Ranking all 77 goals ever scored in the World Cup final


Only 62 men have done it.

They’ve used their right foot 43 times, their left foot 21 times. There have been a dozen headers, only five penalties and a solitary own goal (should Mario Mandzukic’s accidental flick-on make it 13 headers? We’re in uncharted territory already.)

The average World Cup final goal is scored in the 55th minute — whatever that average manager said at the average half-time, it’s worked, on average — and has made the score, on average, 1.92-0.94. Let’s call it 2-1. Game on!

But that’s enough averageness. We are well overdue a definitive stock-take of World Cup final goalscoring: from the worst, the scrappiest, to the very greatest, the crowning glories.

We start in Moscow, just four and a half years ago… but where do we end?

77. Mario Mandzukic (own goal), France vs Croatia, 2018

A teasing Antoine Griezmann set-piece delivery into the box is flicked on and into his own net by Mario Mandzukic. He become the first — and, for now, only — scorer of an own goal in a World Cup final. This seems extraordinary, but that’s elite-level football for you. The best of the best.

Pros: Always slightly amusing when a centre-forward tries to lend a hand in defence and makes a mess of it.

Cons: The worst World Cup final goal of all time.

76. Mario Mandzukic, Croatia vs France, 2018

Redemption, in the tiniest possible way for Mandzukic, as his dogged pressing persistence forces Hugo Lloris into a copybook-blotting and entirely avoidable mistake.

This, really, says it all (Photo: Getty Images)

Pros: A reward for an ultramodern footballing work ethic.

Cons: An embarrassment for pretty much everybody involved, possibly even the goalscorer himself.

75. Zoltan Czibor, Hungary vs West Germany, 1954

A woeful piece of handling from German goalkeeper Toni Turek sees him fumble a three-yard Werner Kohlmeyer backpass. Once Turek has finished writhing about on the floor in a shambolic attempt to gather, Czibor is on hand to whip the ball away and tuck it home from six yards, the simplest of tasks.

Pros: Quick thinking from the Hungarian.

Cons: Essentially entirely the goalkeeper’s doing.

74. Vava, Brazil vs Czechoslovakia, 1962

Djalma Santos wellies the ball 100 feet into the air, Czech keeper Viliam Schrojf loses sight of it in the Santiago sunshine and Vava has an empty net to poke into for 3-1.

Pros: Quite funny.

Cons: Abysmal.

73. Roberto Boninsegna, Italy vs Brazil, 1970

The 1970 final goal nobody ever speaks of. Clodoaldo attempts an inexplicably casual backheel volley pass in his own half, Roberto Boninsegna storms in to take the ball, Brazilian keeper Felix races out of his box to just make things worse, and the striker sweeps into an unguarded net, despite his team-mate Gigi Riva’s best efforts to get in the way and ruin everything even more.

Pros: Hilariously bad.

Cons: Hilariously bad.

72. Jairzinho, Brazil vs Italy, 1970

Jairzinho steals in to give Brazil a two-goal lead with 20 minutes left, controlling the ball with his thigh and then failing to connect with his finish, which is enough to fool goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi.

Pros: Could argue it was an inspired dummy.

Cons: It was not an inspired dummy, it was a goal that should have been scored by the Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton.

71. Paul Breitner, West Germany vs Netherlands, 1974

The Germans equalise from the spot after a clumsy foul by Wim Jansen. Breitner converts with almost zero fuss.

Pros: Weirdly casual.

Cons: Non-diving goalkeeper.

70. Antoine Griezmann, France vs Croatia, 2018

Griezmann restores France’s lead with a penalty after Ivan Perisic was adjudged to have handled in the box.

Pros: Nervelessly converted.

Cons: Terrible celebration (specifically, Fortnite-themed, presumably for the future benefit of anybody who will need to know, at a glance, exactly what year that penalty was scored in.)

69. Ronaldo, Brazil vs Germany, 2002 (first goal)

Pouncing on a rare error from Oliver Kahn, Ronaldo cashes in his World Cup/injury karma by tucking the ball home to make it 1-0.

Pros: Heartwarming story arc.

Cons: Very poor goalkeeping.

68. Wolfgang Weber, West Germany vs England, 1966

A mini-saga of a last-gasp equaliser, with two blocked German shots and several flying English bodies culminating in Weber storming in at the back post to finally convert and send the game to extra time.

A perfectly-arranged goalmouth scramble as Weber strikes (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Pros: An epic World Cup final scramble.

