What define a great goal? The way it was scored? The moment when it was scored? Or the scorer himself?
If I look at the best goals scored in history, it’s actually all of the above. Even though the latter sometimes was the result, not the cause. Or in other words, sometimes because of the goal they scored, they became famous and achieved their legendary status.
However, from my personal point of view, I am more biased to the second criteria: the moment, the importance of that goal to the outcome of the game, to the winning of tournament, or to the history.
Roberto Carlos’ outrageous 30 meters free-kick at Tournoi de France in 1997 may be one of the best free kick you saw in your life, but it was not tournament-decider goal, and this did not happen on major tournament (in fact, this was only preparation tournament before France World Cup 98). Hence, it does not belong here.
Here is my pick of 5 best goals in history, in ascending order (click the YouTube button in the player if you can’t play it in your browser):
5. Ryan Giggs, Manchester United vs Arsenal, FA Cup Semifinal 1999.
In 109th minute of the 1999 FA Cup Semi Final (replay), Ryan Giggs intercepted Patrick Viera’s pass and dribbled many Arsenal Defenders en route to a beautiful goal. It gave 10-man Manchester United the lead 2-1 and booked their place to the final, which eventually Manchester United won to complete their treble-winner season in 1999.
4. Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid vs Bayern Leverkusen, Champions League Final 1999, Scotland.
In Champions League Final, Raul’s early goal was equalized by Michael Ballack’s Bayern Leverkusen, thanks to Lucio’s goal. Until in 45th minutes, a moment of magic from Zidane who swung his left-foot like ballerina, hitting a beautiful volley to the top corner of Hans Jorg Butt. This proved to be the winning goal for Real Madrid to claim 9th Champions League trophy for El Merenges.
3. Pele, Brazil – Sweden 5-2, World Cup 1958
Taking part in his first World Cup, 17 years old Pele quickly caught the world’s attention with his goals and the all round ability he displayed in 1958. His greatest moment of the tournament came in the final against the hosts Sweden. In the 55th minute, the ball comes in from the left. Under pressure, Pele controls the ball on his chest. With his next touch he chips it over the head of an oncoming defender. And before the ball hits the ground, he volleys it straight into the bottom corner. It was the first of two goals for the legend as Brazil went on to win the match 5-2 and claimed the first of three World Cup trophies won by Pele.
2. Marco Van Basten, Holland vs USSR, European Cup Final, Sweden 1988.
Van Basten came to European Cup as third-choice Dutch striker, but he went home as one of the heroes (aside Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard) who helped Dutch national team to win their first major trophy (and apparently, still the only trophy until now, 2011). In the final, Arnold Mühren launched a long cross from the left flank. The ball flew for 40 meters towards Marco van Basten at the opposite end of the area, almost at a dead angle to the goal. He hit the ball with the top of his right foot and sent it with terrific force and accuracy to the only undefended spot above the world’s best keeper, Rinat Dasayev. “Impossible goal”, as many people say.
1. Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina vs England, World Cup Quarter Final, Mexico 1986.
As if tried to make amend of his “sin”, when he scored the goal using his “hands of God”, Maradona dribbled past 5 England outfiled players, and finished it by rounding off Peter Shilton to make Argentina win complete over England. This is the highlight of a tournament that escalated Maradona to legendary status, almost single handedly brought Argentina to the final and won their 2nd World Cup trophy in Mexico.