Saturday, June 07, 2008

Great football moments

I happened to catch a preview of the about-to-start Euro 2008 Football Championship on Chinese TV the other day, which took the form of a 'Top 100 Goals' from the history of the competition. The final top 10 wasn't quite the same as this version I just found on YouTube (though no surprise that Van Basten's stunning volley in the 1988 final got the top spot in both - the only time the Dutch have ever actually managed to win anything!): CCTV's version rather tauntingly put Thomas Brolin's goal for Sweden (the one that put England out in the group stage in '92) at No. 2 ahead of Gascoigne's dazzler against the Scots at Wembley in '96. This compilation swaps those two around, but leaves Marco as the undisputed No. 1. (I have particularly fond memories as well of the young Croatian striker Davor Suker chipping Peter Schmeichel, also in '96. This very much abbreviated clip doesn't really show the build-up to the goal, but..... it was late in the game and the Danes were chasing it, already a goal or two down [if memory serves, Suker had already got one rather nice one in this], and Schmeichel had gone forward to the edge of the opposing penalty box to try to get on the end of a free kick or a corner. The Croatians cleared and made a quick counter-attack, but...... I swear [this, at least, is how I remember it] Suker slowed to a dawdle as he broke down the left flank: he was waiting for Schmeichel to get back in position, just so it would be a challenge for him. I hope I'm not self-deceived about that - it's such a gorgeous memory.)

Anyway, watch out for Gascoigne's goal at No. 2. A pity I couldn't find a clip of it in isolation. (And why is it that almost all football clips on YouTube are such dismal quality?? Perhaps that will start to change now that HDTV is making an impact.)

[Oh bother, this one seems to have been 'removed' as well now (although, curiously, the freeze-)frame picture was/is still displaying).] Oh well, let's hope this one stays posted for a while - just the Gascoigne goal against Scotland, but in full context, with the penalty save which immediately preceded it at the other end, and the exuberant celebration afterwards.

Amongst the reasons why - for an Englishman - this is probably the greatest international goal ever scored:

1) The sheer appositeness of Gazza's impish invention in chipping the ball over the defender's head with his first touch. This goal epitomises the (largely wasted, alas) genius of the man.

2) It was a beautifully worked team goal: a long clearance from Seaman, the header won and laid off by Teddy Sheringham, a superb early ball flighted in first time by Darren Anderton wide on the left, and then that outrageous piece of improvisation and the emphatic finish by Gascoigne.

3) It was the turning point of the match - and of the whole tournament - for England. Up until then we'd been playing poorly, failing to make much impression on the Scots despite an early lead..... and we'd just conceded a penalty. Luckily, David Seaman saved it - and then his kick downfield resulted in a second goal for us to take control of the game seconds later. The England team and supporters got a huge boost of confidence from this, and we slowly began to play better and better from then on - ultimately being very unlucky to get pipped by Germany (yet again!) in the semi-final. (The most sustained elation I've felt as an England supporter probably came in the last group game against the Dutch, where we absolutely spanked them. Our 4th goal in that - from Alan Shearer, set up by Gascoigne and Sheringham - also made the Top 10 in the CCTV-5 roundup I saw the other day, but is sadly omitted from the one above.)

4) It was against the Scots, and at Wembley. During my '70s childhood there had been some titanic tussles between the two sides in the (now long discontinued) end-of-season 'home international' series, and there was still a fair amount of bad blood lingering from those encounters (one year, the Scots had actually managed to win at Wembley, and their fans had torn the stadium apart - seats, turf, goalposts, everything - for souvenirs).

5) It was a rehabilitation for Gascoigne, who, after his scintillating debut in the 1990 World Cup, had spent most of the early '90s sidelined with (mostly self-inflicted) injuries, and had then moved from Italy to Scotland - one of the weakest professional leagues in Europe - which did rather seem to signal the end of his 'serious' career.

6) Both the burly central defender (Colin Hendry) and the goalkeeper (Andy Goram) who he so thoroughly humiliated with this finish were his club teammates from Glasgow Rangers.

7) The (possibly) greatest goal in the history of the English national team was followed by the (definitely) greatest goal celebration - a cheekily topical reference, in that the UK media had recently vilified Gascoigne (and much of the rest of the team) for getting riotously drunk at his birthday party while on a pre-tournament warm-up tour in Hong Kong; they had apparently gone to a nightclub where the distinctive gimmick was "the dentist's chair", in which punters would be held down by their friends while a barman poured shots of liquor down their throat directly from the bottle.

8) After the goal, the entire stadium erupted into choruses of this song - Three Lions, written and performed by The Lightning Seeds together with football-crazy comedians David Baddiel & Frank Skinner (it's the only football song I can think of that is actually rather good: infectiously bouncy, and with quite poignant lyrics recounting England's history of misfortune and disappointment since our one improbable success in the 1966 World Cup). Indeed, the whole of London was echoing with the song for hours afterwards - just about the only occasion I can think of when I experienced such a strong sense of identity with my country of birth, and just about the only occasion I can think of when that country was so united in such an exuberant sense of JOY.

For those with strong constitutions, YouTube has this alternative video of the song - featuring clips from England's semi-final defeat in the tournament........ and then......... oh horrors, the ultimately victorious German team singing our song. Bastards!

I'm almost glad we're not taking part in this year's tournament. These things can be damned hard to endure.....


Anonymous said...

I like 9, 5, and ... whichever one it was that had the goal off of the throw-in by Ireland.

Hubby and I are getting read to watch Portugal v. Turkey now. Maybe we'll see a top 10 goal from Ronaldo.

Froog said...

Ronaldo's a fantastic player, but..... where I come from, we tend to compile 'Top 10s' of his best dives.

That should be one of the best of the opening matches. I'll have to try to catch it on a re-run.

I fell asleep half-way through the very dull Swiss-Czech opener last night! And that was only 1am!!

Froog said...

Yes, No. 5 is another very strong contender for the top spot - an absolute screamer from the Portuguese midfielder Maniche. I think that must have been in 2000.

The British Cowboy said...

I hope Portugal get to the final. Just so there is the maximum possible time for someone to shatter that wanker's leg into multiple pieces.

Froog said...

Ah, Cowboy, restrained and moderate in your disapproval, as ever!

I wouldn't wish that on anyone.... but I do rather hope he gets to miss another penalty, and cries so hard his mascara runs all down his cheeks.

The British Cowboy said...

The thing is, he's a fucking cheat. And with that talent, he doesn't need to be. But he is a player who not only deliberately tries to kid the referee, he does it in a way to deliberately try to get fellow professionals sent off.