Cons: Ricochet-tastic.

67. Johan Neeskens, Netherlands vs West Germany, 1974

A penalty, but one completely defined by what came before it to make it happen: 16 passes from the Dutch kick-off, zero German touches of the ball, Johan Cruyff deciding when and where to strike, Berti Vogts bringing him down just inside the area.

Neeskens didn’t mess about with the penalty, straight down the middle.

Pros: Total football.

Cons: A penalty.

66. Max Morlock, West Germany vs Hungary, 1954

A hopeful cross-shot is deflected by a desperate Hungarian toe into the path of Morlock, who pokes the ball past Gyula Grosics to halve the deficit.

Morlock begins the German fightback in 1954 (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Pros: Classic poaching.

Cons: Owes a lot to the mild chaos that preceded it.

65. Daniel Bertoni, Argentina vs Netherlands, 1978

Two-goal Mario Kempes surges from deep, tries a one-two with Bertoni, only for the latter to get in the way, deny Kempes his hat-trick and score himself past an exposed Jongbloed.

Pros: Admirable selfishness.

Cons: A potential masterpiece ruined.

64. Helmut Rahn, West Germany vs Hungary, 1954 (first goal)

Grosic flaps at a German corner and Rahn is unmarked at the back post to stab home a half-volley to level the scores in a pulsating first half in Bern.

Pros: Did well to keep the ball down.

Cons: Flapping keeper.

63. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, West Germany vs Argentina, 1986

With 15 minutes to go, a German corner is knocked down for Rummenigge to poke home from four yards and give them hope.

Pros: Striker’s instinct to be in the right place at the right time.

Cons: Unmarked.

62. Gino Colaussi, Italy vs Hungary, 1938

Just six minutes in, Colaussi has the freedom of the Stade Olympique de Colombes to half-volley past Antal Szabo from six yards from a deep cross.

Pros: Not the easiest of finishes.

Cons: Hungarian defence had gone to sleep, early doors.

61. Zinedine Zidane, France vs Italy, 2006

Seven minutes in, Zidane opens the scoring from the spot with an almost-overcooked Panenka.

Pros: Arguably the best, most boundary-pushing Panenka ever taken…

Cons: …or just quite unsatisfying to watch the great Zinedine Zidane having to appeal for his goal to count.

60. Alessandro Altobelli, Italy vs West Germany, 1982

Altobelli has all the time in the world to draw Schumacher out, take the ball to the side and slide it into the net for 3-0 and game over.

Pros: A cool head.

Cons: Germany all at sea.

59. Mario Kempes, Argentina vs Netherlands, 1978 (second goal)

Has all the early signs of an all-time classic: Kempes darts into space, evades two Dutch tackles with two brilliant touches of the ball, Jongbloed blocks his shot, the ball pings around in a complete mess and it’s very close to being an own goal.

Pros: Great build-up.

Cons: All that litter, for a start. Annoying.

58. Martin Peters, England vs West Germany, 1966

The sort of goal you’d expect to see late in a big game. A tame Hurst shot from distance is deflected up into the air for Martin Peters to stride onto and slam home from seven yards.

Peters puts England ahead at Wembley (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Pros: Inherent drama.

Cons: Could hardly miss.

57. Rudi Voller, West Germany vs Argentina, 1986

The Germans draw level at 2-2 with a great piece of poaching from Voller after Lothar Matthaus wins a header from a corner.

Pros: Very satisfying way Voller’s header goes between Nery Pumpido’s flying arms.

Cons: On a plate for him.

56. Paolo Rossi, Italy vs West Germany, 1982

Claudio Gentile bends an inviting cross into the corridor of uncertainty, and the Italians are almost literally queuing up. Rossi nods in from four yards.

Pros: Lovely cross.

Cons: Nothing special in the end.

55. Mario Zagallo, Brazil vs Sweden, 1958

Zagallo adds gloss to the scoreline by bravely sliding in to beat goalkeeper Svensson to the ball and poke it home.

Pros: Guts and determination.

Cons: Looked painful.

54. Pedro Cea, Uruguay vs Argentina, 1930

A hopeful ball into the box is collected by Cea, who slides it into the corner to draw Uruguay level at 2-2.

Pros: Classic opportunism from the Uruguayan goal machine.

Cons: Slight air of desperation about it.

53. Ferenc Puskas, Hungary vs West Germany, 1954

A deflected shot falls perfectly into the path of the best left foot in the mid-1950s business, and Puskas makes no mistake.

