Friday, June 18, 2010

The top 10 most thrilling soccer moments brought to you by Mazda

To celebrate the launch of Mazda's thrillseekers campaign coinciding with the action in the Fifa 2010 World Cup, we are counting down the top 10 most thrilling moments in football.

10. We all know England have suffered more than their share of penalty shootout anguish over the years, but Stuart Pearce redressed his and the nation's spot-kick balance in the Euro 1996 victory over Spain. Six years after his 1990 World Cup semi-final penalty had been saved by the legs of West German keeper Bodo Illgner, the England defender displayed extraordinary courage to walk up and smash the ball home. Nobody much remembers where the ball ended up, but everyone can picture the outpouring of emotion by Pearce, who thumped the Wembley air in a display of unbridled joy.



9. The 2009 Spanish league title was supposed to be at stake after a remarkable winning sequence by Real Madrid. But Barcelona dismantled their greatest rivals 6-2 in the most thrilling fashion in one of the most memorable 'El Classico' derbies of recent memory at the Bernabéu thanks to a brace of goals each from Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi.

8. As Liverpool trudged off the Atatürk Stadium pitch in Istanbul, not even the hardiest of Reds fans would have dared imagine how the 2005 Champions League final would finish. Facing the might of Milan, the English side were 3-0 down by half-time. But three goals in six second-half minutes prompted a remarkable comeback, which was completed when Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko's penalty in the ensuing shootout to secure the club's fifth European success.

7. Although Sky might not have you believe it, the most thrilling finish to a top flight English league campaign came in the 1988/89 season. Facing leaders Liverpool at Anfield, second-placed Arsenal entered the final fixture of the season knowing they had to win by two clear goals. Alan Smith scored early but Anfield was silenced when unheralded midfielder Michael Thomas poked home a 90th minute second to dash Liverpool's hopes of winning the double.

6. With both clubs having already completed the domestic double, Manchester United and Bayern Munich fought out the 1999 Champions League final for their own unprecedented trebles. Bayern took a first-half lead through Mario Basler's low free-kick and appeared to be heading for the spoils. But a dramatic injury time twist saw goals from subs Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer steal it for the Red Devils.

5. This list wouldn’t be complete without including England's 1966 World Cup success. Still the nation's best ever football team, England made home advantage count with a thrilling and contentious 4-2 final win over rivals West Germany, which featured Geoff Hurst, the Russian linesman and Nobby Stiles's celebration jig.

4. The tears of Paul Gascoigne inevitably encapsulate English memories of Italia 1990; second only, perhaps, to Chris Waddle’s sky-bound penalty miss. But with just a minute remaining before England's second round knockout game against Belgium went to a penalty shootout, Gazza swung in a free-kick and Aston Villa midfielder David Platt famously swivelled in mid-air to volley home past stunned 'keeper Michel Preud'homme.

3. Ryan Giggs's wonder goal against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final is remembered as much for his wild bare-chested celebration as the mazy run through the Gunners' defence that handed Manchester United an extra-time victory and a place in the final. Collecting a misplaced pass from Patrick Vieira, the Welshman weaved into Arsenal's box before blasting a high shot over David Seaman.

2. Paul Scholes nearly stole it and after the tournament England’s then 18-year-old hero Michael Owen believed it was only the second best goal he’d ever scored. But Owen’s thrilling individual strike against Argentina was voted the best goal of the 1998 World Cup in France after he shrugged off Jose Chamot and raced past Roberto Ayala before burying an unstopping effort past the 'keeper. A superstar was born.

1. While his genius was illustrated in different guises against England, against Belgium Diego Maradona showed pure footballing magic. Mexico '86 was all about the Argentine No.10, and that was before his 'hand of God' goal in the quarter-final. Facing Belgium in the group phase, Maradona's majestic close control left four bemused defenders in his wake before he finally lifted the ball over goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff with that remarkable left foot.

© Marc Fox & Soccerphile.com

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