Gascoigne – England vs Scotland – 1996

29 01 2011

David Hartrick is on Twitter @Hartch … Oh, and he’s only co-editor of the behemoth that is In Bed With Maradona. Here’s his favourite goal:

As an indie kid of the 90s with a full range of lumberjack shirts and floppy hats to match, I remember the very moment I discovered the music of Oasis.

It’s 1994 and Jo Wiley is playing second fiddle to cider enthusiast Steve Lamacq on Radio One’s ‘Evening Session’. Out of the blue a song comes on that makes me put down the SNES controller and listen. A guitar riff I’ve heard a million times before grabs my attention under the guise of being something new. Then Liam’s vocal kicks in and each drawn out syllable seals my fate. I now have to know who this is, where I can get their album and plot how best to start dropping their name among my friends to appear ‘cool’.

Fast-forward to a first run through of ‘Definitely Maybe’ and gloriously, every song is an anthem full of the same guitar and snarling vocals that had made me fall in love. In a bedroom in deepest Huddersfield, one teenager is pretty convinced he has found his generation’s Beatles. From this moment surely every single album will just keep getting better and better and better and better… 

From there on, my love affair with Oasis gave way to a series of crashing disappointments. It wasn’t that they never managed to recapture that original brilliance, it was that every so often there would be one song on an album that would remind you of the real greatness that lay within. It was a tantalising glimpse of the genius hidden in and amongst a sea of identikit riffs and familiar vocals. 

In short it fired the hope that next time they would be great again. Just around the corner lay another Definitely Maybe if only they could just find it.

Now what’s the point of this tortured and overlong metaphor in the context of my favourite ever goal?

Quite simply, over the course of my life that’s what watching England has become. I first fell in love with football during Italia’90. England were achingly average through the group (baring some signs of real quality in the goalless draw with Holland) but then spectacularly dramatic – Platt’s last minute goal, a quarterfinal against Cameroon that saw them ahead, behind, and then ahead again, and of course the semi-final heartbreak when they had undoubtedly produced their best football of the tournament.

To put it another way, my first experience watching my country play football was magnificent, emotional, dramatic and spellbinding. Since then? Like Oasis it has been a series of nearlys and not quites punctuated by moments that remind you there’s always the chance greatness lay within.

Which brings us to the 15th June 1996, Wembley Stadium, England’s second game in Group A against Scotland.

England’s European Championship had started in atypical fashion with a dour opener against Switzerland. After another average 45 minutes in the first half they had sparked into life, the introduction of a pre-tight trousered Jamie Redknapp changing the game in midfield. Alan Shearer’s stooping header had given England a 1-0 lead and suddenly, they were playing football.

Cut to the 79th minute and a Scottish missed penalty later, England are looking to see out the game. Running from midfield barrel chested, blonde haired and bathed in sunshine, Gazza lifts a bouncing ball over a helpless and hapless Colin Hendry and steers in the volley. We have another brief glimpse of what lay beyond the curtain. We have another peak at the potential within the English game.

England then did what England do. Brilliant against the Dutch, poor against Spain, heroic against the Germans and another tournament gone by with only flashes of what might have been. Since then there have been more fleeting glimpses and more battles with Germany but ultimately, for all of Italia’90’s Definitely Maybe, the law of diminishing returns has taken hold and it feels more like Be Here Now.

The goal is not as beautiful as some, it’s not as technical as others. It didn’t spark a glorious tournament win and it’s not from the Greek third division in an effort to make myself look ‘cool’. It’s not fashionable to say you love watching your national side, even less so to defend them. They infuriate, anger, disappoint, and bore me in equal measure. But just occasionally a moment takes me back to the 10-year-old boy who watched them in awe at Italia’90. 

There have been better goals since and the 4-1 win against the Dutch that followed was a far better performance. But Gascoigne’s goal was a moment that thrives in the ocean of England’s mediocrity. It is my favourite goal because not only did it make me remember, it made me hope. And as any football fan will tell you, it’s the hope that keeps us coming back week in and week out.


Brass (O.G) – Darlington vs Bury – 2006

28 01 2011

Josh Clarke blogs at The 39th Game and tweets @joshkclarke … and he’s gone for a very different choice of favourite goal!

