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Neymar Golazo

29 Jul

In one of the games of the young Brazilian season which ended 5-4 in favor of Ronaldinho’s Flamengo (who scored a hat trick of his own), Neymar converted a Puskás Award worthy goal. Sporting a more tempered, Justin Bieber like hairdo, Neymar produced the sort of brilliance you will only see from a Samba boy.

His already stratospheric transfer fee seems destined to inflate even more if he continues to perform like this.


WAG Wednesday Part 23 – Women’s World Cup

6 Jul

Please forgive me for not having presented the best football being played in the world right now (apologies to MLS, Copa America, and the “racially biased” Russian league), and you need look no further than the Women’s World Cup in Germany. Not only are there as many group stage goals now, twenty games in, as there were in South Africa last summer (51 compared to 39), but a number of them are some of the best pieces of technique and brilliance you will see all year.

Top of the list has to be the thunderous strike from East Brunswick, New Jersey’s very own Heather O’Reilly on Saturday afternoon against Sweden. O’Reilly latched on to the ball from about 30 yards out and ripped it inside-out past a keeper who couldn’t do anything but watch. Adding to the goal’s greatness was, of course, Ian Darke’s commentary – a voice that can make a great goal stand the tests of time. It was also personally special for this author, who had the pleasure of watching Heather in high school as she single-handedly tore apart team after team throughout the state. A trip to powerhouse North Carolina, taking up Mia Hamm’s number nine shirt, and a career that brought her all the way to Germany with that strike the other day, made it a truly special moment to watch.

Now unlike the Men’s World Cup last summer when countless models only conditionally stated they would strip, these girls have the mettle to actually do so. Therefore, in order to welcome the world to their country, the German team shed all for Playboy just before the tournament began. German hospitality, eh?

As for the rest of the lot, we’ve already had our first Brandi Chastian moment of the tournament. While celebrating with some home fans in the corner following her team’s 1-0 win over North Korea, Josefine Oqvist was greeted by a German fan looking to swap shirts in true post-game fashion. And just like her fellow German footballers, the straw-haired Swedish bombshell showed some skin, much to the delight of every fan in that section.



With that, you have every reason you need to watch this tournament. More photos of Josefine after the jump: Continue reading

Another Mexican Golazo

27 Jun

What is it that Mexican footballers can’t do these days? Giovani dos Santos set the bar over the weekend, or so he thought, by dancing around Tim Howard and the other American “defenders” and then chipping a splendid shot into the top corner.

Well that bar was crushed this afternoon by Monica Ocampo, who unleashed a 30-yard screamer to help Mexico salvage a point against England in their opening match of the Women’s World Cup.

Believe it or not, an English goalkeeper was not at fault for once!

The (Mis)Perception of Great Goals

15 Jun

Twenty-six years ago, number 23 launched himself from the free-throw line and produced one of the most indelible moments in NBA history. The result was a perfect score of 50, and another early milestone for the kid who would become ‘Air Jordan.’ Fast forward to this past February. A relatively unknown kid from the Congo also took off from the free-throw line sparking immediate comparisons to Jordan’s dunk and ecstatic praise from the commentators. He received a 45/50 and was eliminated in the first round of the competition.

It’s easy to pick apart the merits of both dunks above – Michael’s came in the final round against one of the other all-time great dunkers in Dominique Wilkins, while Serge Ibaka’s was the very first dunk of the competition. Michael dribbled up the court while Ibaka carried it like a loaf of bread. Michael had won rookie of the year the previous season and was already en route to greatness. Ibaka, not so much.

Regardless, both dunks were identical but they received very different scores. Why is that? Apparently, it’s not nearly as important how the dunk was executed but who executed it – or at least that’s how the judges saw it.

The same thought process afflicts the football community when great goals are scored by lesser known players. It seems such unexpected moments of brilliance are a mere anomaly, whereas we would come to expect the great players to produce great goals regularly. And therefore, for some reason or another, their goals reign supreme.

