- Japan vs Senegal: the pass, the assist, the finish!
This is another very underrated goal that could have been one of the goals of the tournament. A precise pass from the halfway line to the box, finding Nagatomo as he sprints from the left-wing, takes it with a beautiful touch off his left foot, that goes through two defenders to cut in and give the ball to the scorer, Inui who curls it into the bottom corner to complete one of the finest team goals in the world cup. I have watched this over and over again, only to wonder how this goal can be so misprized!?
2. Iran vs Portugal: Quaresma-tic strike
Those who have watched Quaresma before would know that he is not just a footballer, but also an artist. And the art of Trivela is something that he would pull off even at 3am, with his eyes closed. Such is his history with Trivela, and this was another one to his long list of Trivela goals. Now, just imagine how frenzied we would have gone had it been Messi or Ronaldo (taking nothing away from these two. They are the best for a reason).
3. Nigeria vs Argentina: Rojo to the Rescue
I know that this moment is very highly and deservedly valued. But I couldn’t resist myself from mentioning it, because you just don’t mind reliving this moment, unless you are a Nigerian. It was all square at 1-1, with only four minutes of regulation time remaining and Argentina had to win the match to stay in the tournament. Needless to say, they had to score a goal. That was when the Manchester United centre-back popped up out of nowhere to meet the cross from Gabriel Mercado to volley it to the net in a way any striker would be proud of. Marcos Rojo did something the rest of the attackers had been struggling to do throughout the tournament, in one go.
4. France vs Argentina: Take a bow, Di Maria!
I thought this strike would have easily made it to the list of top 10 goals of the tournament. Shockingly, like the Nacho’s goal, it didn’t. I am not blaming FIFA, because there were lot of great goals.
Angel Di Maria gets lot of space in the center, has a glance at the goal and backs himself to strike it all the way to the goal, which he actually does with pin-point precision and sublime execution of a long-range strike, as the ball goes curling away from Hugo Lloris who had no chance. The goal had class written all over it. In my opinion, this should have made it to the top 5, let alone top 10.
5. Belgium vs Japan: Did he mean it?
This game, for me, was the game of the tournament. All the goals coming in the second half, first two goals by one team, the other three by another team, with the last goal coming in the last minute of the game. Also, this match had some great goals by both the teams.
The Vertonghen goal is something that you don’t see every day. Weather he meant it or not is a whole different topic, as it looked like a misplaced cross in real-time. But if he meant it, which only he knows, it would be one of the best world cup goals I have ever seen. A cushioned header from the Belgian, from a ridiculously tight angle, goes sailing over the Japanese goalkeeper, towards the far-post and eventually finds the net to halve the lead of Japan, making it 2-1.
It was the start of something glorious. The comeback was well and truly on.
6. Belgium vs Japan: Classic counter attack, team goal; comeback complete
Courtois catches the ball, rolls it to De Bruyne who goes flying past everybody in the centre from end to end, finds Mertens in the right, Lukaku in the box dummies the Mertens’ ball to Chadli, GOOAALLL!!!! In the very last kick of the game, Belgium played their best football, and completed the comeback from 0-2 to 3-2, with the winner coming from unlikeliest of sources. I don’t think there were many better goals in the tournament.
7.England vs Colombia: England win on penalties for the first time
I know that this moment is anything but misprized. But couldn’t resist myself from putting this up in the list, since I was backing the Three Lions. And if I could go back in time, this is the moment I would go back to. I am sure every English fan out there, wouldn’t mind going back to this moment, a thousand times. I would treasure those moments, the Pickford’s decisive save and Dier’s winning penalty, for life.
And guess what? I am not even English. I am an Indian.
8. The shambolic Pique-Ramos combination
What hurts me is the way we have mercilessly criticized and mauled David De Gea after one bad tournament and scapegoated him for everything. This man has carried Manchester United all alone since Sir Alex’s departure from the club, by pulling off, what would look like the save of the tournament, week in and week out. Many have questioned his credentials and the status of ‘the best goal keeper in the world’. What is funny is that nobody notices the failed partnership of Pique and Ramos, which has constantly erred and miscalculated. But who do we blame? The best goalkeeper in the world!
In 2014 world cup, Spain conceded 7 goals in 3 games, and were knocked out without making it to the knock out stages. Needless to say, their defenders had a tournament to forget. Unfortunately, like this time, they did not have De Gea’s errors to cover them.
In 2018 world cup: In 4 games, goals conceded by Spain – 6
Let us analyse each of them.
- If there was anybody to be blamed, it was Nacho, the one who caused the penalty, or the referee, for awarding a soft penalty.
- It was a goalkeeping howler from De Gea. And there is nothing much, anybody else could have done about that. He deserves to be blamed here.
- It was an absolute peach of a free-kick from Cristiano Ronaldo, as he places it out of everybody’s reach to perfection.
- Boutaib makes most of a mix up between Iniesta and Ramos, as he speeds away with the ball after miscommunication from the two Spaniards, from halfway line to face De Gea one-on-one, and finishes it calmly, through the legs of De Gea. On De gea’s good days, he would have saved that with his eyes closed. But, Boutaib shouldn’t have won the ball in the first place and the shot should have never come.
- A set-piece goal, an emphatic header, totally out of De Gea’s reach, there is nothing much he could have done about that.
- Pique concedes a penalty, as he blocks Dzyuba’s header with an outstretched arm, leaving referee with no choice but to give it a penalty. Whether the handball was intentional or not, I don’t know. But I do know that it is foolish to defend with your arms in unnatural positions, and it is even more foolish to blame the goalkeeper for it.
There is no denying that De Gea had a bad tournament, and he was not even half the player he usually is. But was he the only one who had a bad tournament? Was he the only one to be blamed? Was he the only failure in the Spanish team? You tell me.