Pros: Unerring finish from the great man.

Cons: A tad fortunate.

52. Friaca, Brazil vs Uruguay, 1950

The Brazilian outside-right opens the scoring early in the second half by racing on to a through ball and finding the bottom-right corner.

Pros: Well-controlled finish on a bone-dry, bumpy Maracana pitch.

Cons: Bit bobbly.

51. Vava, Brazil vs Sweden, 1958 (second goal)

Garrincha torments Sweden left-back Sven Axbom — not for the first time — and Vava is on hand to complete a carbon copy of his first goal.

Pros: Garrincha officially had Axbom on toast.

Cons: Slightly less aesthetically-pleasing goal of the two.

50. Marco Materazzi, Italy vs France, 2006

Italy’s equaliser comes from an outswinging corner, a giant leap from somehow-former-Everton defender Materazzi and a decent header past Fabien Barthez.

Materazzi somehow finds a way past the towering frame of Barthez (Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Pros: Commanding header.

Cons: Barthez claiming to be 5ft 11in.

49. Zito, Brazil vs Czechoslovakia, 1962

Amarildo bewitches the Czech defence, his cross is stood up for Zito at the back post and it’s the simplest of headers for 2-1.

Pros: Superb wing play.

Cons: Too easy.

48. Vava, Brazil vs Sweden, 1958 (first goal)

Tremendous stuff out wide from Garrincha, who goes from 0-60 in a flash before firing in a low cross that Vava converts from three yards.

Pros: Probably the best World Cup final assist ever, at the time.

Cons: A mere tap-in.

47. Jose Luis Brown, Argentina vs West Germany, 1986

Argentina take the lead as Toni Schumacher comes and fails to get near a teasing set piece and Brown rises highest to head home.

Pros: Commanding leap.

Cons: Goalkeeper all over the shop.

46. Geoff Hurst, England vs West Germany, 1966 (first goal)

England captain Bobby Moore takes a quick free kick, Hurst loses his dozing marker Horst-Dieter Hottges and glances a header beyond Hans Tilkowski to level it up at Wembley.

Pros: Bright thinking all round.

Cons: Hurst is a little too unattended.

45. Dirk Nanninga, Netherlands vs Argentina, 1978

Rene van de Kerkhof’s clipped cross from the right is met by the leap of Nanninga to make it 1-1 with eight minutes left.

Pros: Fine header, very Cristiano Ronaldo vs Roma, 2008.

Cons: Argentinian keeper Ubaldo Fillol nowhere to be seen.

44. Jorge Valdano, Argentina vs West Germany, 1986

Valdano finds himself with acres of Azteca grass to run into, makes it abundantly clear to Schumacher where he’s going to sidefoot it… and isn’t bluffing.

Pros: Simple but stylish finish.

Cons: Where, as Barry Davies would put it, were the Germans?

43. Gerd Muller, West Germany vs Netherlands, 1974

A bad first touch or a great first touch? Either way, it’s classic Muller, finding space in the penalty area and then finishing with maximum efficiency.

Pros: Clinical.

Cons: Dutch keeper Jongbloed rooted to the spot again.

42. Mario Kempes, Argentina vs Netherlands, 1978 (first goal)

Kempes takes a great first touch to cut through the Dutch defence before sliding it underneath Jongbloed to open the scoring for Argentina.

Pros: Devastating first touch.

Cons: Looks like a slide tackle.

41. Ronaldo, Brazil vs Germany, 2002 (second goal)

Rivaldo steps over the ball to allow Ronaldo to receive it in space on the edge of the German box before passing it into the corner for 2-0.

Ronaldo slots home a not-very-Ronaldo-y goal in 2002 (Photo: Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

Pros: Almost effortless.

Cons: Not a vintage Ronaldo goal.

40. Agne Simonsson, Sweden vs Brazil, 1958

With time running out for the hosts, Simonsson latches on to a neat through ball from Gunnar Gren and clips a finish beyond Gilmar.

Pros: Very tidy.

Cons: A mere consolation.

39. Hector Castro, Uruguay vs Argentina, 1930

A cross from the right is met by Hector Castro, whose header loops over Botasso to make it 4-2 and and seal Uruguay’s inaugural World Cup triumph.

Pros: A tremendous story arc, the greatest goal ever scored by a player who had accidentally amputated their own forearm with an electric saw at the age of 13.

Cons: Looping headers are among the least enjoyable types of headers.

