We all love to see footballers producing moments of individual brilliance, 30-yard screamers and the like but there’s much to be said for goals created through good passing and controlling possession of the ball. Players working together probing, finding space and exploiting it to great effect.
A great criticism levelled at English players on the highest stage is that they tend to not keep the ball well for any sustained length of time, resorting to more direct play from the back toward the frontmen. Maybe this is engrained in English football culture with fans wanting to see their team ‘get the ball forward,’ but that would do a disservice to some English teams (as you’ll see below) who have got the ball down and played their way around the opposition as good as anyone.
Teams from outside the British Isles, such as Brazil, Holland and most recently Spain are lauded as pass-masters, boasting players comfortable with the ball and who can boss possession. Barcelona as we’ve seen can pass teams off the park and they are the club side football purists are drooling over right now.
This week’s top ten looks at examples of effective teamplay – so sit back and enjoy some fine examples of teamwork culminating in truly great goals.
10: Careca – Brazil v France, World Cup 1986
Regarded as one of the all-time great World Cup quarter-finals, the Brazil v France clash in 1986 saw two cultured teams play out a pulsating encounter. 1-1 after extra-time, the French prevailed on spot-kicks to progress to the semi-finals. Brazil did take the lead though in the first-half, thanks to a well worked move finished off by Sao Paolo striker Careca.
Right-back Josimar fed the ball inside to Luis Muller with the Brazilians seemingly crowded out by French players. With super-quick precision the Selecao opened up France with just seven touches of the ball, Muller and Junior doing the damage. Junior fed the ball out to the onrushing Careca who first time lifted a powerful shot into the roof of the net for 1-0 – Careca left in acres of space thanks to the movement and passing of his team-mates.
9: Gerry Francis – QPR v Liverpool 1975
Queens Park Rangers very nearly won the league title in the 1975/76 season, finishing runners-up to the great Liverpool team of that era. However on the opening day of the 75/76 campaign they beat the Merseysiders 2-0 at Loftus Road, the first goal coming from midfielder Gerry Francis. The ball was played out of defence to Stan Bowles on the halfway line, he instinctively flicked the ball inside to Francis who carried it forward and played it to Don Givens. Givens knocked a first-time pass through to Francis who kept running, collected the ball and finished beyond Ray Clemence from 15 yards out. A fine move and the goal was voted Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season for that campaign.
8: Samir Nasri – Arsenal v Manchester United 2008
Not long after joining the Gunners from Marseille in the summer of 2008, Samir Nasri scored a brace to secure a 2-1 league win for Arsenal over Manchester United at the Emirates and his second goal is an example of a team keeping the ball well. Arsenal went forward early on in the second half, stringing together 30 passes trying to work an opening. All but one Gunners player touched the ball during the move – it ended with Cesc Fabregas turning his man and playing a measured through pass to Nasri, who instantly fired a shot past Van der Sar in the United goal.
7: Alan Shearer – England v Netherlands 1996
As England manager Terry Venables encouraged his team to become more of a passing side and when they were on song during Euro 96 they showed they were one of the best in the competition. England produced one of their greatest performances of recent times during their final group game against the Netherlands with a thumping 4-1 victory. The third goal was a product of fine pass-and-move teamplay. Paul Gascoigne carried the ball out from midfield and passed it left to Darren Anderton. He gave it back to Gascoigne who played a one-two with Steve McManaman and entered the far left side of the Dutch penalty area. He knocked the ball inside to Teddy Sheringham, who rather than shoot, fooled the defenders and laid it off expertly to Alan Shearer. The striker finished off the move in style with a rifled shot into the top corner. Wonderful. The goal made all the better as it came against a team hotly tipped to win the tournament and whom were supposed masters of pass and move football.
6: Marc Overmars – Barcelona v Liverpool 2001
The current Barcelona side is without question the finest passing team in Europe, few teams can live with them when they’re at their best. For the last two decades they’ve had a certain style of football engrained within the club and whilst it may seem obvious to select a goal from the current crop, this one comes from 2001.
