9 of the greatest goals that never happened

Spectacular and momentous goals are what football fans treasure the most, but this lot were denied a place in the history books through a mixture of injustice and bad fortune, as Max McLean explains...

1. Lucas Moura vs Marseille

PSG 2-0 Marseille (Ligue 1) March 2, 2014

If you’re a fan of solo goals, this one's a heart-breaker. At 0-0 in a top-of-the-table clash against Marseille, Moura set off on a long run, dragging the ball back from one opponent, skinning four others and then chipping Steve Mandanda. If it wasn't for the heroic goal-line clearance of Rod Fanni, the Brazilian's slalom would have gone down in the annals. At 0-0 in this crucial match it would have been a big goal – but PSG went on to win anyway. 

Kicking himself? Only the keeper to beat, should have scored. 4/5

‘If only’ rating: 8/10

PERFORMANCE Lucas Moura: Dribble the Brazilian way

2. Pele vs Uruguay

Brazil 3-1 Uruguay (1970 World Cup semi-final) June 17, 1970

Made more legendary for the fact he missed. With Brazil 3-1 up in the 1970 World Cup semi-finals against Uruguay, Tostao played a marauding Pele through on goal. The forward's dummy left Uruguay goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz grasping air and one commentator spluttering: "Oh what... what genius!" But with a defender on the line putting him off, Pele managed to put the ball wide. A World Cup semi-final, yes, but the game was already won. 

Kicking himself? The greatest player of all time? He should have booted it in and rounded off a perfect game. 5/5

‘If only’ rating: 6/10

3. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Spain

Portugal 4-0 Spain (Friendly) November 17, 2010

Ronaldo’s catalogue of goals is impressive by anyone’s standards, but this would have been something a little different for his showreel. The Portuguese ran at Gerard Pique, toying with the Spain defender before dragging the ball away from a sliding tackle. With two defenders and Iker Casillas in his way, Ronaldo rolled his foot over the ball and chipped all three Spaniards in one motion, only for Nani to ruin everything by nodding the goal-bound ball in from an offside position. Cristiano was far from impressed. It was only a friendly, but you could hardly blame him. 

Kicking himself? Kicking Nani, and really a goal that should have been. 4/5

‘If only’ rating: 7/10

4. Hans-Gunter Bruns vs Bayern Munich

Borussia M'gladbach v Bayern Munich (Bundesliga) 1983

The greatest distance covered in this list. From corner flag to goalmouth, Bruns’ run had it all: lucky ricochets off defenders, a long sprint unchallenged, a lovely one-two passing exchange and a low, hard finish. Were it not for both posts, he'd probably still be running off celebrating. A clash against big-guns Bayern Munich as both sought a European spot meant this was no friendly. (Interesting note: the 1983/84 Bundesliga season ended with three teams top the table with 48 points – champions Stuttgart (+46) made it to the European Cup, Hamburg (+39) and Gladbach (+33) the UEFA Cup, and Bayern (47 points) the European Cup Winners' Cup with their agonising fourth-place finish.)

Kicking himself? Not the easiest chance, with a defender pressuring him and the goalkeeper well positioned. That said, Bruns should have been enjoying the rustling of ball in net after all that hard work. 3/5

‘If only’ rating: 8/10

5. Frank Lampard vs Germany

England 1-4 Germany (2010 World Cup last 16) June 27, 2010

Oh Frank. With no World Cup goals to his name, Lampard thought he'd broken his duck on the biggest stage. Fabio Capello’s England were 2-1 down against Germany when the ball fell to Chelsea's midfield dynamo, who carefully prodded the ball over Manuel Neuer, off the crossbar and over the line, only for the official to rule it out on the grounds that England owed Germany for Geoff Hurst’s contentious goal 44 years previously (well, probably not). Had the game squared at 2-2, it could have been a different result in Bloemfontein. But again, probably not. 

Kicking himself? Disgusted, but not with himself. A goal that most certainly should have stood. 5/5

‘If only’ rating: 8/10

6. Pedro Mendes vs Man United

Man United 0-0 Tottenham (Premier League) January 4, 2005

With this Premier League fixture finely poised at 0-0, Tottenham’s Mendes saw fit to give the ball a good whack in Roy Carroll’s direction. He probably didn’t expect Carroll to fluff his lines and help the ball into the goal, but certainly didn’t expect the linesman to miss the whole thing so badly. The game ended 0-0, and while only a mid-season Premier League fixture, Mendes's ‘goal’ would have given Spurs a famous win at Old Trafford.

Kicking himself? Another linesman gone rogue. Certainly one Mendes would have dined out on for a while. 5/5  

‘If only’ rating: 8/10

7. Rob Rensenbrink vs Argentina

Argentina 3-1(aet) Holland (1978 World Cup Final) June 25, 1978

The 1978 World Cup Final was one of the most hostile on record, so perhaps it was for the best that Rensenbrink missed this one. Lacking beauty but chock full of meaning, it was the kind of moment everyone dreams of when growing up. With the game level at 1-1 entering the dying seconds, the ball is hoofed between Argentina's defenders and finds its way to Rensenbrink. The Dutchman, confronted with a bouncing ball, a tight angle and an onrushing goalkeeper, nudges the ball goalwards, only to find his effort thumping the post. Argentina went on to win 3-1, leaving the Dutch with another unwanted runners-up medal. 

Kicking himself? Rensenbrink maintains in David Winner’s Brilliant Orange that it was a pretty tough chance, but he must regret not scoring the winner in a World Cup final. 5/5

‘If only’ rating: 10/10

8. Pedro vs Brazil

Brazil 3-0 Spain (2013 Confederations Cup Final) July 1, 2013

When Brazil beat Spain 3-0 it was seen as a watershed moment in international football, but it could have been very different had Pedro put his laces through the ball. With the game poised at 1-0, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres combined nicely to put Pedro in on the right. The Barça graduate went for finesse instead of all-out power, only for David Luiz to cut short the celebrations with a heroic goal-line clearance. "Only the Confederations Cup!" you say, but a key moment nonetheless. 

Kicking himself? Luiz’s clearance was a mixture of miracle and sheer desire. Pedro should probably have given it a bit more, though. 3/5

‘If only’ rating: 6/10


9. Dominic Adiyiah vs Uruguay

Ghana 1-1 Uruguay (2-4 on penalties) (2010 World Cup quarter finals) July 2, 2010

Another World Cup moment, and a Hollywood script, all in five minutes. With Ghana and Uruguay locked at 1-1, the game was heading to penalties when a supreme goalmouth scramble ensued. Dominic Adiyiah headed the ball past the otherwise-engaged Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera, only for Luis Suarez to slap the ball away with his hands. The referee dismissed him, awarded a penalty which Asamoah Gyan thwacked against the crossbar, and Ghana missed the chance to become the first African team to make the semi-finals of a World Cup after losing the ensuing shoot-out. 

Kicking himself? This goal would have meant so much; only a severe injustice prevented it. 5/5

‘If only’ rating: 9/10

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