38. Emmanuel Petit, France vs Brazil, 1998

Petit races on to a pass from Patrick Vieira for a standard, breakaway goal in a 3-0 win.

Pros: A decent finish from a player not known for his goalscoring.

Cons: Brazil knew the game was up.

37. Gino Colaussi, Italy vs Hungary, 1938 (second goal)

Colaussi extends Italy’s lead with his second of the game, outmuscling his Hungarian marker to settle himself and fire into the far corner.

Pros: Just about a “solo effort”, good strength to hold off the defender.

Cons: Keeper really should come out to narrow the angle.

36. Silvio Piola, Italy vs Hungary, 1938 (second goal)

Piola’s power seals it for Italy. The ball is cut back to the Lazio man, who meets it first time with a right-foot shot into the bottom corner.

Pros: Well-timed, proto-Lampardian run into the box.

Cons: Hungarian defender should have blocked it.

35. Gyorgy Sarosi, Hungary vs Italy, 1938

Hungary get back into it with a lightning-quick raid down the right, and skipper Sarosi is in the middle to convert a drilled cross.

Pros: A prescient glimpse of post-millennium attacking play.

Cons: A chance you’d expect the prolific Ferencvaros hitman to score with his eyes closed.

34. Zinedine Zidane, France vs Brazil, 1998 (first goal)

Zidane wanders into a pocket of unmarked space to meet an inswinging Emmanuel Petit corner and head powerfully in at the near post to give France the lead.

Pros: Great leap, emphatic technique.

Cons: Poor marking.

33. Zinedine Zidane, France vs Brazil, 1998 (second goal)

The slightly superior Zidane header in the 1998 final. He steals in to meet a whipped corner with a near-post nod that leaves Claudio Tafferel standing.

Pros: Also nutmegs Roberto Carlos on the line.

Cons: One header is probably enough, let’s face it.

32. Helmut Haller, West Germany vs England, 1966

Ray Wilson misjudges his headed clearance, Haller gathers it on the edge of the box and, just before Bobby Moore can close him down, slaps a right-footed shot into the far corner. Something very “opening goal of a World Cup final” about this, fittingly.

Haller strikes first for Germany in 1966 (Photo: Cattani/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Pros: Textbook pouncing on an error.

Cons: Didn’t quite catch it as he’d have liked, even if they do all count.

31. Pele, Brazil vs Sweden, 1958 (second goal)

Pele crowns Brazil’s first World Cup triumph with a deliberately angled, looping header that outfoxes Svensson.

Pros: Clever thinking.

Cons: Slightly undignified goalkeeper scrambling.

30. Kylian Mbappe, France vs Croatia, 2018

Mbappe puts the game out of Croatia’s reach by giving the keeper the eyes from distance, shaping to curl one to the right before sliding one low to the left.

Pros: Great disguise.

Cons: An oddly unsatisfying 25-yarder.

29. Nils Liedholm, Sweden vs Brazil, 1958

Great feet from the Milan legend, beating two Brazilians before finding the corner beyond goalkeeper Gilmar’s reach.

Pros: Lovely footwork.

Cons: An oddly awkward-looking dribble, like an old man trying to catch a mouse with his wooden leg.

28. Pablo Dorado, Uruguay vs Argentina, 1930

After some neat interplay in the Argentina box, Dorado scores the first-ever World Cup final goal by firing a right-foot finish into the far corner, through the goalkeeper Juan Botasso’s legs.

Pros: Literally doing what nobody had ever done before.

Cons: Keeper will be disappointed with that at his near post, Clive.

27. Juan Schiaffino, Uruguay vs Brazil, 1950

The magisterial Schiaffino levels for Uruguay with a classic bit of near-post plundering, beating his marker to the ball and firing first-time past Moacir Barbosa.

Pros: Sharp movement, decisive finishing.

Cons: Defender had switched off.

26. Silvio Piola, Italy vs Hungary, 1938 (first goal)

Piola takes charge of things by larruping one into the top corner from 12 yards after Italy ludicrously overcomplicate what had already been a high-xG situation.

Pros: No-nonsense finish, flailing goalkeeper.

Cons: I mean, look at the chance they had mere seconds beforehand, which resulted in… a pass out wide to the right:

25. Paul Breitner, West Germany vs Italy, 1982

All in vain, but Breitner restores some German pride with a tidy, low volley on the turn after Italy fail to clear a corner.

Pros: Fine technique.

Cons: Furious non-celebration.

