Held every four years, the FIFA World Cup remains the biggest showpiece sporting event across the globe. The World Cup, the most celebrated game across the globe, has given some most unforgettable goals – from long-rangers to last-minuters, from the controversial to the sublime.
DSport has picked the ten greatest goals scored ever:
Michael Owen (England) vs Argentina, 30 June 1998
It was the night that Michael Owen showed everyone the player he could be. Like Marcus Rashford, he had been taken to the tournament by Glenn Hoddle as something of a wildcard. He had only made his international debut in a friendly against Romania in February 1998.
Owen won a penalty following a foul by Roberto Ayala, giving Alan Shearer a chance to convert. Unsurprisingly, the ball hit the back of the net. By the 20 minute mark, Owen had put another stamp on the game. Sol Campbell won the ball with a crunching tackle on the edge of the penalty area. The ball worked its way to David Beckham, who spotted Owen in an inch of space. Owen flicked the ball with the outside of his foot, immediately taking Jose Antonio Chamot out of the game.
England would be pegged back before half-time before taking their usual route to elimination, via refereeing controversy (Sol Campbell’s disallowed header) and penalty catastrophe (Messrs Ince and Batty failing in the shootout), but Owen had arrived and would go on to score 40 England goals in the next nine years.
Carlos Alberto (Brazil) vs Italy, 21 June 1970
The defender’s goal, is considered one of the greatest in World Cup history and came against Italy in the final. Brazil won 4-1 and in the process to became the most successful team in the competition with three triumphs.
It started with striker Tostao in the left-back position, it passed through all but two of Brazil’s outfield players, Clodoaldo dribbled it past four hapless Italians in his own half and that man Pelé stroked one of the most beautiful and calm passes ever into the path of the express train Carlos Alberto who smashed an unstoppable shot into the corner. FIFA awarded it the title of the most beautiful goal in World Cup history – it’s hard to argue.
Gerry Armstrong (Northern Ireland) vs Spain, 25 June 1982
Gerry Armstrong gave Northern Ireland, the most momentous victory, a 1-0 triumph over host nation Spain in the World Cup finals. Gerry Armstrong’s 1981/82 season had gone very nicely.
Early in the second half, Armstrong took a step into Irish football immortality. He collected a pass 35 yards from goal, left three players in his wake and pushed a perfect lay-off to Hamilton on the right wing. Outpacing his markers, the strapping Burnley forward whipped the ball into the box where the Spanish goalkeeper Luis Arconada could only palm it into the path of Armstrong, who hit a low right-foot shot under the keeper’s body.
Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands) vs Argentina, 4 July 1998
Dennis Bergkamp’s famous goal for Netherlands against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup encapsulated not only the extraordinary elegance of the player himself, but also the essence of Dutch football.
As Argentine centre-back Roberto Ayala charged across to address the danger, Bergkamp cut inside him with his right foot and then, again with his right foot, bent a glorious shot past goalkeeper Carlos Roa and into the top-left corner. Three touches, one unforgettable goal.
Archie Gemmill (Scotland) vs Netherlands, 11 June 1978
On 11 June 1978, Scotland midfielder Archie Gemmill scored against the Netherlands in the group stages of the World Cup.
Playing in front of over 35,000 people at the Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza in Argentina, Scotland started the day tied with Iran at the bottom of the group with only one point each, while the Netherlands were tied at the top with Peru on 3 points. At the time, wins earned only two points, so in order to advance, the Scots needed to defeat the Dutch by 3 goals to pass them in the standings on goal differential.
Scotland’s chances took a turn for the worse when the Netherlands were awarded a penalty, which forward Rob Rensenbrink converted in the 34th minute. Scotland equalized in the 44th minute, however, with a goal from forward Kenny Dalglish. Gemmill then scored to put them ahead in the 46th minute. He wasn’t finished, though. In the 68th minute, Gemmill shot a goal past the Dutch keeper to give the Scots a 3-1 lead.
It was an extraordinary goal and an extraordinary moment. Suddenly Scotland were dreaming of glory again. Dutch winger Johnny Rep netted in the 71st minute and the match ended at 3-2, eliminating the Scots. Despite the result, Gemmill’s goal is remembered to this day as one of the greatest goals ever scored in the World Cup.
Geoff Hurst (England) vs West Germany, 30 July 1966
The Geoff Hurst’s last minute goal was an electrifying strike. England was 3-2 ahead of West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. The Germans are wearily attempting to attack, the English looking to hit on the counter.
Overath unfairly tackled Bobby Moore and the captain quickly spotted a gap in the German rear-guard. His instant free-kick floated beautifully 35 yards to the middle and there was Geoff Hurst leaping unchallenged to direct a downwards header to the right of the flat-footed Tilkowski. It was a vital goal.
The modest Hurst claimed that he was only trying to hit it as hard as possible into the stand to waste some time and it bobbled up off a divot; we think it was a great strike.
Gerd Muller (West Germany) vs Holland, 7 July 1974
Euro champions West Germany took on UFWC champions the Netherlands in this 1974 World Cup climax. The Netherlands had entered the tournament unbeaten in 14 UFWC matches, and retained the title all the way to the final.
West Germany had the initiative, and just before half-time they had the lead. Muller turned in the box, and knocked the ball past the static Jongbloed. It was Muller’s 14th World Cup goal, making him the tournament’s all-time top goal scorer. The Dutch were rattled.
Ray Houghton (Republic of Ireland) vs Italy, 18 June 1994
Italia 90 was the Republic of Ireland’s first World Cup, and they reached the quarter-finals – but their first win in 90 minutes, and their most memorable to date, came in 94.
Just 12 minutes after the match kicked off the Italian captain, and magnificent defender, Franco Baresi was already looking uncomfortable. His attempt to get the ball out of danger, when the lone Irish striker Tommy Coyne challenged, so lacked conviction that Ray Houghton was able to collect the ball comfortably.
It was the first time Ireland had avoided defeat in seven meetings with the Italians- and the first time in 13 World Cups that Italy had lost their opening match. Yet another famous football victory for the Republic of Ireland.
Diego Maradona (Argentina) vs England, 22 June 1986
All eyes were on Diego Maradona, who was in the form of his professional career. England might have fared better in a goalless first forty-five minutes had they been more adventurous, but they were so conscious of Maradona’s match-winning ability that they cautiously kept players back in defence.
The second-half belonged almost entirely to Maradona, and the two goals that he scored became the major talking point of the entire tournament. The first will always be remembered for its controversy – and the second for its quite astounding quality. Running with the ball at his feet from close to the halfway line, Maradona drew England defenders to him like a spider luring its prey.
Pelé (Brazil) vs Sweden, June 29, 1958
On June 29, 1958, Brazil defeats host nation Sweden 5-2 to win its first World Cup. The star of the tournament was an undersized midfielder named Edson Arondes do Nascimento, known the world over as Pele.
Pele put on a show of offensive brilliance against the second best team in the tournament. He showed a skill and maturity that belied his years, controlling a cross on his chest, lofting the ball over an opponent before smashing it home on the volley. A stunning goal by the greatest player of all time.