Football is a simple game that boils down to just one central question—who will score the goal? But beyond this simplicity lies the most intricate planning, a game of strategy played over 90 breathless minutes. Football is about outwitting the opponents, not outmuscling them—that’s why the most memorable World Cup teams through the tournament’s history have relied on bewitching midfielders, strategic geniuses and strikers who are as quick-thinking as they are fleet-footed. Think of Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s, Johan Cruyff’s Holland in the 1970s, Maradona’s Argentina in the late 1980s, or the 26-pass wonder goal scored by Argentina in 2006.
Also See The World Cup Quiz
So far, 133 goals have been scored till the semi-final stage in the 2010 World Cup. How did the players move in relation to each other? How were the defenders fooled? How exactly did the counter-attack unfold? How did the sequence of passes lead to the final finish?
A step-by-step breakdown of five crucial goals that made a difference in the tournament.
NETHERLANDS 2-1 CAMEROON
(Group stage, Netherlands’ second goal)
The score was one-all between the two teams when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came on as an attacking substitute. The move started with a beautiful and expansive through pass from Wesley Sneijder that found Arjen Robben on the right flank. Robben had no support at this point, and took his time to cut in towards the centre to create space for himself. At the same time, Huntelaar was making an important off-the-ball run, confusing the defenders by moving from the left of the box towards the right. Robben beat his defender and blasted a precise shot to the farpost. The ball rebounded off the post, but by this time Huntelaar was already at the end of his run, and in position just inches from the goal to just tap the ball in.
SPAIN 1-0 PARAGUAY
Spain found it hard to open up a resolute Paraguay defence before an inspiring burst of play in the 83rd minute. It started with a quick build-up by Spain’s famed midfield. When the ball reached Andres Iniesta, he stepped up the pace and cut past two defenders. Pedro was sprinting down from the right towards the box and David Villa was already waiting on Iniesta’s left. Three Paraguay defenders were covering the three Spanish players. Iniesta saw Pedro’s run, and went left towards Villa, pulling all three defenders towards him. At the right moment, Iniesta switched a pass to Pedro, who slotted the ball under the goalkeeper. He was unlucky the ball hit the post, but it rebounded to Villa, who had the presence of mind to curl the ball back into the goal.
BRAZIL 3-0 CHILE
(Round of 16, second goal)
Chile had the pressure on Brazil, committing many players forward to try and get an equalizer. Brazilians have always liked playing on the counter-attack, and they demonstrated why with a clinical move. Robinho made a darting run down the left flank with the ball, while Kaka and Luis Fabiano moved towards the centre in support. Even though he was under pressure from two defenders, Robinho could see that Fabiano was covered by a defender and Kaka was coming up from behind unmarked. Most players would have crossed into the box, but Robinho fooled the defence by passing it to Kaka just outside the box. The Chilean centre-backs thought Kaka would need an extra touch and committed themselves to closing him down. But Kaka played a perfectly weighted first-time touch into Fabiano’s path— Fabiano was instantly clear of the last line of defence and only had to step around the goalkeeper to slot the ball home from an angle.
GERMANY 4-1 ENGLAND
(Round of 16, Germany’s fourth goal)
England were trailing 3-1 when they got a throw-in near the German box, with almost every English player up for an attack. But the German defence cleared the ball calmly with a long lob towards Mesut Ozil, who was running down the left flank for just such a pass. It was a perfect example of a counter-attack: Ozil controlled the ball, and easily raced past the retreating English defender Gareth Barry. Thomas Mueller was sprinting down the middle, shadowed by an opposition defender. At this point, it was three English defenders against Mueller and Ozil, but the advantage was lost when two defenders tried to close down Ozil thinking he would go solo. Ozil centred the ball for Mueller in the box; Mueller made no mistake in slotting in his second goal of the match.
URUGUAY 2-1 SOUTH KOREA
(Round of 16, Uruguay’s second goal)
The score was 1-1 with a place for the quarter-final up for grabs, and this goal was the decider. The corner was taken by Diego Forlan, and Uruguay packed the Korean box looking for a goal. Uruguay’s substitute Nicolas Lodeiro stood just outside the box, waiting for a rebound. The corner was delivered into the nearpost, and most players from both teams went for the ball, except for Luis Suarez, who held his position at the farpost. This positioning was crucial. The Korean defence headed the ball out of the box at the nearpost and it came straight to the waiting Lodeiro. He headed towards Suarez, and then made an important overlapping run. This run momentarily drew two Korean defenders away from Suarez, giving him that fraction of a second to cut inside and execute an accurate, curling shot to the farpost.
We asked readers to tell us what their favourite goals were. Currently the top three goals and their vote percentages are: David Villa (Spain) vs Paraguay (21%), Arne Friedrich (Germany) vs Argentina (18%) and Keisuke Honda (Japan) vs Denmark (15%). You can vote till Monday at blog.livemint.com/life
Karim Bencherifa is Goan I-League club Salgaocar SC’s head coach.
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