What Is A Great Goal?

Zlatan Ibrahimović's wonder bicycle goal against England was nice but not great

People continue to argue that Zlatan Ibrahimović’s wonder bicycle goal against England last week was the greatest goal ever scored.

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I fully understand that this goal is special because of Ibrahimović’s acrobatic effort and awesome control of his body. It is really nice to look at.

However, in order for a goal to be a great goal – there need to be a few more elements to it:

A. Teamwork

50% of all goals happen by accident - like Zlatan’s goal. Joe Hart came out, didn’t clear the ball well enough and the big Swede took advantage of it in the most beautiful way. In that sense, it was a very common goal. However, a teamwork goal, made by the collective effort of the team against the nest efforts of their rivals is the hardest to pull off. Why? because there are many variables, that all need to work together in order for it to succeed. For sure, some solo goals are great but a good teamwork goal is like a successful execution of a “A Rube Goldberg machine”.  It’s wonderful to look at the process and the end result.

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B. The importance of the game

A beautiful goal in a friendly match is just a beautiful goal in a friendly match. A beautiful goal in an important match has significant historical importance.  Zinedine Zidane’s splendid volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final is much more remembered, therefore “greater”, than any other amazing volley because of its importance.

Besides,  in important matches the technical abilities of the best players shine as the pressure makes them excel at what they do best  (Audience Theory). “Regular” players find it harder to do the simple things in big matches because of the pressure applied on them. Great players, on the other end, flourish under pressure. Beautiful goals in important matches help us make a clear distinction between good players and great players.

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C. Element of surprise

A great goal will always have a moment of pure, spontaneous brilliance that leave the audience and the players surprised. In that sense, Leo Messi’s goal vs Arsenal in 2011, is the perfect example of a piece of skill that left everyone shocked at how nonchalant and skillful this player is. It’s not about the “Showboat” factor of the skill but more about the efficiency of the skill.

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So… What’s the greatest goal ever?

For now, I will give it to Carlos Alberto’s goal against Italy in the final of the 1970 World Cup.

It had everything in it. A great team effort, the biggest stage in football and a few efficient showboat skills ( Clodoaldo’s shimmy’s, Pele’s nonchalant pass, Carlos Alberto’s great shot).

Simple, effective, important, great.

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