Top Tenner: Late World Cup Goals
This World Cup has seen a number of late, late goals. Here are 10 of the best at-the-death strikes from World Cup history ...
10. Leo Messi, 2014 group stage, Argentina vs. Iran
Genius is a tricky thing to define in football, but the closest approximation to it is the ability to do something 99 percent of the world cannot, then doing it over, and over, and over again. By that definition then Leo Messi quite patently is a genius, and he showed a distillation of that in Argentina's second group game against Iran.
For 90 minutes the Iranian defence held true, keeping out Messi and his talented collection of supporting players, causing no little frustration in the process, and with an embarrassing draw looming, these are the moments when a bona fide genius comes in handy. Lucky for Argentina, Messi stepped up, curling a perfect shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area, providing a simple example of what makes him one of the best we've ever seen.
9. Hector Castro, 1930 final, Uruguay vs. Argentina
Much like in 1966, the last goal in a 4-2 win for the hosts didn't make any material difference to the result of the game, but, as in 1966, it was a blow in a pretty fierce international rivalry. Before the very first World Cup final, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, relations between Uruguay and Argentina were to say the least strained, to the extent that they couldn't agree who would provide the match ball.
A compromise was reached (each side would use their ball for a half), but it displayed the ill feeling, which would become apparent after the game when the Uruguayan embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was pelted with stones. Uruguay opened the scoring, but Argentina quickly took the lead, which they held until around the hour mark, when two goals in 10 minutes from Pedro Cea and Santos Iriarte put the hosts ahead.
Then in the 89th minute Hector Castro, a national star and owner of two Olympic gold medals despite losing the lower part of his left arm at age 13, scored to make the first World Cup win a little more emphatic.
8. Landon Donovan, 2010 group stage, USA vs. Algeria
As the clock reached 90 minutes in the final games in Group C of the 2010 World Cup, things didn't look good for the USA.
England were inching toward topping the group, despite labouring throughout, thanks to their win over Slovenia, while the USA were going out as they headed toward a 0-0 draw with Algeria.
Then Landon Donovan, for so long one of America's best players and their biggest international star, arrived late in the penalty area to force the rebound from a Clint Dempsey shot into the net, and not only put his team through, but on top of the group.
"I'm just shocked and so proud of our guys. Unbelievable," Donovan said during a postmatch news conference in which he burst into tears. "Sometimes you have games like this when you have a lot of chances and they don't go in. The only thing you can do is to keep going."
7. David Platt, 1990 second round, England vs. Belgium
Before the 1990 semifinal, England had yet to experience the full soul-shattering trauma of the penalty shootout, but as the clock ticked toward the end of extra time of their second-round game against Belgium, it seemed as if they would be introduced to it imminently.
However, in the last minute of extra time Paul Gascoigne won a (rather generously awarded, truth be told) free kick around 40 yards from goal, which the midfielder himself gently dinked into the area. It neatly dropped over the heads of more or less everyone in the box, David Platt swiveled and sent it beyond the bereft Belgium keeper Michel Preud'homme. One imagines that if Platt had tried his finish another 50 times he might not have caught his shot so perfectly, but England were certainly delighted that he did.
6. Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, 1970 semifinal, West Germany vs. Italy
The 1970 semifinal between West Germany and Italy is regarded as one of the great games in World Cup history, but it would have been merely an ultimately routine if diverting 1-0 victory for the Italians, had Karl-Heinz Schnellinger not chipped in.
Roberto Boninsegna had given Italy the lead in the eighth minute, which they held for the majority of the game, the chance of a German comeback lessened even further by Franz Beckenbauer fracturing his collarbone, staying on in a sling only because they had already made their two permitted substitutions. Then in the very last minute of normal time, left-back Schnellinger popped up to score the only goal of his international career, and set up an utterly extraordinary additional 30 minutes that saw five goals, and which exhausted the Italians so much that they could barely put up a fight against Brazil in the final.
5. Geoff Hurst, 1966 final, England vs. Germany
In truth, Geoff Hurst's third and England's fourth goal in the 1966 final was superfluous, an added bonus to cap off the finest day the nation's team has ever seen, because England would almost certainly have still won even if his effort had sailed way, way over the bar. Indeed, that was half of Hurst's intention, saying some years later that he was actually just trying to hit the thing as hard as possible because if it went wide or over, a few precious seconds would be wasted trying to retrieve it.