Sometimes it all gets a bit too much. Among the endless debates about the financial ethics of the Premier League, the professional dilemmas of footballers on social media and the managerial merry-go-rounds, it’s sometimes very easy to lose sight of the fact that football is just a game. 

A game that has been distorted and taken so far beyond its fundamental concept (11 men trying to force a round ball into a sacred area defended by another 11 men – and vice versa), that it becomes almost exasperating.

Which is the beauty of this series. Waxing lyrical about our favourite goals not only strips down the political veneer that has encased critical discussion of the game, it also returns us to primal feelings of awe and respect from identifying with moments of human achievement.

We have all been mesmerised by feats of individual accomplishment, finesse and beauty in front of goal. Sometimes though, it is delightfully refreshing to remember that footballers are only human and are as fallible as the rest of us. Consequently, my favourite goal embraces the ridiculous, rather than the sublime.

My favourite goal wasn’t scored by a prodigious talent. It wasn’t struck from 40-yards out and as far I can tell, it had no swerve or dip and not one smidgeon of grace. It wasn’t even scored in the right end.

It’s a crying shame for Chris Brass that his unspectacular, yet solid career in the nether regions of English football will be forever remembered by arguably the most epic fail (ignoring Diana Ross) ever seen on a football pitch.

And it all started innocuously enough. When Darlington bizarrely hoofed a ball into the air whilst on the edge of the opposition box, Brass was on hand to clear things up. He was under no pressure and a comfy clearing of the lines, in between puffs on his cigar, seemed the natural thing to do.

When Brass turned his back to the ball, you can immediately sense something amiss. You can call it intuition, but that sinking feeling is probably just because the YouTube video is entitled ‘funniest own goal ever’. As Brass attempted an overhead clearance, it seems implausible that the stalwart in the heart of the Bury defence could balls up in as ridiculous a way as Roberto Carlos.

Though, in a moment of true slapstick gold, Brass infuriated teammates but endeared himself to fans the world over. His hooked clearance cannoned off his own face and beyond his desperately unaware goalkeeper.

There seems to be an inherent and dark comicality to own goals, no matter what their incarnation. Perhaps it’s something to do with the ironically bipolar outcome of chalking one up for the opposition while in fact attempting to deny them. Kind of like slipping on a banana skin on your way to Tesco, to specifically buy a hand of bananas.

Prolonging my self-indulgent comedy-based analogy a little further, Brass’ example functions like slipping on a banana skin but while also receiving a pie in the face at the same time. Apart from this pie puts your team one down and actually breaks your nose as well.

It’s easy enough to laugh at Chris Brass, but once the initial cringe moment of the own goal goes, the mind starts to fathom how difficult it would be to actually recreate that moment. Have you ever tried kicking a ball, against your own face, with enough force to be fully able to catch out a goalkeeper the calibre of Kasper Schmeichel? Let me know how you get on.

So, that was my favourite goal. It may not be of breathtaking beauty, delicate artistry or epic proportions. But at least it reminds us to sometimes not take football too seriously.

Del Piero – Bari vs Juventus – 2001

27 01 2011

Adam Digby writes a superb blog about Juventus and tweets on all manner of subjects @Adz77 … this is his favourite goal.

Of course he has scored better goals. Of course he has scored more important goals. The current Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero has netted vital strikes at the World Cup, in a Champions League Final, in the World Club Cup Final and has won so many top trophies and titles that his list of personal honours is longer than that of most clubs. The all-time leading goalscorer in the history of Italy’s grandest club has as they say, been there, done it and has enough medals to put on the table to silence even Alan Hansen.

Many people feel strong connections to footballers they idolise as children but my personal feelings towards Del Piero are slightly different. While still young I loved Gaetano Scirea and Franco Baresi (yes, bit of a theme there). But, while clearly not a classy central defender, Del Piero and I are a similar age and as I grew up watching him do the same in a much more public manner, I felt a bond that no other athlete has ever given me. I felt his pain as I looked on during that fateful day in Udine when his knee first gave way, I suffered with him as he squandered a gilt-edged chance to seal victory for Italy over France in the final of Euro 2000.

