People tend to be an opinionated, argumentative lot, and it's perhaps for those reasons that we all seems to love "Top 10," and "Best Of," lists so much. We love to scoff at other people's selections, claiming that our favorites should rank near the top of every list. That is why there is no such thing as a "definitive" top list, because people's emotions will always play a part in shaping their faves, which is something that the rest of us on the outside looking in aren't really privy to.
My idea was to somehow break down that barrier and create a purely subjective list which was somehow centered around my first love; soccer, or football as I knew it growing up in Scotland. It's impossible to do though, and as I tried to think of the goals that would make this list, I discovered that they all held a special meaning to me in one way or another. There is even one that should have made this top 5, but I omitted simply because it came close to breaking my 10 year old heart at the time it was scored. But enough with the waffling, let's get to the goals, as well as the personal stories that put them there.
#5 Pele, Brazil vs Sweden 1958
I can watch that short clip over and over, and never tire of its brilliance. This was the World Cup Final, and Pele was a mere 17 years old when the game was played. That he was able to maintain that control, despite almost being split on half by a Swedish defender is beyond me. I can clearly remember the first time I saw this goal, as it coincided with the day my Dad brought home our first VCR, as well as a tape called, "The Boys from Brazil." The combination of that goal and a big piece of metal plugged into our TV that played tapes was beyond my comprehension.
#4 Dennis Bergkamp, Holland vs Argentina 1998
Some goals are great because of the brilliance of the finish, whereas others ascend to greatness because of their timing. This one had both!! It was a clinical piece of finishing for Bergkamp, made all the more so by the fact that in came in the dying moments of a quarter-final matchup. That goal sent Holland into the next round, and I can clearly remember being in a pub in Canada watching this one. The group of us that had gathered to watch the game suffered from a collective case of jaw dropping when that ball hit the back of the net.
#3 Diego Maradona, Argentina vs England 1986
Arguably one of the greatest individual goals ever scored anywhere, and not just in World Cup competition. That goal was overshadowed somewhat by Maradona's second goal of the game which he quite clearly punched into the net, an incident that is now referred to as "The Hand of God." On a purely personal level, and I'm sure I speak for all my fellow Scots, both of those goals brought me an immense amount of pleasure. Every World Cup means having to listen to English commentators rattling on about 1966, and England's glorious victory. When they get knocked out of the tournament it tends to put an end to such ravings, making a nation of kilt clad lads very happy in the process.
#2 Carlos Alberto, Brazil vs Italy 1970
Maradona's goal may arguably be the greatest individual effort, but there is no doubt that this strike is the greatest team goal, bar none. I still get chills watching that build up, and what's more astonishing is that it came in the World Cup Final, which ended up being a complete demolition of the Italians. The 1970 Brazil World Cup side may very well be the greatest team ever to play the game. I almost wore out the heads of our first VCR by constantly rewinding that tape to watch this goal over and over.
#1 Archie Gemmill, Scotland vs Holland 1978
What a moment this was in my young life. I was 10 years old, and this World Cup was the first one that I can really remember taking a real interest in. Scotland had done their usual hatchet job in the opening 2 games of the tournament (a tradition that continues to this day) and were left going into the final game of the round having to beat Holland by 3 goals to move on. An impossibility to be sure, yet this goal made it 3-1 Scotland, and for a moment an entire nation dared to dream. That was until 5 minutes later when Johnny rep hit an absolute wondergoal from about 40 yards out. My heart broke, and Mr. rep condemned himself to never making it onto any list I create, no matter how spectacular his goal was.
A Little Bonus Coverage - Jimmy Glass Goal
I spoke earlier of how a goal can ascend to greatness simply based on its timing. The above goal was scored in a game that took place in the lowest division in English football, yet it has now achieved legendary status. The fact that the goalkeeper was the one who notched it in the games dying moments isn't even the most stunning part of the story. It had more to do with the fact that Carlisle Utd., the team that Glass played for, where on the brink of dropping out of league football when it was scored. Add to that the fact that at that time they held the record for having the most consecutive seasons in professional football, and you are left with a true moment of magic.
I love football with every fiber of my being, and it's hard to convey that passion to folks here in America, the majority of whom frown upon the game that means so much to me. The reason I love that Jimmy Glass clip so much is not just because of the goal, but also the reaction of the average fan who tells the story of being there that day. To see him choking up at the end sums up exactly how I feel about the beautiful game, especially when a single moment can make it feel like your life has been forever changed.