Tom Clark looks at the Top 5 Goals from each set of World Cup Qualifiers (last weekend and midweek), focusing specifically on CONCACAF and CONMEBOL matches.
Goals of the Weekend October 11/12 ’08
Could anyone not agree the Johan Gourcuff cannon shot for France vs. Romania, a 35-yard bolt off the bottom of the bar, was the best goal in last weekend’s weekend’s round of European qualifiers?
Tied for second I’d put Kuba Blaszczykowski (Poland) tricking the frantically advancing Czech keeper Petr Cech with a cute chip.
Third, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, aptly nicknamed “The Hunter” (Netherlands), for his left footed drive across the face of the goal vs. Iceland. (Is Huntelaar the best Dutch striker not yet playing his club football in Madrid or London?)
In truth it was a wonderful round for goals in the qualifiers (this rarely happens, most qualifiers being lumpen affairs), but apart from Gourcuff’s, I think the weekend’s true beauties were in the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL games, so you may not see them unless you go looking for them.
And you can do that by going to 101GreatGoals.com and calling them up: I won’t link specific clips here because you’ll have more fun searching on your own among the several available versions of each goal posted on that useful site.
Here are my top 5 from the Americas, with a tie for fifth:
l. Carlos Costly, Honduras vs. Canada. This swerving howitzer blast into the top right corner from distance proved costly indeed for the Canadians, finishing them off for the night and also finishing off their South Africa chances.
2. Ronald Garcia, Bolivia, vs. Peru. Another powerful and deadly strike from distance, nailing Peru to the bottom of the table in theeliminatorias. The announcer on one video clip goes crazy, justifiably.
3. Ricardo Fuller (Jamaica) vs. Mexico. This one, ghosted in from way out, and the only goal of the match, ruined Sven Eriksson’s night. Fuller is Jamaica’s best player, and already making a reputation in the Premiership after a sweet goal for Stoke against Bolton in his debut; since then he’s scored in just about every game in which he’s been healthy (that’s three so far).
4. Salvador Cabanas (Paraguay) vs. Colombia. This one, scored early (9″) and again the only goal of the night, silenced Colombia for good. Arguably Cabanas (who plays his domestic football in the Mexican league) is currently the strongest striker now playing in the Americas–looks like a bull, runs like a deer, has the touch of a pianist and scares everybody. When he was hurt for six weeks this year his club (America of Mexico City) didn’t win a match. His first week back, he put in two, the only two goals in a clasico against Cruz Azul.
5. (Tie.) Hensy Munoz (Cuba) vs. USA. This sinking volley over the American keeper Tim Howard was a real beauty, saving a little face for the Cubans in a sad 6-1 loss in the Yankees’ house (after a pretty bad week for the Cuban team, including two well-publicized player defections; the Cubans just can’t seem to come to America without losing athletes these days; haven’t they heard about the credit crunch?)
Also: Robinho (Brazil) vs. Venezuela. He makes millions whereas Hensy makes nothing, but let’s take nothing away from this lad for his money-bags: the goal, a fusillade released on the run after a cut inside to his right from 30 yards out, was very pretty.
Goals of the Midweek Matches, October 15
Again, if you’re a European fan, you’ve probably seen the majority of the highlight goals from this night’s round of Euroqualifiers, so let me not linger unduly. One might argue the virtues of several stellar candidates for top honors here. Piotr Trochowski’s first international goal for Germany to disappoint Wales 1-0, a fizzing missile from distance after a neat twist and cut, will probably get many votes.
As will Andres Iniesta’s first-half equalizer in Spain’s 2-1 defeat of Belgium, set up by a Cesc Fabregas interception and pass and completed by some nice stutter-step footwork by Iniesta to dummy the keeper before an impossible-angle finish, moving Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque to superlatives later: “all of us in the dressing room thought it was the best goal of the season” (Iniesta himself was more modest: “nice goal, but I can do better”).
Another precise tight-angle finish from the left, after one nifty move to lose two defenders and another to mystify Finnish keeper Jussi Jaskelainen, qualify Andrei Arshavin’s goal for Russia for similarly high ranking. And let’s not forget the two terrific England goals against Belarus: Steven Gerrard’s lethal 30-yard drive into the far corner, on the run; and Wayne Rooney’s second of the night to clinch the win, lifted over the keeper after a brilliant feint and displaying a pure scorer’s instincts (Rooney’s post-game comment, “it’s probably the best I’ve ever played for England to be honest,” was no exaggeration–which is saying something, given Rooney’s performance in Euro 2004 before being injured).
Honorable mention is also deserved by Milos Krasic of Serbia (vs. Austria) for a lovely strike from outside right twisting away from the keeper into the left corner: impressive.
And then to those sweet goals from the other half of the world, which, again, you may have missed. My top five:
l. Ali Gerba, Canada vs. Mexico, starting Eriksson off on another difficult night with a nicely weighted and lofted lob over shocked keeper Osvaldo Sanchez.
2. Fabian Orellana, Chile vs. Argentina: this one deserves honors not only for the end-to-end quality of the move that preceded it (eight players touching the ball in a rapid, dynamic buildup of the kind usually associated with the other side in this contest) but for the youthful debutant Orellana’s cool and poised finish: a perfectly constructed goal stealing a page out of the albiceleste‘s own book, delighting a great crowd in Santiago and securing Chile’s first-ever international victory over Argentina.
3. Luton Shelton, Jamaica, the only goal in a surprising 1-0 win over Honduras in Kingston that kept the home side’s forlorn hope for qualification alive: dragged across the goal at a difficult angle from the right corner, satisfying work indeed.
4. Russell Latapy, Trinidad & Tobago, a quick-reaction low volley up the middle by the 40-year-old journeyman who plies his trade at club level in the SPL (for Falkirk), proving that maybe age doesn’t really matter all that much. (Well, one can always dream.)
5. Vicente Matias Vuoso, Mexico, a strong header across the goal off a Giovanni Dos Santos center to save a 2-2 draw for Eriksson’s Mexico side against Canada. Coincidentally, though the talented Argentine native Vuoso, who plays for Santos Laguna in Mexico, adopted Mexican nationality (at Eriksson’s behest) only a few months ago, this will have to qualify as the sole goal of the night scored by a player born in Argentina.
But to make up for that deficit, and also because of its quality, before closing I ought to mention
one final sweet goal of the week that occurred not in the qualifiers, but in club play:
Alfredo “Chango” Moreno, the Argentine striker of club America (Mexico City) vs. Puebla, earning his club a 1-1 draw with a score that must be seen to be believed. This goal might be called orchestral: it includes a spectacular gambeta-cum-stepover, leaving two defenders stupefied, a quick blind pivot and beautiful shot from distance off the underside of the bar. It’s the goal of the season so far!