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My Most Thrilling World Cup Goals

To celebrate the launch of the Mazda Thrillseekers campaign ( here at we’re looking at some of the most thrilling World Cup moments of the past. We start by looking at some of the most thrilling World Cup goals, a list that Argentina’s Diego Maradona features heavily in.

The World Cup’s started a little slow hasn’t it? The buzzwords of ‘caution’, ‘methodical’ and slightly ‘s**t’ have been bandied about by the commentators and pundits, though sometimes a long exhausted exhale from Hansen speaks a thousand words.

Hopefully things will improve; indeed it’s usually the case, with teams simply wanting to avoid defeat during the opening group games. Wait until the later group matches, and the certainly the knock-out stages, then things should get a little sexier. But, until then, let’s have a pleasant wander hand-in-hand, (c’mon hold my hand), down the nostalgic memory lane of the most thrilling World Cup goals of day’s gone by…

1. Carlos Alberto – Brazil v Italy, 1970

What Shakespeare is to theatre, Wilde is to poetry and da Vinci is to art, this goal is the reason ‘the game’ can reasonably adopt the label ‘beautiful’.  The passing, the ball retention, the way it was patiently worked-up, the sublime early skill in Brazil’s own half, the casual pass by Pele, and the finish executed in style by the sauntering Alberto; a goal adequately symbolising one of the greatest teams ever to grace the game.

2. Diego Maradona – Argentina v England, 1986

He may have swindled one ‘goal’, but he also scored one of the greatest ever World Cup goals in the same game, so we’ll let him off yeah? Will we bollocks. Anyway, this feat of individual elegance rightly etched itself into legendary status as Maradona dragged his team along. Skipping past numerous (some lethargic) challenges, with the ball seemingly tied to his feet, he displayed immense balance and poise, dribbling from the half-way line, before rounding Shilton and sliding the ball into the net.

3. Dennis Bergkamp – Holland v Argentina, 1998

Oh, Dennis, Dennis, Dennis; always a scorer of great goals. His memorable strikes in an Arsenal shirt have made him a Premier League legend; most notably against Leicester and Newcastle. One of the most entertaining players of my generation, Arsenal’s deft Dutch magician took this to the world stage and displayed a moment of elegance in a tense quarter final battle. With only minutes remaining Ronald de Boer hit a long, looooong, ball forward which Bergkamp effortlessly took out the sky with one touch, turned inside the defender with the second, and fired home with the outside of his boot with his last: Three quick right-footed touches, one stunning goal.

4. Arie Haan – Holland v Italy, 1978

We’ve had some nice team goals, mazy dribbles, and now it’s time for a long-range rocket. About 40 yards out in the semi-final, Haan smashed the ball past Dino Zoff into the top corner, sending Holland through to the final to face Argentina.

5. Michael Owen – England v Argentina, 1998

It’s not just because it’s England, this was an exhilarating goal (ok, more so because it’s England, but still). Liverpool’s baby faced assassin, and goal scoring legend, grabbed his chance and took the world by storm. Gathering the ball in his stride, he surged past two defenders and demonstrated composure beyond his years in coolly lifting the ball past the oncoming keeper… cue hairs on the back of the neck rising and a lump in the throat. Many goals later, his style altered and he’s been dogged by injury, but this set the bar very high – the goal he’ll be remembered for. Could he do it again for Man United next year? Probably not, but he could certainly find some space and prod home a few goals.

6. Saeed Owairan – Saudi Arabia v Belgium, 1994

Subsequently nicknamed the ‘Maradona of the Arabs’, Owairan gave Saudi Arabia something to cheer about when he picked up the ball in his own half, started running, ran a bit more, kept running, run, run, run, went through half the Belgium defence and slipped the ball in.

7. Archie Gemmill – Scotland v Holland, 1978

‘Christ, I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978!’ was the Trainspotting after-sex summary – quite a nice postcoital précis – and it was indeed a good goal. Picking up the ball towards the side of the penalty area, Gemmill ghosted his way through the Dutch defence before masterfully lifting the ball over the keeper.

8. Maradona, Argentina v Belgium, 1986

This goal should probably be higher up the list, but I’ve not really focused too much on the order and he’s already had one entry, so he should just stop being so bloody greedy. Just reiterate the brilliance illustrated in the goal against England, Maradona scored another one-man wonder goal in the same tournament; this time slinking past four defenders and shooting calmly past Belgium keeper Pfaff, the haughty little show-off.

9. Pelé – Brazil v Sweden, 1958

Juggling the ball over the defender before volleying clinically past the Swedish keeper, Pelé thrust his name into the world consciousness with this display, at only 17-years-old.

10. Roberto Baggio, Italy v Czechoslovakia, 1990

With the World Cup being held in Italy, all eyes were on the Azzurri. Golden boy Baggio duly delivered a memorable goal during his first World Cup tournament. Playing a quick one-two in midfield, the majestic Baggio continued his run, going past two defenders and slotting the ball in the net: Bella Calcio! Bella! Bella! Bella!

So, there we have it; ten of the best and most thrilling goals in World Cup history. Yes, yes, there are loads more – Lothar Matthaus, Cruyff and Cambiasso also spring to mind – and the order isn’t that precise as they’re all exquisite goals and I couldn’t be arsed fiddling about with what should be fifth or sixth etcetera. Hopefully, this World Cup will pick-up and deliver some more soon…

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