Greatest World Cup Goals.

The football ((“soccer”)) bandwagon is filling up, and we didn’t want to be left off. Sure, we’ll all go back to ignoring it after the World Cup ends, but for now, enjoy it in the way we Yanks know best: video highlights.

The following videos show the best goals in World Cup history as determined by the authors of The ESPN World Cup Companion.

1970, Jairzinho.

In 1966, England won their only World Cup. In 1970, Brazil would win yet another of its record five. They met in group play, with Brazil winning on the only goal of the game, Jairzinho from Pelé.

1978, Arie Haan.

A stunning long-range goal by Aarie Haan to vault Holland over Italy 2-1 in the second round.

1978, Archie Gemmill.

Nobody loves the underdog like we do. While it was ultimately not enough to push Scotland through to the next round, this goal against Holland was both a beautiful effort and provided just enough hope to make the loss painful.

1986, Diego Maradona

Labeled by some as the goal of the century, Diego Maradona single-handedly eviscerated the English defense. If we can’t be successful on the international football stage, we can at least take pleasure in watching our old frenemies go down in a sea of masochistic self-loathing. Final score Argentina 2, England 0.

Bonus: video of Maradona’s earlier “Hand of God” goal to make it 1-0 and Saturday’s “Hand of Clod” goal as England underachieves in drawing the U.S. 1-1.

1986, Manuel Negrete.

A lot of football confuses or bores us unenlightened fans. What’s so special about kicking the ball around the middle of the field? But a goal like Manuel Negrete scored immediately catches our attention. Anyone who has ever kicked a ball knows the high degree of difficulty in volleying it out of mid-air, magnify that by launching yourself in the air as well and suddenly we get it. Great goal.

1990, Roberto Baggio

The common denominator in hockey, basketball, and American football (among other sports) is the one-man, laser-focused, take-the-ball-to-the-hole play. We can’t get enough. So when it happens in the World Cup, of course we’re going to perk up. Here’s Roberto Baggio for Italy in 1990 against Czechoslovakia.

1998, Michael Owen.

Another thrillingingly selfish play with a double helping of schadenfreude for the U.S. as Michael Owens’ 1998 goal against Argentina wasn’t enough to help England move on.

1998, Dennis Bergkamp.

There is nothing that we can get behind more than the buzzer-beater. Witness: 1998, Holland v. Argentina, Quarterfinals, Dennis Bergkamp, 89th minute, 2-1 Holland.

There’s Bergkamp!

2002, Salif Diao

Pretty play by Senegal in 2002 to stun a pedigreed Dutch team Denmark. Appeals to our X’s-and-O’s. Allow me to quote the book: “It was the kind of play that coaches diagram in their dreams, a marvel of angles, spaces, and speed.” Watch:

2006, Esteban Cambiasso.

Magnificent ball control. Elegant goal. Football at its best, and something to which we true sports fans can hitch our wagons. Esteban Cambiasso of Argentina contributes to the 2-0 victory over Serbia and Montenegro in the first round of 2006.

That’s it. There are doubtless hundreds of highlight-reel goals to watch and perhaps even higher quality versions of these. Let us know in the comments. Hopefully this is enough to whet your football appetites.

Here Be Comments