24. Andreas Brehme, West Germany vs Argentina, 1990

“My so-called weaker left foot is as strong as the right. My left foot shots are more powerful, the ones with the right are better placed, like all penalties. It’s like choosing a weapon.”

One of the most coolly accurate penalties ever converted by Brehme, four years after he’d drilled one in with the other foot in a shootout against Mexico.

Pros: Side-netting, pure precision under pressure.

Cons: Finals won with a single goal from the penalty spot are the pits.

23. Carlos Peucelle, Argentina vs Uruguay, 1930

Peucelle draws Argentina level by driving past two defenders and finding the far corner from an acute angle.

Pros: Lightning pace and directness paying off.

Cons: Did he actually mean to cross it?

22. Antonin Puc, Czechoslovakia vs Italy, 1934

Puc breaks the deadlock for the Czechs when the ball comes back to him from his own corner and he fires past Gianpiero Combi from a narrow angle.

Puc has picked his spot against Italy (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Pros: Evidently a well-struck shot from distance.

Cons: We’ll never be able to watch it.

21. Paul Pogba, France vs Croatia, 2018

Pogba extends France’s lead just before the hour mark as he follows up his blocked right-foot blaster with a much more presentable left-foot pass into the net past a wrong-footed Danijel Subasic.

Pogba’s left boot succeeds where his right boot failed (Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Pros: Decent plan B.

Cons: Rebounds are never as much fun.

20. Josef Masopust, Czechoslovakia vs Brazil, 1962

Masopust charges through from deep, onto a perfectly-timed through ball from Tomas Pospichal and fires underneath the onrushing Gilmar to open the scoring.

Pros: Lovely pass.

Cons: Statuesque Brazilian defence.

19. Raimundo Orsi, Italy vs Czechoslovakia, 1934

Orsi drags Italy level with nine minutes to go, controlling a bouncing ball and turning superbly in the box fire past Czech goalkeeper and captain Frantisek Planicka.

Pros: Shearer-esque, almost decades before its time in its execution.

Cons: Defender needs be tighter there, you can’t let a player of Orsi’s quality that yard of space to turn and shoot.

18. Guillermo Stabile, Argentina vs Uruguay, 1930

Stabile — nicknamed “El Filtrador” or “the Infiltrator” — runs onto a long ball and hits a powerful shot into the top right corner from just inside the area.

Stabile infiltrates the Uruguayan goal (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Pros: Incredible nickname, the solitary photo suggests it was indeed a belter.

Cons: You’ll just have to take my word for it.

17. Andres Iniesta, Netherlands vs Spain, 2010

With four minutes until penalties, Spain venture forward, Cesc Fabregas slips in Iniesta, who rifles it home to win the World Cup.

Pros: Lethal finish, a fitting winner in a 1-0 victory.

Cons: Vuvuzelas, away kit.

16. Alcides Ghiggia, Uruguay vs Brazil, 1950

The first truly iconic World Cup final goal, breaking Brazilian hearts in the process. Ghiggia gallops in from the right and squeezes a finish in at the near post to win the cup for Uruguay in the Maracana.

Pros: Pure cinematic melodrama.

Cons: Near post, goalkeeper, disappointed with that, etc.

15. Helmut Rahn, West Germany vs Hungary, 1954 (second goal)

With the Germans having fought back from 2-0 down to level in Bern, the ball is cleared only as far as Rahn on the edge of the Hungary box. He sends two defenders for a fondue, switches on to his left foot and finds the bottom-right corner to give Germany the lead with six minutes to go.

Pros: Great composure.

Cons: Could Grosics have got down to it quicker?

14. Angelo Schiavio, Italy vs Czechoslovakia, 1934

Five minutes into extra time, the Bologna hitman’s final goal for his country is the one that wins the 1934 World Cup. Schiavio is slipped in on the right and his first-time shot goes in off the crossbar with Planicka a mere, helpless spectator.

Pros: Superb technique on the turn.

Cons: The early minutes of extra time simply aren’t an iconic time to score a World Cup-winning goal.

13. Jorge Burruchaga, Argentina vs West Germany, 1986

Diego Maradona has the vision to release Burruchaga into the German half, and he gallops through to slide the ball beyond Schumacher to win Argentina the World Cup.

Pros: A fitting winning goal.

Cons: The German offside trap.

12. Pele, Brazil vs Italy, 1970

The greatest World Cup final header? A speculative blooter of a cross from Rivellino is met by a towering leap from Pele, who buries a textbook downward header into the corner.

