the next round. At first, the team was down 1-0, but a two-goal come back put them one ahead of the Dutch. Then, Archie Gemmill stepped up to the plate for one the World Cup’s best goals ever.
Gemmill received the ball, cutting through defender after defender to set up a goal. His footwork didn’t fail him as he cut past several Netherlands players and sailed a shot past Jan Jongbloed, the Dutch goalkeeper. The goal put Scotland up 3-1, and it seemed like the team was about to pull off a miracle. Sadly, the Dutch answered with a goal of their own shortly after, and though Scotland won the game 3-2, they were eliminated from the tournament.
Next: This goal helped this country win their first World Cup in 44 years.
11. Marco Tardelli — Italy vs. West Germany, 1982
Marco Tardelli caught fans by surprise with his fast-paced goal in the 1982 World Cup final gainst Germany. Paolo Rossi had scored a goal for Italy, which gave them a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute of the game. Tardelli received a pass from Gaetano Scirea and took a shot with his left foot.
It flew past West Germany’s goalkeeper, Harold Schumacher, to give Italy a 2-0 lead. The team celebrated uncontrollably, including Tardelli. And the celebration also went down in history as one of the best World Cup celebrations of all time. West Germany was able to score one goal off of Italy, but the Italians won 3-1 and took home the 1982 World Cup title for the first time since 1938. Since the 1982 win, Italy has only been victorious once more, in 2006.
Next: This teenager proved himself in his first World Cup.
10. Michael Owen — England vs. Argentina, 1998
Michael Owen was only a teenager when he was selected to England’s 1998 World Cup team. But in the team’s first game against Tunisia, Owen played just five minutes. Next, England took on Romania, where Owen finally saw some real excitement — he scored his first World Cup goal. And earned himself a starting spot against Argentina, where his next goal ended up being a career-defining moment.
Owen received a pass from David Beckham, and the teenager tore up the field at top speed yet managed to keep the ball at his feet. Even when Argentina’s Paul Scholes attempted a block, Owen scooted past him for a goal that would forever be a part of World Cup history. Unfortunately, England ended up being eliminated from the tournament during that game, but Owen made a huge statement about his future as a player.
Next: This player had a controversial goal right before his most famous one.
9. Geoff Hurst — England vs. West Germany, 1966
The 1966 World Cup final game is mostly remembered for the controversial goal Geoff Hurst scored (his second of the game). The goal hit the crossbar, and the referees said it went over the line and counted it as a goal. But 50 years later, Germany still complains that it shouldn’t have counted. Regardless, it was Hurst’s third goal that goes down in World Cup history as one of the best of all time.
In the final minute of extra time, Hurst received a stunning pass inside West Germany’s 50 yard line and ran like the wind. The play happened quickly, and there were hardly any defenders back in time to challenge Hurst. He swiftly got a shot off just before a defender moved in and scored a picture perfect goal. The goal secured a 4-2 win for England.
Next: The whole team played a role in this goal.
8. Esteban Cambiasso — Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro, 2006
This goal was a group effort, though Cambiasso gets the credit for the incredible shot. Argentina was already up 1-0 in the group stage match, but a valiant effort by the team took them to a 2-0 lead against Serbia and Montenegro. Maxi Rodriguez snagged the ball from Serbia and Montenegro. Then, back and forth passes among several Argentina players eventually put the ball in Cambiasso’s possession. Cambiasso sent a quick pass to Hernan Crespo, who dodged a defender and sent a short pass back to Cambiasso. Cambiasso took a shot, sending the ball right into the back of the net. Argentina fans went crazy. And though Cambiasso got the credit, it was a team effort of on-point passes that put ball in the net.
Next: This young player set himself up perfectly for this shot.
7. James Rodriguez — Colombia vs. Uruguay, 2014
James Rodriguez was one of the youngest players for Colombia when his quick thinking netted him a goal that he’d remember for the rest of his life. With skill that seems unattainable to a more inexperienced player, Rodriguez took a pass directly to his chest, sent it down to his left foot, and got a beautiful shot off that sent the ball flying into Uruguay’s net.
It all happened in an instant, as if Rodriguez didn’t have a second to think before he took the shot. While most players can do some swift footwork while they come up with their next move, Rodriguez simply retrieved the ball at his chest, sent himself a quick pass to the left foot, and the rest is history.
Next: A 60-yard pass positioned a perfect goal.
