1. Ferenc Puskas vs England (1953)
When the Magical Magyars arrived at Wembley Stadium, the creators of the association football, the English, still held a superiority of the rest of the game. They went as far as not bothering with the first three editions of the FIFA World Cup and a poor performance in the 1950 World Cup did little to change their delusion. The Hungarians gave the English a footballing lesson and won 6-3 in London. Puskas was the greatest player on a truly great international team. An exquisite pull-back by Puskas followed by a powerful shot left the English defence chasing shadows. A befuddled English commentator compared the Hungarians to the Harlem Globetrotters. He wasn’t far off the mark.
2. Pele vs Sweden (1958)
17 year old Pele was a surprise inclusion in the Brazil squad to bring to Europe for the 1958 World Cup. He had barely played top-level football for his club before the tournament, never mind for his country. Brazil went into the World Cup with a strong team that were looking to banish the demons of the Maracanazo in 1950, when they had been shocked by Uruguay in the final in their home country. The teenage Pele lit up the tournament, none moreso than in the final where a spectacular lift over the defender followed by a well-timed volley was one of the goals of the competition. The nightmares of Maracanazo were banished to the past. A star was born and football would have a worldwide icon for the next twenty years.
3. George Best vs Benfica (1966)
The Belfast boy George Best was the perfect player for his era and his reputation soared through the roof with a virtuoso display against one of the best club teams of the decade for Manchester United in the European Cup. It was the quick counter goal, displaying all of Best’s skills of trickery, balance and composure in front of goal that caught the eye. The European press nicknamed Best “El Beatle” because of his image and charisma resembled the popular Liverpudlian band at that time. Best became a celebrity overnight and played up to the persona, becoming a serial partier and womaniser. In doing so, Best enhanced the celebrity aspect of football and laid the foundations of footballer’s private lives becoming the interest of the public. Watch from 0.30 – 0.38.
4. Carlos Alberto vs Italy (1970)
The standard at which all team goals are judged against scored by a team that were just as good. Brazil captain Carlos Alberto’s powerful right-foot drive was a great shot on standalone merit but it came after a nice dose of O Jogo Bonito from the soon-to-be World Champions. From Clodoaldo’s dribble out of defence to Pele’s instinctive lay-off, it was the perfect way to crown their 4-1 final victory. The goal was captured in colour television and marked a new era of enthusiasm for the beautiful game. Brazil’s lineup of fluid interchange between three number 10s (Pele, Tostao and Rivelino) and a fourth pulling the strings from deep midfield (Gerson) made this Brazil team everyone’s second favourite team. This goal summed up their panache.
5. Johan Cruyff vs Helmond Sport (1982)
It may have come years after the peak days of Total Football but this goal symbolises the joie de vivre of Cruyff’s teams. The Dutch masters dominated all around them in the early 70s with Ajax winning three consecutive European Cups and Holland losing in successive World Cup finals. Cruyff even brought his style of football to Barcelona and revolutionised the club, setting a footballing philosophy that is alive and well today. His goal against Helmond Sport in 1982 was the cheekiest of them all. Instead of taking the obvious decision and shooting from a penalty, he chose to pass the ball nonchalantly to his team-mate Jesper Olsen, who returned the favour to leave Cruyff a simple tap-in. Even the individual act of taking a penalty was turned into a team exercise with Total Football.