After 171 World Cup goals, choosing the ten best is no easy task.
First, one has to ask: what makes a great goal? How, where, and when it’s scored are important. Headed goals or goals from set pieces receive higher marks in the “how” department. Likewise, goals from outside the box or tough angles also add to the greatness of a goal.
When the goal is scored also played very important role in these rankings. Scoring a golazo while up four goals is great, but scoring one to tie the match in the final minutes is much more memorable.
Keep these factors in mind as you enjoy the 10 best goals from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
10. Mexico’s Giovanni dos Santos vs. Netherlands
Giovanni dos Santos’s first international goal in two years came couldn’t have come at a better time. Just minutes into the second half of Mexico’s Round of 16 match against the Netherlands, the forward chested down a headed clearance amongst a crowd of three Dutch defenders. But after fending off a challenge from Daley Blind, Dos Santos used an inkling of space to launch a shot across goal and past the outstretched hands of Jasper Cillessen.
The goal opened the scoring and, for awhile, looked to be the match winner. While it wasn’t the case in the end, it certainly gave Mexican fans hope and Dutch fans pause for most of the half.
9. Switzerland’s Haris Seferovic vs. Ecuador
While the finish itself isn’t one of the ten best, the build-up play certainly is.
The final box scores shows Swiss forward Haris Seferovic scoring in the 93rd minute to give Switzerland the 2-1 victory over Ecuador. But just seconds prior to the goal, Ecuador had a golden opportunity at the other end cut out by a Valon Berami slide tackle.
Berami returned to his feet and led the break upfield (despite the Ecuador foul and advantage played). Left back Ricardo Rodriguez delivered a perfect cross inside the six yard box to Seferovic, who buried it near post and sealed the victory for the Swiss.
Simply put: the Swiss went from earning one point from the match, to zero points, to three in less than a minute. That’s a top goal.
8. Brazil’s David Luiz vs. Colombia
Before David Luiz’s nightmares began in semifinal, he was actually having quite the tournament. The PSG-bound center back was living up to his $91 million USD transfer fee to the best of his abilities, scoring his first and second international goals in consecutive matches.
And what a second goal it was.
Luiz teed up a free kick from about 30 yards out and sent it into the top right corner of goal past keeper David Ospina. It gave the host nation a 2-0 advantage over Colombia, which would soon after get cut to 2-1. Brazil was grateful for their versatile defender, if only for the remainder of the match.
7. Argentina’s Lionel Messi vs. Iran
After 91 minutes of play, Iran was on the way to their biggest result in World Cup history. Sure, it was only a draw, but it was a draw with one of the World Cup favorites in a match that produced a few scoring chances for them.
But Lionel Messi had other plans and, with a quick cut left, shattered the underdog’s dreams with a beautifully curled shot from outside the box. The Iranians immediately went to ground in dejection. Messi and the mostly-Argentinian crowd went ballistic. Just another day at the office for the world’s best.
6. Netherlands’s Wesley Sneijder vs. Mexico
After dos Santos’s goal, the Dutch were on their way to a disappointing Round of 16 exit. But from a corner, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar headed the ball into space, where Wesley Sneijder scorched the ball into the left corner.
While the degree of difficulty wasn’t particularly high, the timing of the equalizer — in the 88th minute — couldn’t have been better. From there, the Dutch would eventually earn the victory off a penalty in added time.
5. Germany’s Mario Gotze vs. Argentina
The lone goal in the World Cup final had to be on the list somewhere, but a finish this late (114th minute) and this clinical can’t simply get tacked onto the bottom.
The fact that it was a connection between two of Germany’s subs speaks to the team’s depth. Mario Gotze chested down an Andre Schurrle cross at the edge of the six-yard box and coolly volleyed it into the opposite corner.
The goal not only gave Germany their fourth World Cup title. After three straight World Cup semifinal exits, Germany finally reached the grand stage and cemented this generation’s place in international soccer lore.
4. United States’s Jermaine Jones vs. Portugal
Speaking of great World Cups, 32-year old Jermaine Jones’s presence in the defensive midfield was key to the U.S. advancing past Group G. But his lone goal of the tournament stole the show from his great defense.
Jones received a Portugal clearance from a corner kick well outside the box, gained space from Nani to the right and unleashed a strike into the far corner that left keeper Beto frozen in his tracks. The equalizer came in the 64th minute.
From there, the United States would eventually take the lead only to see Silvestre Varela header knot things back up at the death. But nonetheless, Jones’s strike was one of the tournament’s best.
3. Colombia’s James Rodriguez vs. Uruguay
Those unfamiliar with James Rodriguez before the tournament, will be well-acquainted with him going forward. With star striker Ramadel Falcao missing the tournament due to injury, the 23-year old Rodriguez more than filled the goalscoring void, scoring at least once in each of Colombia’s matches.
After a one goal, two assist outing against Japan (in just 45 minutes of action no less), Rodriguez shined brightest against Uruguay in the knockout stage. Upon receiving a Teo Gutierrez header, Rodriguez chested the pass, turned, and fired a left-footed volley over Muslera’s hand, off the crossbar and into goal. All this, with Uruguayan defenders closing in.
2. Australia’s Tim Cahill vs. Netherlands
It’s unlikely that anyone outside of Melbourne gave Australia a chance to beat the Netherlands in group play. And while they didn’t, they put up one hell of a fight.
Just a minute after Arjen Robben opened the scoring, Australia’s Ryan McGowan sent a long ball toward Tim Cahill who couldn’t have hit it any better. The volley beat the outstretched foot of Stefan de Vrij and the arms of Jasper Cillessen and went in off the crossbar. Despite the 3-2 loss, it was another on the mantle for Australia’s all-time leading scorer.
1. Netherlands’s Robin Van Persie vs. Spain
After a month of World Cup action, the goal of the tournament came on the second day. Robin Van Persie received a long ball from Daley Blind at the edge of the box and delivered a sublime header past Spanish keeper Iker Casillas.
This goal had everything you look for in a great goal: it was a lunging headed effort from 18 yards out that seemed to sit on the Dutchman’s head for a moment before being flicked into goal. It also came just before half while down 1-0. Like Cahill’s goal, it had to be struck just right in order to go in, and Van Persie did just that. Plus, it inspired a four-goal outburst in the second half for his side against the defending World Cup champions.