12 Days of Football 2018: Five Golden Goals
Welcome to It's Round and It's White's second annual year-end review. Getting into the holiday spirit, we're looking at the year from a unique perspective on each of the twelve busy days of the holiday fixtures. On Day 5, Uttiyo Sarkar nominates his five top goals for the year.
Many historic moments took place in 2018. France won their second World Cup two decades after winning their first. Kylian Mbappe became the second teenager to score in a World Cup final. Luka Modric broke the Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly by swooping the World Player of the Year trophies. Real Madrid won their third consecutive UEFA Champions League. However, in an action-packed footballing year for the fans, certain special goals provided the most exhilarating emotions.
Some were pure works of art, the scorer's positioning as they struck the shots timeless sculptures, the ball's arc as it found the goal masterful brushstrokes. Forget the opinion that Mo Salah stole the Puskas Award. It’d be criminal not to appreciate the brilliance of these goals.
Here are five goals that should grace the Louvre or Guggenheim.
Lionel Messi Stuns Nigeria
What’s a World Cup without a Lionel Messi stunner? The Argentine had a relatively quiet World Cup, yet seemed hungry to prove a point during La Albiceleste's final group game against Nigeria.
With Argentina’s chances of progressing to the knockout stage hanging in the balance, Messi delivered something special. Tracking Ever Banega’s lofted pass, he beat the offside trap before taking the ball into his stride beautifully, showcasing impeccable close-control. He beat his man then lodged the ball in the back of the net. The goal sent the always emotional Diego Maradona into a frenzy.
Zlatan takes his act to America
Written off by many after taking the “easy way out” by signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer, Zlatan made a statement right from the off. His first goal for the team came in El Trafico, the newly christened derby between the Galaxy and maiden franchise LAFC. With the Galaxy trailing in the match, manager Sigi Schmid sent Ibra on. Shortly after he struck a crushing volley from 35 metres to equalise. Then he found the winner, heading in an Ashley Cole cross from close quarters. That was only the opening act, however.
In a game against Toronto FC, Zlatan scored his 500th career goal in typical Ibrahimovic fashion. Losing 3-0 in the 42nd minute, Zlatan created one for the highlight reel with an incredible acrobatic finish. Another lofted pass came his way, albeit behind him. No problem. The martial arts enthusiast measured the ball's pace and arc, spun to meet it with a roundhouse kick, lashing the ball past a helpless Alex Bono with the outside of his right boot.
More is to come. After the Galaxy failed to make the playoffs on the season's final day, despite Ibrahimovic's 20 goals, the towering Swede elected to remain with the club to complete his unfinished business.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Turin de France
When the Champions League comes knocking, Cristiano Ronaldo answers. The competition's all-time scorer had another excellent European campaign for Real Madrid last season, one which peaked in his performance away to Juventus. Ronaldo was greeted with a chorus of boos by the Juventus faithful but he found a way to earn their love soon enough.
Dani Carvajal burst forward to put in a second-half cross. Ronaldo set himself to meet it. With perfect timing, the Portuguese struck an unbelievable overhead kick. Gianluigi Buffon, who had just turned away a sure goal, could only watch this one rip into the twine. Ronaldo was delighted, then surprised as the Juventus faithful rose to their feet to acknowledge his greatness with a standing ovation.
Tribalists may not understand or appreciate such respect. The player did. In case you missed it, Cristiano left Madrid for Juventus following a three-goal performance in the World Cup.
Benjamin Pavard’s Thunderous Volley
Imagine your best goal ever also being the first for your nation. Benjamin Pavard lived every playground fantasy in the World Cup. The young Frenchman was a breakout star for France in the tournament. He introduced himself to the world in the Round of 16 against Argentina. With France losing 2-1, Pavard sparked the comeback with a volley for the ages.
Lucas Hernandez overhit a cross from the left flank. Pavard ran onto it from the right. Meeting it on the second bounce, he blasted it past Franco Armani, setting the stage for Kylian Mbappe's brace. The goal levelled the match at two. Mbappe's strikes put Argentina in a hole from which Sergio Aguero's 94th-minute finish could not rescue them. One minute, your a precocious kid no one knows. The next, you're a national hero.
Gareth Bale’s Tour de Merseyside
If you thought Cristiano Ronaldo’s overhead kick was to be the Champions League’s best goal, you were mistaken. It wasn’t even the best overhead kick of the tournament by a Real Madrid player. Gareth Bale tilted an evenly contested final between the Merengues and Liverpool.
Coming on as a substitute, the Welsh winger had an appetite for glory. Bale wandered in the penalty area until Marcelo sent in an ambitious cross. Like Ronaldo before him, his timing was perfect, his strike unerring. Bale’s attempt blasted into the net, crushing Liverpool’s hopes. He later scored another from long range that went off Loris Karius' hands. People who call that a howler forget Bale swerved two more of similar ilk through a pair of keepers in Euro16. Regardless, it’s his sensational acrobatic effort that will be etched in Champions League history.