But before the goals, the adulation and the armband, even before he first wore the famous Bianconeri shirt he was just a boy playing football with his father. Before he was christened Pinturicchio by Gianni Agnelli, ‘our Ale’ was simply Gino’s son. Their bond was no greater than that any father has with their son, but just as Del Piero finally looked to be putting the terrible injuries of his career behind him, his world was turned upside down as the man he always turned to in times of difficulty passed away.

When my own father died in January of the same year my world collapsed. The one person who had been there for me forever was gone and I retreated from life completely, lost and unsure of where to turn. Gradually I put the pain aside and began to do normal things once more, including watching football, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Having heard the terrible news of Gino Del Piero’s passing it stunned me that just four days after the funeral Ale would be among the substitutes on February 17 2001 for a match away to southern side Bari. After 63 minutes of an exciting but scoreless game in which both sides had been denied by some fantastic goalkeeping from Jean Francois Gillet and Edwin van der Sar, Carlo Ancelotti brought on Del Piero for Darko Kovacevic.

The next fifteen minutes from Del Piero was a perfect encapsulation of the way I had felt for the previous month, yet while my own melancholy and grief was private and hidden I watched on as a man who, just three years earlier, was arguably the world’s best footballer lived out his own in front of a packed stadium and a huge televised audience. The once immaculate first touch was gone, his passing simply terrible and shooting even worse.

Then, with less than ten minutes remaining, everything changed.

The ball broke to Del Piero midway inside Bari’s half, out by the left touchline and he ran directly at his marker, forcing him to backpedal all the way into box. A step-over left the defender flat-footed and one touch later the Juventus number 10 chipped a left footed shot over the advancing ‘keeper from an acute angle to score a wonderful goal.

As he curled away the emotion came pouring out, first as he threw Alessandro Birindelli to the ground, then as he kicked over an advertising prop, all the while screaming in a mixture of joy, relief and sadness before finally collapsing into the embrace of Gianluca Pessotto. Asked in 2003 about the loss of his father, the goal and the effect it had on his life, Del Piero said;

“Undoubtedly, the death of my father had an effect on me at the time and continues to do so. But it also gave me back completely to football. I believe I’ve grown up, living through experiences that have opened my eyes”

You and me both Ale, you and me both.

Hodges – Doncaster vs Scunthorpe – 2001

25 01 2011

Carl MacDonald writes at his blog A Journalist in the Making. Carl doesn’t have a video to capture his magic moment – and he doesn’t need one. Here he vividly describes his favourite goal …

17th November 2001. There was an air of tension hanging over Doncaster Rover’s Belle Vue stadium. At that time, Rovers were an underachieving Conference side, their current Championship status seemingly a distant dream. By the same token, visitors and local rivals Scunthorpe United were a mid-table Division Three outfit, their own Championship odyssey a million miles away.

The two sides had been drawn together in the F.A. Cup first round, and having already witnessed my first derby away day at Hull a couple of years previously, my old man bundled an 11-year-old me into the car and we made the short journey to Doncaster to see The Iron play.

News had filtered through that some Scunthorpe hooligans had left a trail of destruction on their route, and a riot had broken out in a pub near the ground. As we were ushered in through the turnstiles, the atmosphere was ugly and grey, much like the stadium.

Belle Vue was a dilapidated old ground; the away stand was uncovered and the steps on the terraces were bereft of large chunks of concrete.

As the wind and freezing temperature gnawed at my fresh face, the game started. I remember the vitriol that poured between the two sets of fans. And I remember the disgruntled look of horror on the faces of my fellow travelling fans as Doncaster deservedly took the lead, despite being underdogs. 

Scunthorpe were clearly in need of a flash of inspiration, and though my support of The Iron was only in its infancy, I was only too aware that grabbing an equaliser was easier said than done.

And then things changed. One of my first genuine heroes was a little winger called Lee Hodges. I loved the way he played the game; he was diminutive and a little rotund, but the way he attacked defenders had me off my seat in excitement on many occasions. He was also partial to the odd wonder goal, so I was pinning my hopes on him here. But would he fancy the battle on the Bell Vue quagmire? As it happens, yes he would…

Hodges picked up the ball a couple of feet inside his own half. He looked up for a pass but as usual there was nothing happening around him. The supporters groaned at the lack of support.

