Timing, as they say, is everything. Yet so often our greatest moments are sullied by prematurity or tardiness; the brilliant riposte to a tormentor that comes to mind forty minutes after an argument, the thirty-yard putt holed on the practice green. Footballers, too, experience the very same frustration; sometimes, acts of genius simply don’t get the recognition that they deserve. With that in mind, Jack Lang presents eight superb goals wasted in meaningless friendly matches…
1. MICHAEL OWEN vs Hangzhou Greentown
Let’s start at the end and work back. Michael Owen’s finish is a brilliant one; controlled and accurate, giving the Greentown goalkeeper no chance.
His first touch is similarly immaculate. The beauty of the goal, however, is in its conception. This is a bona fide instance of what critics are calling Berbarotica, an authentic crystallisation of all that The Toff stands for.
Setting aside his snuff box and cane for an instant, our 18th Century man of leisure dollies the ball up for himself, before flicking a visionary pass over the defence to his onrushing strike partner.
As Owen celebrates, The Toff settles down in front of a warm fire at his stately home, content with his evening’s work.
2. YOSSI BENAYOUN vs Wycombe Wanderers
How do you even describe this goal? A series of juggled backheels followed by a lob? Three consecutive scorpion kicks? Benayoun’s glorious individual strike truly defies portrayal by the written word.
It also suggests that, when not at training or playing in matches, Yossi is a committed proponent of the hacky sack as a tool to improve one’s touch. Students everywhere rejoice.
3. JOHN ARNE RIISE vs Celtic
Now this is more like it! Yes, the finish is a decent one, straight from the Roberto Carlos school of hopeful smashes.
What makes this video genuinely special, however, is the attendant American soccer shtick. Firstly, there’s the fantastic “I’ve started so I’ll finish” mentality behind extending the word “Riise” over what feels like a fortnight. “There’s literally no way that ending this syllable and starting a new one can adequately convey the excitement of this moment.”
But things get even better, with the utterance of “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” Simply put, there just aren’t enough commentators willing to use hyperbolic mythical metaphor to describe goals. And that is something that we all should be very sad about.
4. FILIPPO INZAGHI vs Barcelona
...in which Super Pippo, The World’s Greatest Poacher©, demonstrates that he does exist outside the confines of the six-yard box.
Clarence Seedorf’s cross-field ball, although impressive in its conception, leaves our protagonist with plenty of work to do; the ball dropping over his shoulder, and onto his weaker left foot.
Inzaghi, however, is unperturbed. Hurdling joyously into the Catalonian air, Pippo unleashes an impeccable volley, bending the ball beyond José “Whistler’s Mother” Pinto and into the top corner.
Also noteworthy is the appallingly lifeless commentary; Inzaghi’s strike is welcomed with deafening silence. A goal of this quality surely deserved, at the very least, an incoherent proclamation of glee.
5. DIDIER DROGBA vs AC Milan
Football is all about subtlety, tactical warfare, and careful, patient build-up. On occasion, though, it’s also about simply clobbering the ball into the net from 25-yards out.
This goal, from Didier Drogba, represents the game at its corporeal best; it is a feat of raw physical brutality, one that no meticulously calibrated defensive line could even hope to stop.
6. THIERRY HENRY vs SC Wiez
The first thing one notices here is that Philippe Senderos actually manages to find a teammate with a pass more than eight metres in length.
That, in itself, warrants praise. What follows, however, is truly delightful, even by Thierry Henry’s absurdly high standards. Instant control with his chest is followed by a nonchalant flick past an unsuspecting defender.
One casual waft of his left foot later, and the ball nestles in the corner of the net. Magnifique.
7. CHRIS EAGLES vs Shenzhen
Ignore the commentator’s inexplicable bafflement at the concept of the loan system. Ignore the fact that Shenzhen appear to be in the midst of some self-initiated Defensive Charity Hour. Ignore the fact that the assist may well be accidental. Simply revel in the purity of that volley.
8. ZINEDINE ZIDANE vs Tokyo Verdy
When you channel footballing godliness as frequently as Zizou did, some of your masterpieces are bound to be left rotting in the bargain bins. This goal, however, deserves to be dusted off.
A pirouette, a stepover, and a semi-scuffed poke into the corner, all with just two touches. Verdy good indeed (sorry...).