8) Bebeto (USA 1994) – Brazil v Holland
Brazilian striker Bebeto turned out against Holland knowing his wife had just given birth to their son Mattheus. With a goal every other game for Brazil, it was a decent bet that Bebeto was going to score against the Dutch, so it was good for us all that he’d put some thought into his celebration.
After the goal he started cradling and rocking his imaginary baby, as a message to his wife and child. A couple of teams mates join in for a few seconds, for what is probably the most replayed goal celebration of all time. There’s not much point in watching this, I’m sure you’ve already seen it.
7) Ray Houghton (USA 1994) – Ireland v Italy
Every time I watch football I think “there’s not enough forward rolls in the modern game”, which makes me yearn for the 1990s all over again. Like most young England fans, I was gutted we didn’t make it, so followed Ireland in the USA 1994 tournament, mainly because all the players and the coach were English.
Anyway, when Ray Houghton hit his Bobby Dazzler against the Italians, he turned, went to celebrate and realised he should cap a great goal with a great celebration. Sadly he wheeled out his forward roll. However, it was a perfectly executed roll and he’s probably the only player in World Cup history to drop one. And I love it.
6) Gerd Muller (Mexico 1970) – West Germany v Bulgaria
Possibly the greatest ever striker in World Cup history knew how to celebrate. He scored 10 goals in 1970 (14 in all World Cups), so had more practice than most. Maybe men were cut from a different cloth back in 1970. None of your Cristiano Ronaldo plucked eye-brows and hair style, running to the corner flag and stupid jumps. Check out this goal against Bulgaria. It’s an unbelievable header, and how does he celebrate? Picks himself up out of the dirt, sticks his mitts in the air and walks off. No fuss, no dicking around. What a guy.
5) Pele (Mexico 1970) – Brazil v Italy
Of all the celebrations in this list, this is probably the most iconic. Pele, many people’s choice as the best ever, scored a wonder goal. It might not look it, but it was. Remember Pele is the size of the second or third Russian doll in pack, he leaps like a salmon and hangs in the air for an eternity before directing the ball into the net. It’s a beautiful goal.
As Pele runs off to celebrate he jumps at Jairzinho. I’m not sure if Pele had stolen a few extra burritos the night before the final, but Jairzinho struggles to hold him up. As he’s struggling under Pele’s weight, the legend starts waving his arms around. The still image of this celebration has been taken and used to promote the World Cup over and over again and will no doubt continue to be used. The greatest player ever, at the top of his game, in the greatest tournament ever. It’s an image that nails the World Cup spirit perfectly.
4) Maradona (USA 1994) – Argentina v Greece
Diego Armando Maradona. One of the greatest footballers ever to have lived.USA 1994 won’t feature highly on his career highlights, where he turned up over weight, played a bit, scored, celebrated and then, to no one’s surprise, was sent home for failing a drugs test.
The celebration will go down in history as a beauty. It’s almost from the drug addict’s text book: find the nearest camera, charge at it, get crazy eyes ready and go insane. Maradona 1 – Cameraman 0, sort of.
How about this for commentary. We’re sold short in England with John Motson.
3) Roger Milla (Italia 1990) – Every game
Roger Milla is a man who is ageless. No one really knew how old the Cameroonian striker was at Italia 90, but what was certain was he had the best hips in the comp. Every goal he scored was accompanied by a shimmy, a shake, a dance, a boogie with the corner flag. Always perfectly in time with the beat from the crowd, always smooth, never over the top.
From that day on, every child who scored in the park found the nearest tree and started to get the snake hips out. It wouldn’t be too far away from the mark to suggest that Milla invented the modern goal celebration. He was christened “the man who taught the world to dance” as part of an advertising campaign at the last World Cup.
Who am I to disagree?
2) Marco Tardelli (Spain 1982) – Italy v West Germany
Marco Tardelli almost makes it to the top of the list for the best celebration ever in World Cup history, but misses out because, well, his celebration wasn’t very good. His goal against West Germany in the 1982 final in Madrid was good, and he turned to run away and celebrates much like any other player: arms out, happy, running around like a mad man.
What elevates this celebration is what he’s shouting. It’s clear he’s saying something from the footage, but the question is what? Legend has it that Tardelli was so pleased to score, he did what any nine year old does when they score a screamer – he ran off shouting his own name like a commentator would. Apparently he’s saying the Italian equivalent of
“Goooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllll! MARRRRRRCCCCOOOOO TAAAAARDELLI!”
What a hero.
1) Josimar (Mexico 1986) – Brazil v Northern Ireland
Mexico 86 is the first World Cup I remember watching. The hazy pictures of crazy hot sunshine and footballers strolling around the pitch in tight shorts are some of my earliest memories of football. It was, I remember, a great tournament, even if England didn’t win (they should have).
This was the World Cup that was all about Maradona, but the one memory that sticks out above all for me is Josimar’s goal against Northern Ireland. It is an amazing strike, but the way he gallops off down the field shows his unbridled joy at scoring a wonder goal.
It’s pretty clear that defenders, even Brazilian ones, don’t often score goals like that. As a defender of limited ability and few goals, “The Josimar” was (and still is) brought out of my locker every time I score. I just don’t do it with the same finesse.
I once bumped into Pat Jennings, the Northern Irish keeper that day and told him it was my favourite ever World Cup goal and celebration, he just seemed pleased to have been involved.