Take FIFA’s Puskás Award given annually to the best goal scored around the world. A shortlist of ten nominees is voted on by fans, which provides a telling perspective on their judgment absent of bribery and cheating – FIFA’s forte. It was first awarded in 2009 to Cristiano Ronaldo for this shocking display of audacity and power. Iniesta’s dramatic winner versus Chelsea came second, followed by Grafite’s slaloming run and back-heel against Bayern Munich. Any honest person looking at these goals would come to the conclusion that the third was head and shoulders above Iniesta’s and probably Ronaldo’s as well. I could name a whole slew of players who could tee up a shot from 40 yards and hammer it into the net past an unsuspecting goalie.

Iniesta’s received as many votes as it did because the goal came minutes from full time and put Barcelona in the Champions League final, two intangibles he had no control over leading to a more appropriate interpretation of the goal as a lucky “right place right time” event. “Who the hell is Grafite? Only been in Europe for two years?! I’m voting for the World Player of the Year instead.” I imagine that thought went through many of the voters’ minds. A guy who spent five of the previous seven seasons in Brazil and Korea. A guy who scored an unimpressive 34 goals in an even more unimpressive 101 appearances in those seven seasons simply got lucky. His goal was nonsense.

Now let’s switch the goal scorers – Grafite belted the long-range shot while Ronaldo twinkle toed through and embarrassed an entire Bayern defense. You really think anyone other than Ronaldo would have received votes?

Even more alarming in 2010, Hamit Altintop picked up a whopping 40.55% of the vote to blow away the competition with this volley. Linus Hallenius came second with only 13.23% of the vote for his own incredible volley while arguably the best goal of the lot, a back-heel volleyed flick from Matty Burrows received less than 8% of the vote. Altintop scored his for Germany. Hallenius plays for a small second division Swedish club, while Burrows is a part time player for a semi-professional club in Ireland. Assign either of the latter two goals to Arjen Robben or Messi or Ronaldo, and are we having this discussion?

A good friend was arguing with me that Eric Hassli’s wonder goal for MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps over the weekend pales in comparison to Rooney’s bicycle kick against Manchester City. His exact email read as follows:

“and, i’ll go so far as to say it was more luck than skill in terms of where the ball went…Rooney is much more skilled, making his more of a realistic, serious chance, as opposed to this MLS scrub just ‘goin for it'”

We had gone back and forth about the difficulty of each goal, the timing, the league, the team. I knew it was only a matter of time before he would discredit the “MLS scrub.” But here is where his argument, and the widespread opinion that he conforms to, is wrong.

Most of the goals scored by Lionel Messi are extremely similar – a dizzying display of speed and touch followed by a gentle placement of the ball in the net. He is the best player in the world and we can expect to see such goals every time. Rooney is a phenomenal player, but how many of his goals are overhead bicycle kicks? How many goals in general, on any level in any league are overhead bicycle kicks? And for the players who do convert these rare goals, are we led to believe they can do it over and over again? Regardless of the quality of the player, a once in a lifetime goal like that is no more realistic if the scorer plays for Manchester United or for the worst team in Major League Soccer.

Eric Hassli knew exactly what he was doing, and with some luck and world class technique in the moment, he scored one of the best goals you’ll ever see. Wayne Rooney knew exactly what he was doing also, and with some luck to defy gravity and the physics of human contortion on a football pitch, he scored one of the best goals you’ll ever see.

Nine times out of ten Rooney wouldn’t convert that. Nine times out of ten Hassli boots that ball into the Pacific Ocean. Nine times out of ten Zidane isn’t scoring arguably the most famous goal in Champions League/European Cup history (with his weaker foot no less).

Viewers see goals as a manifestation of someone’s ability to convert the array of skill and talent in their arsenal into a piece of brilliance. However, if that brilliance is the product of a player who lacks an array of skill and talent, the goal loses its intrigue in the eye of the beholder. It is deemed less of a goal and that player gets cheated.