Hodges carried the ball, nipped past a Doncaster midfielder. Then he went past another, and then jinked back past the first guy again. This was what I was after. Little Lee Hodges carrying the fight again.

He was now in Doncaster territory, and skipped past another couple of desperate challenges, but still he found himself 35 yards from goal, and with no real options to set up an attack as his team mates lumbered around aimlessly.

Hodges was different though, he only had one thing on his mind; goal. He smashed the ball from a ridiculous range with his left foot, and it flew like an arrow into the top corner, the despairing Doncaster goalkeeper nowhere to be seen.

It was a stunning strike, made all the more sweet for the fact it came in a local derby cup fixture.

The away end went ballistic, and I remember jumping around like a jack-in-the-box as my dad picked me up and danced in celebration.

Scunthorpe went on to win the game 3-2, but my abiding memory of the match will always be those few seconds of total magic from Lee Hodges. That night on Match of the Day, I couldn’t help but beam with excitement as Gary Lineker and co. purred over a wonder goal from a chubby little midfielder who played for Scunthorpe United.

Zidane – Real Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen – 2002

25 01 2011

Dominic Pollard’s blog, Polly’s Pause for Sport, is one of the Guardian’s Top 100 blogs to follow in 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @DominicPollard … This is Dom’s favourite goal:

Ok, so zero marks for originality with my choice. The more I racked my brains for my all-time favourite goal, though, the harder I found it to pull myself away from this moment of magic from Zidane.

You have all seen it before. Probably many, many, many times like myself. Yet every time I watch it, I am left dumbfounded at the sheer technical brilliance of it. 

This was the winning goal in Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League Final. A goal of sensational quality and almost unparalleled importance. Is there a better way to win the Champions League than with a roundhouse volley on your weaker foot? Words cannot do justice to the goal. There is only a select number on the planet who could have stood under that high, hoisted cross and struck the ball so well with their weaker foot while the footballing world sat watching on with bated breath.

It is, however, a goal that is more than just a wonder-strike. For me, this remains the iconic image of one the greatest players of his generation. Forget the petulant head-butt that may have tainted the final page of the final chapter of his playing career, this goal encapsulates the living legend that is Zinedine Zidane. 

He is a player that I, along with every other football fan, watched and admired for over a decade. Let’s just look at his trophy cabinet; two Serie A winners medals, one Supercoppa Italiana, one La Liga winner medal, two Supercopa de Españas, two Intertoto Cups, two Super Cups, one European Football Championship, one World Cup and a Ballon D’or… Ridiculous.

Everything he did on the pitch had a sprinkling of the audacious. His most subtle of touches, flicks, skills and passes were always sublime. There are just not enough superlatives for me to do justice to the quality of this player. This volley was one of the greatest goals ever scored, by one of the greatest players to ever play the game. I can’t put it much simpler than that.

Tardelli – Italy vs West Germany – 1982

24 01 2011

Alan Smithy writes the blog The Football Hobo and can be followed on Twitter @AlanSmithys .. I recommend you check both out. In the meantime, here’s Alan’s favourite goal … and surely everybody’s favourite goal celebration …


You often hear people use the turn of phrase ‘better than sex’. It’s purely hyperbolic; unless you’re doing it wrong. In which case that’s something I’d rather not enter into right now. The reason why we use this, of course, is because appropriate, or indeed inappropriate, carnal enjoyment ranks up there above just about everything for 99% of us. It’s free, natural, and rather splendid. If you were to describe a particularly good cup of coffee as ‘better than sex’ then it damn well better be that £50-a-cup, sieved from the shit of civets extra-special bean; the stuff that‘s rarer than hen‘s teeth. If you’re getting that feeling in Starbucks then you’re definitely doing it wrong. And I’m not just talking about your coffee consumption.

That all being said, we all know what we mean by the comparison; it’s there to signify the almost unimaginable. That higher plane of enjoyment, a spiritual connection with something ethereal and other-worldly. Better than anything you could possibly chemically induce; better, even, than a really good shit. Imagine hearing a joke that was funnier than sex. You might not be able to imagine that, particularly if you’ve been watching Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights, but transport yourself from the world of comedy to the world of football, and put yourself into a World Cup final. Yep, that thing that you used to imagine in your back garden every afternoon that you came home from school. You’d receive the ball on the edge of the box, all the while commentating away in your head, before steadying yourself, setting the ball and slamming it into the corner of the net.