Matchday 1 of the second group stage of the 01/02 Champions League saw Barcelona face a tough away trip to Anfield and an ever-improving Liverpool team who won the UEFA Cup earlier in the year. With six minutes remaining Barca were 2-1 ahead and had possession. They played some nice one and two touch passes amongst themselves and worked the ball across the field in search of a third goal. After 24 passes, a young Xavi released Marc Overmars with a delicate lofted through ball as Liverpool’s defence pushed up and the Dutch winger rounded Jerzy Dudek, slotting the ball home. A classy goal which silenced the intimidating Anfield crowd.
5: Jose Cardozo – Deportivo Toluca v America 2003
This strike comes from the Mexican league and Deportivo Toluca’s 6-0 thrashing of America in 2003. Now those of you who play FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer or any football simulation game will have scored unbelieveable goals with 20 one touch passes and a top corner finish – this goal comes close to that. It’s almost too good, as if Toluca’s players have a birds-eye view of the pitch. Every first-time pass is perfectly weighted and the angles involved in the build-up make it good enough, but the cut-back and tap in neatly rounds it off.
4: Paul Scholes – Manchester United v Panathinaikos 2000
A goal, unbelievably from over 10 years ago, which showcases the quality of that Manchester United team which won a hat-trick of titles and the famous treble. Their final goal in a 3-1 Champions League Group Stage match against Panathinaikos comes after patient build-up – upwards of 20 passes before Paul Scholes clips the ball out-wide to Dwight Yorke who feeds it inside to David Beckham. Beckham passes it to Teddy Sheringham who’s delicate flick plays in Scholes making a great off-the-ball run. Scholes collects the ball, takes a touch and from the edge of the penalty area chips the ball superbly over the goalkeeper who’s off his line. A fine finish to a fine move.
3: Esteban Cambiasso – Argentina v Serbia 2006
During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Argentina scored a goal which is a perfect example of good teamwork and calm passing play. A goal up with 29 minutes gone, Argentina start the move near their own penalty area, playing the ball out to the midfield and they keep it with simple passing and good movement off the ball creating options. As Javier Saviola receives the ball Argentina step it up a gear – Saviola plays a one-two then passes centrally to midfielder Cambiasso, who gives it to Hernan Crespo in the Serbian penalty area. He controlls then plays a backheel back to Cambiasso who carries on his run and first time plants a left-footed shot high into the net. A superb team goal comprising of 25 passes, the final few in particular leaving the Serbians chasing shadows.
2: Mick Channon – Southampton v Liverpool 1982
This goal is made up of numerous passes and sweeps from one end of the pitch to the other at lightning quick speed. Lawrie McMenemy’s Southampton team of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s became one of the best in the country. In a 3-2 defeat against Liverpool at the Dell in 1982 they scored one of the best team goals you’ll see. The fifteen-pass move begins in defence and a combination of passes with feet and head moves the ball deep into the Liverpool half. Striker Kevin Keegan first-time dinks the ball to David Armstrong who plays an instant overhead return to Keegan. He nods it across the penalty area to Mick Channon who controls the ball and volleys it past Ray Clemence.
1: Carlos Alberto – Brazil v Italy 1970
An iconic goal which is still remembered fondly over 40 years later. The Brazil team at World Cup 1970 oozed class throughout the tournament, with Jairzinho and Pele the standout players. They both played a part in this goal which put the seal on Brazil’s third World Cup triumph. 3-1 ahead in the final, their opponents Italy tried an attack which broke down and Brazil regained possession in defence. They calmly stroked the ball around, Clodoaldo beat 4 Italians in the centre of the park and eventually the ball was knocked up the left wing to Jairzinho. He sent it inside to Pele who almost nonchantly rolled it to the right hand side where, off-camera at first, Carlos Alberto raced onto the pass and first-time smashed a shot past the goalkeeper. This World Cup was the first to be broadcast in colour and for many people still this goal is engrained into their memories, as the bright yellow shirts of Brazil lit up the tournament with entertaining play and great goals such as this.