Goals in football are as few and precious as the days of summer. The sizzlers of Euro 2012 rank up there with the most sumptuous scores in the grand history of this great game. Here are five worthy candidates for top goal of the tournament.
Raging against the twilight of a brilliant career, Andrea Pirlo steered Italy through choppy seas to shocking success this summer. English fans still rue the casual insouciance of his penalty shootout Panenka; but his best golazo came against Croatia. Pirlo stood pensive against the Croatian wall, and then produced a shot that weaved through the air like the wind through his wavy locks, settling in the top left corner for one of the few free-kick goals of the tournament.
Balotelli symbolizes the modern sport media’s unfair treatment of players. Reporters complain when players guardedly dole out generic quotes like “We need to give a 110%” and “They wanted it more today.” But then reporters pounce and decry a player’s interesting or unusual quote or action as a ‘distraction’ to the team when it is the reporters themselves creating the distraction by spinning the benign into the beastly. Simply put, we should appreciate the Mario Balotellis of the world for making football, and life, more interesting. His brace against Germany produced one of the few upsets of the tourney, and the full display of his talent came with his second in that match when he fended off a hapless Philipp Lahm and then unleashed a heatseeker on a hopeless Manuell Neuer that darted left then right into the top corner.
Ibra’s ponytail may not be as divine as Roberto Baggio’s, but it’s certainly a minor deity. He is a classic striker in an age that reveres the midfield maestro. We can all pretend to pass the ball authoritatively around the bumpy pitch on a Saturday afternoon like an Iniesta. But to dare replicate the volleyed magic of Ibra’s goal against France? Check your health insurance deductible first.
Context may make this one the best of the bunch. England’s vaunted defence surrendered two goals after Andy Carroll’s header had given them the early lead. Theo Walcott’s thunderstrike from distance brought them level, but a draw would have left England third in the group ahead of their final game. Would Sweden’s pre-match hubris be punished? In the 78th, Walcott reminded us of the blazing pace that brought him from Southampton to Arsenal as he burst through two defenders on the right flank. Just before reaching the goalline he struck a diagonal ball back towards goal. Danny Welbeck, he of the awesome retro Kid-esque hi-top fade, performed a pinpoint pirouette and finished by casually back-heeling the ball in for the decisive goal. The ‘Dubya’ combo of Welbeck and Walcott give English supporters a bright alternative to two banks of four for the future.
There were certainly other beautiful goals at Euro 2012, such as Polish captain Jakub Błaszczykowski’s scorcher to give the home fans something to remember and the Cesc Fabregas-David Silva combo that opened Spain’s account in the final. Vote for your favorite.