• World Cup

First XI: Greatest World Cup goals

Robin Hackett
March 3, 2010
Igor Belanov celebrates scoring against Belgium © Getty Images

After naming their Second XI last week, Soccernet are back with their First XI greatest goals in World Cup history.

As with last week, the importance of the goal and the quality of the opposition are factors, but it's the goals themselves that have been the key factor in their final placing.

11. Igor Belanov - Soviet Union vs Belgium (1986 second round)
The surprise 1986 Ballon d'Or winner is one of only three players to have scored a World Cup hat-trick and ended up on the losing side, but he can at least take heart from the fact that his contribution to this 4-3 defeat involved one of the all-time great goals. The opener came as Soviet Union brought the ball up from the defence to Aleksandr Zavarov. His pass found Belanov, who unleashed a stunning strike into the top corner from just outside the area.

10. Arie Haan - Netherlands vs Italy (1978 second group stage)
Haan had already scored a spectacular long-distance effort in the second group stage 2-2 draw with West Germany, but the goal that clinched the 2-1 win that sent Netherlands through to the '78 final was even better. Struck from around 35 yards, it swerved wickedly before cannoning into the net off the far post to leave the great Dino Zoff helpless.

9. Archie Gemmill - Scotland vs Netherlands (1978 first group stage)
When Gemmill put Scotland 3-1 up against eventual finalists Netherlands, he gave the nation hope of securing the three-goal advantage needed to edge the Dutch out of a place in the second round on goal difference. It was not to be, but the goal will be remembered forever: Gemmill, who had earlier scored a penalty, danced round a Wim Jansen lunge and then past strong tackles from Ruud Krol and Jan Poortvleit before, from a difficult angle out on the right, curling the ball over goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed.

Dennis Bergkamp fires the ball past Carlos Roa © Getty Images

8. Dennis Bergkamp - Netherlands vs Argentina (1998 quarter-finals)
Providing proof that going long is no barrier to great goals, Bergkamp scored the most famous strike of a distinguished career after picking up a 60-yard pass from defender Frank de Boer. It landed inside the penalty area, to the right of the goal, with Roberto Ayala in close attention. Berkamp rose to collect the pass with his right instep, instantly flicked the ball down under Ayala's boot and then controlled a shot past Carlos Roa. It was all the more remarkable for its significance in the match, arriving in the 89th minute with the scores tied at 1-1 and the match seemingly heading for extra time.

7. Josimar - Brazil vs Northern Ireland (1986 group stage)
While Brazil only made it to the quarter-finals in '86, they were still capable of turning on the style, and it was their stand-in right back, Josimar, who proved the most stylish of all. Their second goal in the 3-0 demolition of Northern Ireland was sublime as they knocked the ball around effortlessly in front of a sea of green. The defenders looked to be keeping Brazil at bay but, when the ball came to Josimar, he unleashed an incredible shot from a seemingly impossible angle 30 yards out, leaving Pat Jennings helpless as it sailed into the top corner. In the following game, the 4-0 second-round win over Poland, he again scored a truly astounding goal, this time a solo effort, beating several defenders before firing in from what appeared to be a prohibitive angle by the goal line.

6. Saeed Al-Owairan - Saudi Arabia vs Belgium (1994 group stage)
Al-Owairan remains nicknamed the 'Maradona of the Arabs' after scoring the only goal of Saudi Arabia's final group game against Belgium to help ensure they reached the second round. The player, who spent his entire career with Al-Shabab in his homeland, picked up a pass in his own half, used his pace to race beyond Dirk Medved, his skill to go around Michel De Wolf and his persistence to get past Rudy Smidts before chipping precisely beyond the advancing Michel Preud'homme. "It was the best goal I ever scored in my life," Owairan said after the game. "I scored it for every Saudi person in the world, for every Arab." Sadly, he later came to think of the goal as a double-edge sword - "awful" in some ways, he said - as it boosted his celebrity status and he ended up with a short jail term after developing a taste for nightlife in a country not known for its tolerance of Western ways. ''I have seen this goal maybe 1,000 times now, and I'm honestly fed up with it,'' he admitted, post-incarceration, in 1998.