6. Dennis Bergkamp — Netherlands vs. Argentina, 1998
Dennis Bergkamp gets credit for this awesome goal, but it was the pass from Frank De Boer that put this goal on the map as one of the World Cup’s best. With time nearly up, extra minutes loomed over Netherlands’ head. But quick thinking by De Boer positioned Bergkamp for the perfect goal. De Boer sent a 60-yard pass up the field, and Bergkamp retrieved it.
Bergkamp then used his nimble footwork to slide the ball past the final Argentina defender as the rest rushed back in an attempt to save the game. But it was too late. Bergkamp ripped a shot toward the upper left corner of the net. And Argentina’s goalkeeper stood no chance. It sealed a 2-1 win for Netherlands.
Next: One of the greatest players of all time scored this goal.
5. Pele — Brazil vs. Sweden, 1958
Pele made his World Cup debut in 1958, and the 17-year-old Brazilian player was already a rising star. However, his incredible goal against Sweden in his first World Cup appearance sealed the deal and set the stage for the rest of his career. A Sweden defender deflected the ball off his head, but instead of hanging on to it, Pele swooped in.
The teenager snagged the ball right out from under the defender and shot a volley straight into the back of Sweden’s net. Swedish goalkeeper Kalle Svensson was no match for the powerful shot. It sealed a 5-2 victory for Brazil and earned the team its first World Cup title. Pele went on to help his team win three more World Cup titles during his career. Today, Brazil holds the most World Cup titles with five. Brazil is also the only team to have qualified for every single tournament.
Next: This volley was one for the books.
4. Maxi Rodriguez — Argentina vs. Mexico, 2006
Maxi Rodriguez’s 2006 volley against Mexico is a goal that’s impossible to forget. Argentina and Mexico were tied 1-1. But in the 98th minute of the game, a series of passes led the ball to Rodriguez’s possession. A past to his chest allowed him to control the ball and set himself up for the perfect shot. He bumped the ball out from him a bit and down toward his feet, then sent a volley with his left foot straight into the top left of the net for a beautiful goal. Rodriguez had already netted two goals earlier in the tournament, but this surpassed them all. Argentina went on to win the game 2-1, but the team was eliminated in the quarter finals after a nail-biting game against Germany that went into a shootout. He went on to represent Argentina in two more World Cups in 2010 and 2014.
Next: This goal was arguably the best team goal of all time.
3. Carlos Alberto — Brazil vs. Italy, 1970
Carlos Alberto’s 1970 goal was a team effort, and the 1970 Brazilian World Cup team was arguably the best World Cup team to ever exist. Plus, the goal is widely regarded as the best team goal ever. Brazil’s Tostao stole the ball away from Italy just outside Brazil’s box, and a series of passes sent it all the way up the field. It ended up in Pele’s possession, and he waited a quick second to think through his next pass. Alberto came sprinting down the field, and Pele sent the ball a few yards out in front of Alberto. Alberto charged it, full speed, and sent a rocket of a shot off toward the goal. It sailed past Italy’s goalie, who dove to no avail. The goal sealed a 4-1 victory for Brazil and gave the country the World Cup title for the third time.
Next: This goal immediately followed the infamous ‘hand of God’ goal.
2. Diego Maradona — Argentina vs. England, 1986
Diego Maradona scored two unbelievable goals against England in the 1986 World Cup. But the first one, which became known as the “hand of God” goal, was seriously controversial in that Maradona tipped it in with his left hand. It still lives in infamy, but it was Maradona’s second goal of the game that helped him redeem himself.
Just four minutes later, Maradona scored a second goal, which was dubbed “the goal of the century.” Maradona received the ball and carried it 60 yards in only 10 seconds. With his impeccable footwork, he dodged several English defenders and made a swift workaround to pass the goalie before sending the ball straight into the net. The victory was sweet, since Argentina and England had a serious World Cup rivalry since the 1960s. Argentina won their second World Cup in just three tournaments.
Next: This ‘wonder volley’ was the greatest goal of all time.
1. Manuel Negrete — Mexico vs. Bulgaria, 1986
This countdown has seen its share of successful volleys, but Manuel Negrete’s might be the best. The Mexican player scored the goal heard around the world when he made a stunning scissor kick volley to give Mexico a 2-0 lead against Bulgaria. A series of passes set Negrete up for the perfect chance, but the ball was in the air, and he went for it anyway. He swung both legs up and took the shot with his left foot. It went flying past Bulgaria’s goaltender and has since gone down in history as the best World Cup goal of all time, dubbed “the wonder volley.” In fact, FIFA polled fans a few years back and asked for their all-time favorite goal. And yes, this was it. Negrete made a name for himself in that instant, and the goal from more than 30 years ago still resonates with FIFA fans around the world today.
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