Your internal monologue would fly off the charts as you ran off to the adulation of the rose bush, which rather inconveniently had to double as the adoring fans. Your finish is that good that John Motson, the walking thesaurus, is struggling to keep up with you. Not for the first time he’s having to reinvent the English language to describe your perfect moment. You repeat this dozens of times, day after day; perfecting the shimmy of your hips, the slamming shot beyond the keeper, your reaction to the stunned galleries. 

You try to imagine how good the feeling would be to win the cup for your team and score the winning goal. You wanted the perfect finish, the perfect moment. The thing is, though, no matter how much you practised and rehearsed your reaction, you were never going to get it right.

Because Marco Tardelli has beaten you to it.

It’s a World Cup Final winning goal, and it’s a great finish from the edge of the box. That apart, it’s just the best celebration that football has ever seen.

If you want to see a man explore the act of experiencing something that is better than sex, then all you need to do is watch Marco Tardelli in the seconds after he tees himself up and drives the ball into the bottom corner to ultimately win the 1982 World Cup for Italy. There won’t be many better goals in World Cup finals than Marco’s. There’ll be better finishes, harder strikes of the ball, better bits of control and skill, but there sure as hell won’t be any better celebrations. For the sheer embodiment of all imaginable joy in a single moment, Marco Tardelli’s goal is my favourite goal.

Ronaldinho – Chelsea vs Barcelona – 2005

23 01 2011

Jack Lang writes an excellent blog on Brazilian football called Snap Kaka and Pop! You can follow him on Twitter @Snap_Kaka_Pop … Naturally, his favourite goal is by a famous Brazilian …

Barcelona need a goal. Oleguer, that rare Marxist of a utility player, lumps the ball forward. It drops harmlessly onto the head of Ricardo Carv…actually, no; John Terry’s perennial sense of defensive propriety kicks in, and Barça are back in possession. Our protagonist can’t (yet) bring the ball under his spell, but Andrés Iniesta, a spritely 20-year-old with the hair to prove it, keeps his cool; tempting Terry out of the backline like an anaemic pied piper. A simple pass to Ronaldinho, and the scene is set.

What happens next is breathtaking; a true optical illusion of a goal. Ronaldinho kills the ball, Carvalho closes in, and…BAM…Petr Čech glances up ruefully as the Brazilian wheels away in lunatic celebration. My reaction at the time was one of confusion; it took me a good couple of seconds to work out that the ball had nestled into the corner of the net. I awaited the pending replays, hoping that they would allow me to make more sense of the incident. Herein lies some of the devastating beauty of Ronaldinho’s finish; this was a goal so fine that it escaped the testimony of the senses.
It is by watching the goal back, however, that we may gain a true appreciation of it. In a period of two or three seconds, all of our convictions about what constitutes attractive football are ripped up and shoved down our gawping throats, by an intoxicating cocktail of high art and base primitivism. Ronaldinho, joyously conforming to the Brazilian footballing stereotype, lures us (and Carvalho) in; a swivel of the hips, the sassy shuffle of the sambista. What follows, we assume, must be something special. And indeed it is…but not in the manner we expect. No through ball, no curling effort with the outside of the boot, no outrageous lob; no manifestation of jogo bonito. Instead, Ronaldinho unleashes…a toe punt; that most intuitively ugly of all techniques, that playground staple that our first football coach teaches us to abandon.
With a swift poke of the right foot, Ronaldinho challenges the notion that we can even apply everyday aesthetic judgements to football. What is attractive, screams his finish, is simply what WORKS; the lowly toe punt is transformed into a work of art, purely due to it being functional at that instant. This lesson is perfectly captured by a famous quote from Dadá Maravilha, an unorthodox striker who plied his trade in Brazil during the 60s and 70s. “There’s no such thing as an ugly goal,” claimed Dadá; “ugly is to not score one.” Ronaldinho and I would agree wholeheartedly.