Pros: Prodigious athleticism.

Cons: It’s the near-post thing again, sorry.

11. Geoff Hurst, England vs West Germany, 1966 (second goal)

Famously controversial, to its footballing detriment. A first-time cross from Alan Ball is seized upon by Hurst, who swivels well to thump a finish “in” off the bar.

Pros: High drama, great technique, Azerbaijani intervention.

Cons: Didn’t go in. It just didn’t.

10. Pal Titkos, Hungary vs Italy, 1938

Titkos provides an instant reply for the Hungarians, bringing a half-cleared ball into the box under his spell before belting a left-foot, near-post finish past Aldo Olivieri in the Italian goal.

Pros: Sheer power.

Cons: It’s the near post again, apparently the decades-long scourge of international custodians.

9. Geoff Hurst, England vs West Germany, 1966 (third goal)

Play arguably should have been stopped (well done, referee) but Hurst wasn’t to know that, racing through with all his remaining energy after two hours of football to absolutely wallop it into the top corner with his left foot.

Pros: You couldn’t really design a better goal to seal a 4-2 victory.

Cons: An absolute swinger – even Hurst admits it.

8. Marco Tardelli, Italy vs West Germany, 1982

Italy exploit the space left behind as the Germans chase the game. Tardelli receives the ball on the edge of the box, his first touch almost setting up a barnstorming 20-yard half-volley. In the end, he almost slips into his shot but sends the ball into the far corner.

Pros: Greatest World Cup goal celebration of all time.

Cons: In isolation, actually looks like a goalline clearance.

7. Amarildo, Brazil vs Czechoslovakia, 1962

Amarildo instantly controls a quick throw-in, skips away from one Czech defender, hoodwinks another with a hip-swerve and, spotting keeper Schrojf off his line, fires the ball in at the near post.

Pros: Lethal dribbling.

Cons: Shameful goalkeeping.

6. Ivan Perisic, Croatia vs France, 2018

Like a modern, high-budget remake of Marco Tardelli’s 1982 goal. Perisic takes a touch to get a yard of space away from N’Golo Kante and then rifles the bouncing ball into the far corner.

A classic example of a goal photo that almost does a better job than a video (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Pros: Venomous power.

Cons: Slight deflection and an unsighted Lloris.

5. Mario Gotze, Germany vs Argentina, 2014

For the second World Cup in a row, the final is settled deep into extra time with the only goal from a diminutive midfielder. Gotze controls the ball on his chest and volleys into the far corner, all in one movement.

Pros: Supreme technique.

Cons: Weirdly careless marking.

4. Carlos Alberto, Brazil vs Italy, 1970

The ultimate World Cup final team goal and, certainly, many people’s No 1 of all time. Clodoaldo’s insouciance in the build-up pays off for once, Jairzinho raids inside, Pele calmly lays it off (but that’s all it is, really) and Carlos Alberto absolutely batters it into the far corner.

Pros: A televisual masterpiece, greater than the sum of its parts.

Cons: Very slightly overmythologised, and we must all wonder what would have happened if the ball hadn’t sat up perfectly off the lush Azteca turf.

3. Gerson, Brazil vs Italy, 1970

The only fully-documented World Cup final screamer, and that’s pushing it. Gerson takes two excellent touches to get the ball out of his feet and fires a venomous strike into the far corner.

Pros: Power, swerve and technique.

Cons: Top corner would have been nice, if we’re nitpicking.

2. Santos Iriarte, Uruguay vs Argentina, 1930

“El Canario” takes the first World Cup final by the scruff of the neck — and how! Shaping to shoot from 30 yards on the left, he instead dips inside and lets fly with a right-foot rocket into the top-left corner past a helpless Botasso.

Pros: The greatest World Cup goal you’ll never, ever see. Well, unless you can make out what’s happening here…

…or you’re prepared to trust this faithfully-created diagram, which disputes the boot Iriarte scored with, just to add some further mystique:

Cons: Near-post screamers are the lesser-appreciated form of screamer.

1. Pele, Brazil vs Sweden, 1958 (first goal)

An astonishing goal, let alone from a 17-year-old. Pele rises high to take a deep cross on his chest, flicks the ball perfectly over the head of Bengt Gustavsson and then volleys beyond keeper Svensson from 12 yards. If it happened in 2022, football would probably end.

Pros: Perfection.

Cons: None, go away.

(Top image: Getty Images/Design: Sam Richardson)


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