The FIFA World Cup has a long and eventful history, and has since gained credence as arguably the biggest sporting events in the world - perhaps barring only the Olympics. Whether you’re a hardcore, “willing to travel anywhere to watch my team” kind of football fan or just a casual spectator who sometimes needs a reminder on the World Cup basics, there’s a palpable energy in the air when watching World Cup matches.
Throughout the history of World Cup matches, there have been 21 tournaments (held every four years) with really only a handful of nations that have been successful in becoming World Cup winners. However, that doesn’t mean that only the action happens only during the semifinals and championship - though that’s when most of the international attention begins to spike. No, the World Cup qualifiers are a long process and with so many matches played, anything could happen.
Scoring goals during a football game doesn’t happen as often as, say, American football or basketball, so when it finally does happen, the celebration is just that much more epic. With all of this being said, there have been some truly unforgettable goals scored across all World Cup matches, and Oppabet has listed some of the very best below!
Some of these goals may be here because they were what secured the team’s win, others may be because of how beautifully the ball sank into the goalpost, while others still may be because of the flawless teamwork displayed in setting up the goal. Let’s get to it!
1. Diego Maradona (Argentina) vs. England (1986)
When talking about World Cup matches like this quarterfinals match that pitted Argentina against England, it’s one of those where you find yourself asking, “So, which goal are we talking about?” because there were just too many great ones. In this case, you may be thinking about Maradona’s incredible, yet highly controversial, “Hand of God” goal, which gave Argentina the 1-0 lead despite it being an illegal goal. But no, we’re talking about his second goal not four minutes later - which earned its own nickname: The Goal of the Century.
Maradona received the ball from their side of the pitch and, to put it simply, just ran with it. At record-breaking speeds, he spun the ball past two defenders, burst through to the English half of the field, and ended his 75-yard run by sinking the goal beautifully.
2. Carlos Alberto (Brazil) vs. Italy (1970)
No list of memorable goals and World Cup matches would ever be complete without talking about the Brazilians’ final goal during the championship match against Italy in 1970. Carlos Alberto was the captain of the Brazil national team that year, and he proved himself a phenomenal leader with this goal and the flawless teamwork that came with it.
Brazil was already winning 3-1 and their opponents were getting visibly weary. Still, they plunged forward, passing the ball without a hitch as they progressed down the field: Tostao to Clodoaldo, to Rivelino, to Jairzinho. Finally, the ball is handed off to Pele, whose 25-yard pass was smoothly received by Alberto before he swung it past the Italian keeper. It has been widely acclaimed to be one of the greatest goals across all World Cup matches in the history of the tournament.
3. Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina) vs. Serbia and Montenegro (2006)
Defensive midfielder Esteban Cambiasso began his professional career at just 15 years old, with his first international callup at 17 years old. His appearance for the Argentine national team in 2006 was his first in the World Cup, and he certainly made it a memorable one.
While Cambiasso’s goal itself was incredible enough, it was the patience with which it was executed that earned this goal a top spot across all World Cup matches. Argentina would eventually end the match with a 6-0 score but this goal was just their second at the half-hour mark. Through a grand total of 24 passes as the team took the ball downfield, Hernan Crespo did a backheel pass to Cambiasso, who deftly received it and launched the ball into the net from 12 yards out.
4. James Rodriguez (Colombia) vs. Uruguay (2014)
In 2014, Colombia finally made it to the Round of 16 World Cup matches, and their national team was determined to make it a memorable occasion - especially for James Rodriguez, seeing as he scored both goals to secure their win over Uruguay. Just under the 30-minute mark, 23-year-old Rodriguez was waiting almost 30 yards away from the Uruguayan goal when teammate Abel Aguilar hit a header his way. After receiving it with his chest, he turned to volley it on the way down and straight into the top corner of the net. A beautifully controlled goal that won him the (well-deserved!) Puskas Award that year.
5. Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands) vs Argentina (1998)
Many spectators had their sights set on Argentina throughout much of the 1998 World Cup matches, but the Netherlands wasn’t about to make it easy for them. With the match coming to an end, it looks like it’ll be a 1-1 stalemate. However, in the 89th minute, something unexpected and frankly, beautiful, occurs. Frank de Boer was handling the ball, still from the Dutch side, but managed a long 60-yard pass to Dennis Bergkamp who was quietly waiting on the Argentine side. He caught it with no problem, using his second touch to swiftly bring the ball around Argentine defender Roberto Ayala. That’s when he launched it into the roof of the net. The entire thing happened in just 3 seconds!
6. Pele (Brazil) vs. Sweden (1958)
There’s no doubt about it: Pele is one of the most notable names in the world of football – even considering all the amazing players active in recent times. Barely two months before his 18th birthday, Pele was scorching the field at one of Brazil’s most memorable World Cup matches: what would soon become the first of Brazil’s World Cup wins. 55 minutes into the match, Pele was standing in the Swedish penalty area with his back to the goal, ready to take any pass. His chance came when he received a high pass, knocked it over his head and past the defender, and finally turned to seamlessly smash it straight past the Swedish goalkeeper. It was a “blink and you’ll miss it” volley that marked Pele as not just the youngest player ever to score at a World Cup final, but as a force to be reckoned with.
7. Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina) vs. Mexico (2006)
Maxi Rodriguez made three appearances in World Cup matches in his career, and his first appearance in 2006 certainly made an impression thanks to this quiet but stunning goal. The goal was made in extra time, and secured Argentina’s place in the semi-finals!
Argentina was up against Mexico in the Round of 16 and Lionel Messi was in control of the ball around the halfway line. After a brief fumble and regaining possession, Messi passed it off on the inside to Juan Pablo Sorin, who then handed it off to Rodriguez. Trapping the ball with his chest, Rodriguez then proceeded to shoot it straight into the Mexican goal, despite looking like it almost wasn’t going to make it in.
8. Archie Gemmil (Scotland) vs. Netherlands (1978)
The game between Scotland and the Netherlands in 1978 was one of those instances in World Cup matches where a team has to win by a certain number of points in order to qualify for the next round. In this case, Scotland would have had to beat the Netherlands by 3 goals so despite having won the game 3-2, they failed to qualify. Still Archie Gemmil’s goal for Scotland was one that most fans regard with admiration.
Once Gemmil had control of the ball about halfway through the field, after which he pretty much steamrollered his way past three Dutch defenders without a hitch. Finally, one toss over the Dutch goalie and into their net, and Scotland was up 3-1.
9, Michael Owen (England) vs. Argentina (1998)
This solo goal from England’s Michael Owen may not have won the game for them, but it was a stunning goal nonetheless and makes for one of the memorable World Cup matches. His goal made the score 2-1 in their favor, but they would eventually lose to penalties at the end.
Owen had received the ball diagonally from David Beckham, giving it a light touch with his right foot to get it properly situated. Once in control, there was just no stopping him. He goes at breakneck speed down the field, dodging both Jose Chamot and Matias Almeyda from the Argentinian side. Despite teammate Paul Scholes coming up on his right side with a better chance at a goal, Owen took it upon himself to shoot into the top corner of the goal.
10, Marco Tardelli (Italy) vs. West Germany (1982)
The last on our list of epic goals in all World Cup matches was Marco Tardelli’s smooth finish against West Germany in 1982. As his teammates swiftly pas the ball between them as thy make their way down the field to the opponent’s side, Tardelli stands in position, ready to receive the ball. When he does, he strikes the ball with his left foot and it sails smoothly into the bottom corner of the net.
What makes this goal memorable for most fans is his manic celebration afterwards, where he just runs and runs across the field like he has no plans of stopping.
Though this list only includes 10 of the best goals, there really are so many spectacular goals throughout the history of World Cup matches and with a tournament right around the corner, there’s bound to be some good ones coming up, too! With that being said, the final tournament for the World Cup is approaching and now may be a good time to make an entrance into sportsbetting!
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