Of course it was hugely important to Hurst himself, who became the only player before or since to score a hat trick in the World Cup final, this relatively modest forward who played the majority of his career for West Ham achieving something that Pele, Gerd Muller, Ronaldo et al couldn't. The Guardian's Hugh McIlvanney, a Scot but nonetheless apparently quite giddy about the whole thing, described the moment: "Then we were up and yelling and stamping and slapping one another as Hurst shot that last staggering goal. The sky had been overcast all afternoon, but now the clouds split and the sun glared down on the stadium. Maybe those fellows were right when they said God was an Englishman."
4. Helmut Rahn, 1954 final, West Germany vs. Hungary
Much of the action in the "Miracle of Bern" took place in the opening few minutes. Hungary raced ahead through Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Czibor, only for the Germans to equalise through Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn by the 18th minute.
For the remainder of the game the Hungarians hammered on the German door, despite Puskas playing with a hairline fracture in his ankle, picked up in the group game between the two sides which the Magyars had won 8-3. Toni Turek in the German goal in particular had a near miraculous game, keeping out shot after shot from the relentless Hungarians, until with six minutes to go, Rahn launched a rare attack and found the bottom corner with a shot from the edge of the area. There was still just about enough time for Puskas to score a disallowed goal and Turek to produce yet more heroics, but West Germany had, against just about every expectation going, won their first World Cup.
3. Dennis Bergkamp, 1998 quarterfinal, Netherlands vs. Argentina
The Netherlands vs. Argentina is one of the World Cup's under-the-radar rivalries.
Argentina employed some faintly underhanded tactics before the 1978 final between the two sides, and then there was this rather spicy encounter, in Marseille, France, for the 1998 quarterfinal. Artur Numan and Ariel Ortega had been sent off, while Claudio Lopez and Patrick Kluivert had exchanged goals when, in the 89th minute, Frank de Boer picked the ball up in the left-back position and launched a pinpoint, 70-yard pass in the direction of the Dutch forward line.
With many other players, the story might have ended there, but the man on the end of the pass was Dennis Bergkamp, who produced three absolutely perfect touches when perfection was required to take the ball down, leave Roberto Ayala beaten and baffled, then flick past Carlos Roa to score one of the great goals in World Cup history. Indeed, perhaps the only thing better than the goal was Dutch commentator Jack van Gelder's magnificently emotional, unrestrained reaction.
2. Andres Iniesta, 2010 final, Spain vs. the Netherlands
One of the reasons this World Cup has been such a joy is the comparison to what came before it.
The 2010 edition in South Africa was a largely turgid affair, and its final was as dull as it was violent -- that is to say "very" on both counts -- something that was particularly disappointing given it featured the great international side of this generation, Spain.
Despite this, it did at least reward those of us who stuck with the whole thing with a moment of late drama, as Andres Iniesta scored the only and of course winning goal in the 116th minute, the latest winning goal ever scored in a World Cup final. The moment certainly gained added meaning when Iniesta removed his shirt after scoring to reveal a message about Dani Jarque, the Espanyol defender who had died suddenly the previous year. Iniesta had just scored the winning goal in a World Cup final, probably the peak of a magnificent career, and his instinct was to think of his friend.
1. Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero, 2006 semifinal, Italy vs. Germany
If football is about emotion, about the joy and sheer excitement of a moment, then this is one of the greatest moments the World Cup, and indeed the game, has ever seen. With penalties seemingly on their way in the semifinal between Italy and Germany, the Azzurri won a corner in the 119th minute that eventually found its way to Andrea Pirlo. The somnolent maestro faked as if to pass back out wide but instead slipped a perfect, no-look ball to Fabio Grosso.
The left-back, who to that point hadn't achieved a huge amount in his career but would go on to score the winning penalty in the final, swept the ball into the far corner and a country lost its mind.
To Germany's credit, they didn't collapse under the sheer weight of despair, as one might have forgiven them for doing, and immediately attacked, looking for an equaliser. Fabio Cannavaro, as you might anticipate from one of the great defenders of his generation on his way to winning the Golden Ball, broke up one such attack and brought the ball out of defence, but Francesco Totti took over, feeding the ball to Alberto Gilardino.
The forward held the ball, perhaps as much to tick down a few more seconds as anything else, before Alessandro del Piero (and it's worth noting how many forwards Italy had on the pitch, with Vincenzo Iaquinta also around) arrived as if from nowhere to his left, ghosting into the attack like a blue-clad ninja. Del Piero opened his body, curled into the top corner, and for the second time in three minutes, a country once more lost its mind.