In most cases, goals are what games are remembered for. Late goals, great goals, solo goals, own goals, however they find the back of the net, it is goals that change and decide football games. It only takes a second to score a goal, it is an old cliche in football but it stands true. All goals are important to some, but the goals on this list sent shock-waves throughout the world of football.
It is of no surprise then that 12 of the 20 goals on this list were scored at World Cup’s, the most watched football and sporting competition on the planet. Of the others; three came in the European Championships, two in the Champions League, one in the Cup Winners Cup, one in World Cup qualifying and only one in a domestic match. What made these goals shake the world was either what they meant – often causing a huge upset or famous win – or the manner in which they were scored, featuring some of the greatest goals of all-time.
Argentina are included a staggering six times, either scoring or on the receiving end of a goal that shocked the world, whilst England are the second most featured, making five appearances. Remarkably, one player features on this list three times. Here are the top 20 goals which shook the world:
20. Michael Owen vs. Argentina
Michael Owen was England’s youngest ever debutante and youngest ever goal scorer in 1998 when Glenn Hoddle made the decision to take him to the 1998 World Cup in France. He was used off the bench in two of the three group stage games, but was handed a start in the first knockout stage (round of 16), as England faced Argentina. The scores were at 1-1 when Owen picked up the ball in the centre circle before using his electric pace to beat two Argentine defenders and fire the ball far into the top corner.
19. Carlos Alberto vs. Italy
The fact that Brazil won the 1970 World Cup was not a shock to many. The manner in which they won the competition though, few could have predicted. The final in particular for the South Americans was pure class. Goals from Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto gave them an emphatic 4-1 victory, in a game in which they exhibited the true mastery of their technical prowess. The last goal was the culmination of that genius, as Brazil popped passes around at ease before Alberto fired home, in what many consider the greatest goal of all-time.
18. Antonin Panenka vs. West Germany
‘The Cruyff turn’ and ‘the Garrincha turn’ show that it takes something special to have a move named after you in football, but that is just what happened with Antonin Panenka in the 1976 European Championship final. The game was tied at 2-2 when it went to penalties. When Germany go to penalties, there is normally only one outcome, but after a missed spot-kick, Panenka had the chance to win the Euros for Czechoslovakia. In an incredibly high pressure situation, Panenka simply chipped the ball calmly down the middle of the goal, hence creating the ‘Panenka’ penalty kick, since used by Francesco Totti, Zinedine Zidane, Andrea Pirlo and Lionel Messi.
17. Dennis Bergkamp vs Argentina
Panenka’s penalty was marvelous, but if it’s coolness in a high pressure situation you want, step forward Dennis Bergkamp. Nicknamed the ‘Iceman’ due to his ice cold persona, Bergkamp was a genius of the game. With 90 minutes on the clock, and the game between Argentina and Holland tied at 1-1, a long, speculative ball was played towards Bergkamp. The Dutchman plucked the ball out of the eye in the way only he could, controlling the ball with the first touch, beating the defender with the second, and winning Holland the game with the third, placing it into the top corner of the goal.
16. Nayim vs. Arsenal
Nayim was a product of the Barcelona youth academy, who spent five years at Tottenham before scoring a wonder goal against his former clubs North London rivals in the European Cup Winners Cup for Zaragoza. Arsenal were looking to become the first club in history to win the competition consecutively, when in the 120th of 120 minutes, Nayim scored one of the most memorable goals in history. Wide right next to the touchline and barely past the half way line, he fired a looping effort which beat David Seaman and broke Arsenal hearts in spectacular fashion.
15. Diego Maradona vs. Greece
Diego Maradona’s goal against Greece shook the world for a number of reasons. The first, and the positive, being that El Diego picked up the ball after a wonderful string of intricate passing and took one touch before firing a left footed shot beautifully into the top corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. The negative being that Maradona then sprinted over to the camera and celebrated in a bizarre fashion. The authorities handed Maradona a ‘random’ drugs test, which wasn’t very random at all, and unsurprisingly he failed, testing positive for ephedrine doping. He was sent home and disgraced.
14. Dennis Law vs. Manchester United
Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in world football; they have won 20 league titles, 11 FA Cups and three European Cups/Champions Leagues. It is therefore unthinkable that they could ever be relegated from the top flight of English football, but they were, and in dramatic fashion too. The Red Devils went down in the worst way imaginable, losing the penultimate game of the season at Old Trafford at the hands of their bitter city rivals Manchester City to a goal by a Manchester United legend, Dennis Law. It was a plot worthy of a Hollywood film, and Law was clearly devastated in the knowledge that his goal would send down his former club.
13. Pak Doo-Ik vs. Italy (1966)
When North Korea faced Italy in the 1966 World Cup group stage, an Asian team had never won a single game at the World Cup, whilst Italy had already won two of the first seven World Cup tournaments, a joint record with Brazil. When Pak Doo-ik scored in the 42nd minute, most could not believe what they were seeing, even more so when the North Koreans held on to see out a historic 1-0 win. A team made up of Fachetti, Mazzola and Rivera, some of the greatest Italian footballers of all-time, had been beaten due to a goal by the man from Pyongyang, whose day job was corporal in the North Korean army.
12. Angelos Charisteas vs. Portugal
There have been a number of shock results in major tournaments over the years, but very rarely a truly shocking overall winner. That is because to win a tournament you are likely to face several quality teams. When Greece finished second in their group at Euro 2004, ahead of Spain and Russia, many thought that was commendable enough. However they then knocked out France and the Czech Republic to reach the final. In the final they faced the much-fancied hosts Portugal, who had a midfield featuring the likes of Luis Figo, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo. A second half header by Angelos Christeas header won the game for Greece, who went in to the tournament as 80/1 underdogs.
11. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vs. Bayern Munich
The 1999 Champions League final is truly one of the great games in football history, unless of course you’re a Bayern Munich fan. Having led the game 1-0 for 85 minutes, Teddy Sheringham equalized for Manchester United in the 91st minute. Just 30 seconds later, Man Utd had forced another corner, Sheringham headed the ball down and Solskjaer fired it into the roof of the net. Two minutes, two corners, two goals, and Manchester United were champions of Europe in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.
10. Zinedine Zidane vs Bayer Lerkusen
In 2002, Zinedine Zidane had already won the World Cup, the European Championship, Serie A and La Liga; the only major trophy missing from his mantle was the Champions League. Having been on the losing side of a Champions League final twice with Juventus, Zizou was determined to win his first with Real. With the scores tied at 1-1, it was Zidane who scored the greatest goal in a European final. A looping cross by Roberto Carlos was fired into the top corner in emphatic fashion by the Frenchman confirmed his place among the game’s all-time greats.
9. Omam-Biyik vs. Argentina
The opening game of a World Cup is always a much-watched event, and the opening game of the 1990 World Cup had been billed as the Maradona show, as Argentina faced Cameroon. Argentina were the reigning World Cup champions, but Cameroon weren’t prepared to lay down. An aggressive performance – they ended the game with nine men – paid off, as Omam-Biyik scored the only goal of the game, securing one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. Cameroon became the first African team to reach the Quarter-Finals.
8. Pele vs. Sweden
A largely unknown 17-year-old by the name of Pele became the youngest player to go to a World Cup when he traveled with the Brazil squad to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. He arrived with a knee injury but in his second game he scored the winner against Wales, in the third he scored a hat-trick against France and in the fourth he became – and still remains – the youngest player to ever score in a World Cup final, scoring twice. One of Pele’s goals saw him flick the ball over a defenders age and supply the finish with all the composure of a 30-year-old. After the 5-2 final win, everyone knew who Pele was.
7. David Beckham vs. Greece
The goal that was actually called ‘the Goal that Shook the World’ you might expect to come higher, but the fact that it was only scored in World Cup qualifying prevents David Beckham’s legendary free-kick from troubling the top spots. With England 2-1 down against Greece in their final group game, Germany looked set to top the group, but in the 93rd minute, England won a free kick. There was only one man for the job. Beckham stood up and curled perhaps his greatest ever free kick and certainly his most important past the goalkeeper.
6. Ahn Jung-hwan vs Italy
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding South Korea’s successes against Italy and Spain at the 2002 World Cup, but no one can doubt that Ahn Jung-hwan’s extra-time winner which came in the 117th minute, only three minutes from time, shook the world, not least in South Korea. The Asian nation was sent into raptures as their team knocked out an Italian side laced with quality, such as Buffon, Maldini, Zambrotta, Totti, Del Piero and Vieri.
5. Joe Gaetjens vs England
England went into the 1950 World Cup, their first World Cup, with a genuine sense of arrogance and expectancy. They viewed themselves as the aristocrats of the game, and there couldn’t have been a greater polar opposite to them than the rank amateurs of the United States. Although England were without Stanley Matthews and Neil Franklin, they still outplayed the U.S. team, as had been expected. However, it was the U.S. who took the lead, via a goal by Joe Gaetjens. Somehow the U.S. stood firm, securing one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history, and the English were startled.
4. Diego Maradona vs. England
The second entry by possibly the most controversial figure in the history of the game, and Maradona’s goal which takes fourth place is one which still causes much outrage among English football fans. The game had particular furore surrounding it, as the first match between the two countries since the humiliating Argentine defeat in the Falklands War. Maradona’s goal gave Argentina the lead in controversial fashion, as he punched the ball past Peter Shilton in the England goal. It was a blatant act of cheating and England were outraged, but somehow the officials missed it.
3. Marco van Basten vs. Soviet Union
Holland faced the Soviet Union in the final of the 1988 European Championships, with the two teams having beaten West Germany and Italy respectively to reach the final. Holland had already lost to the Soviet Union in the opening group game, losing 2-0. Ruud Gullit gave Holland the lead but the Soviet Union were still threatening, until Marco van Basten doubled Holland’s lead in extraordinary fashion. As a high, lofted cross was played towards the back post, van Basten struck it first time on the volley with incredible venom, beating the goalkeeper from a seemingly impossible angle, it is still regarded as one of the finest goals to have ever been scored; Holland won the game 2-0.
2. Alcides Ghiggia vs. Brazil
Brazil’s defeat in the 1950 World Cup shocked the world, but most of all, it shocked Brazil. On home soil for the first time in a World Cup, the competition was at that time a round-robin format, rather than a knockout competition. However, coming as the last group game between the two top teams, the game itself was decisive. Uruguay needed a win, while a win or draw would win the competition for Brazil. In front of an estimated over 200,000 fans, of which there were only a few hundred from Uruguay, Brazil took the lead after 47 minutes. Uruguay’s greatest player Schiaffino leveled the scores but it was Alcides Ghiggia who shook the world and caused the Maracanazo bringing Brazil to its knees, winning the game and the World Cup 10 minutes from time.
1. Diego Maradona vs. England
It’s that man again. Diego Maradona’s third and final appearance on this list. Whilst the first and second essentially were examples of El Diego being a cheat, it is apt that the last is a shining example of his sheer genius on the football pitch. The goal, which became known as the ‘Goal of the Century’, came just four minutes after the Hand of God incident. Maradona picked up the ball in his own half, before turning expertly and embarking upon a run which saw him take on and beat five England players before beating Peter Shilton and knocking the ball into an empty net. The world could scarcely believe what it had seen, even those who hated the man couldn’t deny the brilliance of what he had just done.
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