Rooney's goal epitomizes the beautiful game
As football fans, we probably spend more time waxing lyrical about the past than we do discussing the present or the future.
We remember fantastic players, managers, clubs and matches while wearing our rose-tinted glasses.
We all have our favorites and we’ll big them up to whoever will listen. We’ll also defend them with our lives if anyone dares to disagree with our precise logic as to why they’re all the best-of-the-best. However, there is one subject where you’ll usually get universal and unanimous agreement - the greatest goals.
Now to be considered as a great goal, the match has to have importance and it has to matter in the grand scheme of things. I mean, it’s all well and good dribbling an entire team but when you’re already four up, who cares. Great goals should decide contests or at the very least put a major punctuation point at the end of them. It’s that simple.
Having watched, coached and played football for over forty years, I couldn’t even guess as to how many times I’ve seen the ball hit the back of the net with gusto or dribble apologetically over the line. However, I do have a top five which gloriously welcomed a newcomer this weekend.
It is hard to rank in order but the meaning of the match is the defining factor, which means Diego Maradona has the honor of scoring the greatest goal of all time.
World Cup Quarter-Final - Argentina vs. England, June 22nd 1986:
Diego Maradona dribbles almost the entire length of the pitch beating five, six, seven English players with balance, strength, trickery and sheer audacity before poking the ball deliciously under the despairing Peter Shilton with that left foot.
No offence to the African Cup of Nations, Asian Cup or Copa America but the second most important competition is the European Championships. The competition is usually better than the World Cup and that was never better exemplified than when Marco van Basten made time stand still.
European Championship Final - Holland vs. USSR, June 25th 1988:
There are volleys and then there are impossible volleys. The great Arnold Muhren played a first time curling left-footed cross to the far post but in all honesty overcooked it. The ball was dropping away from van Basten but the Dutchman never took his eyes of the ball for a second. As it dropped over his shoulder he unleashed a volley that will never be replicated by Rinat Dasayev.
The UEFA Champions League has the best players and so it’s no surprise to see goals of breathtaking quality each and every round. In fact there are so many great goals that I have trouble recalling any of them except for a strike that encapsulated the greatness that is Zindine Zidane.
UEFA Champions League Final - Real Madrid vs. Bayer Leverkusen, May 15th 2002:
Roberto Carlos will be the first to admit that his cross to the Frenchman wasn’t the best of his career as it ballooned up twenty feet in the air. However, we’re talking about Zidane. The Frenchman showed patience, nerve and the most incredible technique to bludgeon the ball into the upper corner past Hans-Jorg Butt. It was a goal of incredible beauty while the celebration from Zizou told me that he knew that something special had just happened.
Major League Soccer might not seem important but it is, because without it, we just live in a television wasteland. It’s our league and in the big picture it matters and it never mattered more than the opening match of MLS when two minutes from time, Eric Wynalda showed why he’s money.
Major League Soccer's first ever match - San Jose Clash vs. DC United, April 6th 1996:
In all fairness that match was a dog and with mainstream America watching and just dying to say ‘there’s no scoring in soccer’ Wynalda cut inside from the left and curled a peach around Jeff Causey. It remains the most important goal in league history.
Derby matches are often disappointing fare as there is far too much at stake. This Saturday’s Manchester affair certainly falls into that category, as United knew a win could take them a step closer to their nineteenth league title, while at the same time knock the stuffing out of City. A draw looked on the cards until Wayne Rooney demonstrated that class is indeed permanent, while form can be fleeting.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City, February 12th 2011:
The hardest skill to execute in football is a bicycle kick. The degree of difficulty is unimaginable and even when the ball does end up in the back of the net, 99 times out of 100 it’s a little scruffy. The ball hits the shin, slices in, and bounces before it crosses the line but in the case of Rooney it was sheer perfection. The power, accuracy and confidence where there for all to see. Poor Joe Hart couldn’t even move. It also announced the return of Rooney.
Great goals. You’ll never forget them and you’ll always remember where you where when you saw them.
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the Barclay's Premier League and the English national team.