The 2014 FIFA World Cup was advertised to be the top sports competition of the year, and it did not in any way disappoint. Host nation Brazil were responsible for a variety of storylines, the most noteworthy being that they crumbled under the pressure that comes with playing in the world's most-watched soccer competition while on home soil. The United States Men's National Team survived the group of death before giving Belgium a true scare in the knockout stages. It was Germany, the world's best side at the start of the tournament, that stood tall at the end of the World Cup, and the Germans left no doubt about who the kings of world soccer are at this time.
Highlights of any World Cup are incredible goals that live on for generations to come, and the 2014 edition of the sporting event provided plenty of memorable tallies. James Rodriguez, the breakout star of the competition and arguably the top player of the World Cup, makes the list for the Puskas Award -- the honor given for the best goal of the year. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an entertainer as much as he is a footballer, has made a career of depositing memorable finishes, one of which is a top-three candidate for goal of the year.
Ibrahimovic and several other nominated candidates scored their goals while playing for their clubs, but the Puskas Award this time around comes down to a pair of tallies notched at the international level. Both involve the Netherlands, and both were netted during the group stages of the World Cup. Which of the two you would name as the top goal of the year could come down to a simple question: Do you prefer swan-dive headers that would be difficult to properly execute in a FIFA video game, or are you more of a "smash that volley where the goalkeeper cannot possibly reach it" type of fan?
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8 Marco Fabian
Remember, Mr. Fabian, that it is always an honor to just be nominated. The goal itself is immaculate, a chip from outside of the box that would catch any goalkeeper on the planet napping on any given day. Fabian's first touch is, in this instance, the star of the show. His touch on the ball spins the defender so much so that he is practically standing next to Fabian as the Cruz Azul man tees up to have a go at goal. The strike is, of course, perfect, a 10 out of 10 finish that sailed over and past a 'keeper who was beaten the second that Fabian made contact with the ball.
7 Diego Costa
Buried overhead-kick goals share two things: an incredible amount of athleticism and skill, and also a bit of luck. The ball must be struck at the exact right moment and with the right part of the boot, otherwise the shot is skied into the air or hit well wide of the target. Costa got all of it spot-on when Atletico Madrid defeated Getafe, rising into the air and smashing his bicycle kick goal into the left portion of the goal. Young footballers looking to perfect this part of their game get a free lesson every time they watch the Costa goal.
6 Hisato Sato
Sato turned what could have been a negative and a wasted possession into a top-tier goal worthy of being considered for the FIFA Puskas Award. A pass hit with too much power was sent toward Sato, who had his back toward goal while on the cusp of the penalty area. Sato flicked the ball to tee up for a shot, he swiveled his hip as the ball was in the air, and he then struck a volley that looped across the box and into the far corner of the net. The Sanfrecce Hiroshima staff would do well to put that one in the playbook for future reference.
7. Camilo Sanvezzo
Major League Soccer checks in at seventh in this year's list of top goals. The Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American top-flight were hosting rivals Portland Timbers, and the Whitecaps were searching for a go-ahead goal when Camilo left his feet to approach a cross that had been hit into the Portland penalty area. The striker positioned his body horizontally so he was better able to deliver scissor-kick strike that beat veteran goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and the right goal post, and Camilo won the MLS Goal of the Year for 2013 for his efforts.
6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
That "Dare to Zlatan" saying isn't just for social media. It's a mantra we should all apply to our everyday lives. Ibrahimovic produces top-ten goal lists on his own every season, and two things stand out about the back-heel volley that was nominated for the 2014 FIFA Puskas Award. First off is the vision Ibrahimovic displayed in recognizing that the oncoming cross wasn't landing where he wanted because of a deflection. Even more noteworthy is the athleticism required to strike a back-heel with the power and accuracy needed for Ibrahimovic to score from where he was standing as he hit the ball.
5 Patjin Kasami
The top goal from the 2013-14 Premier League season lands at fifth for this list. Kasami never has a chance to do anything of merit if not for a perfectly-placed long ball hit down the right wing. Kasami took it from there, doing well to chest the ball past a defender before unleashing a far-post volley that sailed across the face of goal and into the corner of the net. It was, unfortunately for the club, the top memory of the campaign for Fulham. They were relegated down to the Championship in the spring of 2014.
4 Stephanie Roche
Roche probably couldn't have imagined that she was on the verge of becoming an Internet sensation who would be featured on sports television stations from around the world when she took the pitch for Peamount United in October of 2013. Her goal began when she controlled the ball with a first-touch flick before using her opposite foot to hit the ball over her defender. Then, without letting the ball make contract with the field, Roche booted a world-class volley that most of the best goalkeepers in the world wouldn't have stopped.
3 James Rodriguez
Nobody had a better World Cup than the young Colombian phenom, who earned himself a contract with Spanish giants Real Madrid because of how well he played. Thinking of taking the chance even before he made contact with the ball, James controlled the ball with his chest while outside of the penalty area before swinging his left foot and striking a dipping volley that the goalkeeper couldn't have imagined was coming seconds before he witnessed it. James became a household name on that day, and, at just 23-years old, his best days are still ahead of him.
2 Tim Cahill
Holland would have been ready for the Cahill tally had they only scouted a Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls match from the fall of 2013, when Cahill scored a similar goal while featuring for the Red Bulls. You'll never see a better volley hit than what the Australian international scored at the World Cup, as Cahill utilized the proper combination of strength and accuracy in burying a goal for the ages. It is a certain goal of the year nine times out of ten, and there is some irony in Cahill, a brilliant in-the-air player, losing out to a header that left those of us watching breathless.
1 Robin van Persie
The Tim Cahill goal was a perfect finish, attacking football at its finest. What Van Persie achieved at the World Cup was a moment that will be showcased in World Cup highlight packages so long as the event exists and is televised. An over-the-top ball was dropped on a dime just inside of the penalty area, RvP left his feet at the precise second necessary to have even a hope of testing the goalkeeper, and Van Persie's memorable header could not have have been placed in a better spot. The goal of the World Cup and of the year, Van Persie produced one of the greatest tallies you'll ever behold.
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