I can guarantee Rooney will win the next Puskás award for 2011. I can also guarantee that Rooney, with so much ability and more realistic chances of creating incredible goals, will never score a bicycle kick like that ever again.

Greatest Champions League Goal Ever?

6 Apr

Schalke’s 5-2 destruction of Inter last night was both shocking and riveting. It also, rather unfortunately, overshadowed one of the greatest goals ever scored in the competition. Some might label it indescribable, but dissecting Dejan Stankovic’s volley only adds to its greatness.

For starters, the ball from Cambiasso to Milito is inch perfect and had Manuel Neuer not left his goal to clear the ball, Inter would have had a breakaway and probable goal. So don’t blame the Schalke keeper. Like Zidane in 2002 (now the second best goal in Champions League history), Stankovic had about five hours to set his feet and wait for the ball to come down, measuring it’s trajectory and drop point. Don’t underestimate how difficult this is – a ball coming at pace over a long distance, setting yourself flat footed unaware of defenders around you, and volleying through the ball on the fly with perfect contact and precision.

Even more staggering is the violent power Stankovic put behind his shot to cover the 50 or so yards to the goal. Flat footed!! Zidane walked into his shot and he only needed to cover a third of the distance.

Finally, it is important to look at the trajectory of the shot itself. The perfect shot takes an angle that prevents a well positioned, fully stretched goalkeeper from making any contact (see Di Maria’s strike from yesterday). Another way to judge perfection is where the ball hits the net. In Di Maria’s case, the ball struck the side netting – always moving away from the keeper to the only open area.

Clearly, Neuer was out of position and the goal was gaping for Stankovic. But that ball could have bounced at the eighteen and rolled in. It could have bounced at the byline and rolled in. Yet it didn’t. The ball landed in the exact position where the net meets the ground, bouncing up off the bar.

There is always room for debate, but I can see little to argue why this goal should not top the list.

UCL Matchday 6 Day 1 Top Goals

8 Dec

The first day of the last two days for teams to solidify their place in the round of 16 saw a few sensational defeats but not many surprises. Except of course Schalke, who won their group (a lackluster group to be fair) while trudging through a miserable domestic campaign in Germany. Inter had only first place in the group to fight for, and they got tonked 3-0 away to Werder Bremen.

Although the ultimate results were not too eye-opening, the fashion in which the teams reached those results was a different story altogether. 26 goals in 8 matches and finishes of every kind made for plenty of highlight real material.

Here are the very best goals from yesterday – free kicks, bicycle kicks, headers, and volleys. Not to shabby indeed. Continue reading

UCL Matchday 5 Day 1 Top Goals

24 Nov

Incredible goals all around Tuesday night. There could have been many more, if not for the endless number of crossbars and goalposts hit. Regardless, some real eye openers  to whet your appetite: Continue reading

FIFA Unveils Puskas Award Shortlist

17 Nov

FIFA has unveiled the 10 finalists for the 2010 Puskas Award for goal of the year.

Established only last year at the behest of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the award is given to the best goal of the year scored by a man or woman. It is named for Ferenc Puskás, captain of the Hungarian national side in the 1950s and scorer of 84 goals in 85 international appearances at one point.

UCL Matchday 4 Day 2 Top Goals

4 Nov

They may not be the best goals you’ve ever seen, and there may not be very many, but they were tops for the day. Only three made the cut:

Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) vs Spartak Moscow

Gabriel Heinze (Marseilles) vs MSK Zilina

Pinheiro Moisés (Braga) vs Partizan Belgrade

UCL Matchday 4 Day 1 Top Goals

3 Nov

Highlighting the best goals from Tuesday’s Champions League action. Not too shabby.

Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan) vs Tottenham

Rafael Van Der Vaart (Tottenham) vs Inter Milan

Gabriel Obertan (Manchester United) vs Bursaspor

Fábio Coentrão (Benfica) vs Lyon #1

Fábio Coentrão (Benfica) vs Lyon #2

Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon) vs Benfica

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