Roberto Baggio had mixed memories of World Cup football © Getty Images

5. Roberto Baggio - Italy vs Czechoslovakia (1990 group stage)
'The Divine Ponytail' announced himself as a true great when he picked up the ball on the halfway line, played a one-two to take out two midfielders before gliding effortlessly past Ivan Hasek, tying Miroslav Kadlec in knots and then producing a low chip beyond goalkeeper Jan Stejskal.

4. Esteban Cambiasso - Argentina vs Serbia and Montenegro (2006 group stage)
Argentina generated great fear around the globe during the 6-0 demolition of Serbia and Montenegro in their second match in Germany, and the fact that most of the team were involved in the second goal created an impression of a team about to conquer the world. Like a cat tormenting a mouse, they patiently awaited the kill, stringing 24 passes together in the build-up. The conclusion was spectacular: Hernan Crespo backheeled towards the penalty spot for substitute Esteban Cambiasso to expertly cut across the ball with his left foot, leaving goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric with no chance.

3. Pele - Brazil vs Sweden (1958 final)
At just 17 years old in '58 World Cup, Pele showed he had the talent to be a worldwide phenomenon. After making his Brazil debut in the group game against Soviet Union, he hit the winner against Wales in the quarter-finals and a hat-trick in the semi-finals against France. His best, though, was the first of two in the 5-2 win over hosts Sweden in the final. It had rained for 24 hours prior to the match and, as the footballs of the period were prone to soaking up excess water, the sodden pitch would have made it difficult to manipulate. Nonetheless, his strike appeared effortless as he chested down a cross under pressure, flicked the ball over the top of the defender and then volleyed into the net.

Diego Maradona took the ball around Peter Shilton on his brother's advice © Getty Images

2. Diego Maradona - Argentina vs England (1986 quarter-finals)
Exhausted in the heat and demoralised from perhaps the most controversial goal of all-time moments earlier, England looked completely powerless as they fell 2-0 behind to bitter rivals Argentina ten minutes into the second half of their quarter-final in Mexico City. The head of Maradona and the hand of God, as the player put it afterwards, had opened the scoring in the 51st minute; the second, almost undisputed as the greatest solo goal of all-time, was pure Diego. In his own half, Maradona turned brilliantly before leaving Peter Beardsley for dead, outpacing Peter Reid, skipping past Terry Butcher and dancing around a desperate shirt-pull from Terry Fenwick as he entered the area. Maradona had pulled off a similar trick against England in a 1980 friendly but, when he advanced on goalkeeper Ray Clemence, fired wide. His brother called after that game to tell him he should have taken the ball around the keeper and, six years later, he put the advice into practice, taking the ball around Peter Shilton before slotting into the net.

Carlos Alberto is mobbed by Pele, Tostao and Jairzinho © Getty Images

1. Carlos Alberto - Brazil vs Italy (1970 final)
Pre-tournament distractions including a late change of coach threatened to derail the 1970 World Cup for Brazil but, ultimately, this team entered legend as perhaps the greatest of all time. Their 4-1 demolition of Italy in the final played no small part in their legacy and the final goal - from captain and wing back Carlos Alberto - epitomised everything that was glorious about the side. The goal started as Brazil, in complete control, knocked the ball around in defence. Clodoaldo then dribbled past four Italy players in his own half before playing a pass left for Rivelino, who found Jairzinho on the flank. Jairzinho went beyond Giacinto Facchetti before squaring to Pele on the edge of the area. With Tarcisio Burgnich blocking his path, Pele - one step ahead of everyone - casually played the ball into the empty space on the right of the area for his captain, who seemed to emerge from nowhere to smash a rocket into the far corner. "The emotion, of course, when I scored that goal was incredible but, after the game, and still today, I realise how beautiful and how important that goal was because everybody is still talking about it," Carlos Alberto later told the BBC. "I think it was the best goal ever scored in a World Cup. The goal was a little detail, but the kind of play from the defensive line was great."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.