Whack! Splat! Boom! Nick Moore revels in the finest strikes of USA 94; featuring a mad-dashing Saudi Arabian, El Diego (well, duh) and a Nigerian crawling like a dog...
1. Saeed Al-Owairan, Saudi Arabia vs Belgium
His nickname – "the Maradona of the Arabs" – was unimaginative, but it was certainly accurate: this was a fair take on the Argentine’s much-lauded wondergoal four years earlier against England.
Starting deep in his own half, Al-Owairan dashes upfield like a man possessed, beats five defenders with his fleet feet and pumps the ball past goalkeeper of the tournament Michel Preud’homme from an acute angle. This was once voted the sixth best World Cup goal of all time, but it’s hard to see how it doesn’t deserve joint top billing with Diego’s crowning moment.
2. Gheorghe Hagi, Romania vs Colombia
In a 2006 poll, Hagi was voted the 15th greatest Romanian of all time. The other 14 must have had some mean skills, because this was transcendental.
From a harmless position on the left wing, Hagi looks up to deliver a cross, but spots the keeper slightly out of position and chips neatly over his head into the top corner. Try doing that, influential poet and supposed third-best Romanian ever Mihai Eminescu!
3. Jürgen Klinsmann, Germany vs South Korea
Vintage Jürgen. He cleverly ghosts away from his South Korean marker into the heart of the box, and with his back to goal, receives an extremely quick ball just behind him.
His reaction is sublime: Klinsmann flicks the sphere up in the air with his right foot, swivels 180 degrees to face forward, and spanks it home with his jackhammer left. The energetic Teuton is celebrating by the corner flag before the Koreans have realised what’s happened.
4. Diego Maradona, Argentina vs Greece
He may have been more gakked up than Shaun Ryder on a stag weekend, but El Diez’s sole strike of the tournament before he departed in disgrace was worthy of the Maradona name.
He applies the finishing touch to a fine piece of team play: Basualdo and Batistuta ping-pong the ball through a gaggle of confused Greeks before their captain slams it home from the area’s edge. He celebrates with the kind of roar that makes Andy Murray’s war cry look like a yawning shrew. Brilliant, mental: Maradona in a nutshell.
5. Kennet Andersson, Sweden vs Brazil
He was 6ft 4in, but while Andersson could execute a towering header with the best of them, he was also living embodiment of the phrase “Good touch for a big lad”. This was a strike from a seemingly impossible position.
Andersson runs onto a cross-field pass at the far left-hand side of the area, with Brazilian defender and keeper well positioned. He controls it on his chest, lets the ball bounce, and then hits a perfect hybrid of volley and chip – with the outside of his boot! – over and across both his opponents.
6. Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria vs Mexico
The Bulgarian was so moody that it sometimes felt like he was punishing the ball for an unknown transgression against his family. Here, ‘The Dagger’ gave the offending sphere a spanking it would never forget.
Team-mate Ivaylo Yordanov wins it and spots Stoichkov giving it toes through the middle. The forward takes the pass, has a touch, then smashes it left-footed past the near post. The crackpot forward celebrates with some barmy air-boxing. Calm down, dear.
7. Branco, Brazil vs Holland
Before Roberto Carlos, another Brazilian left-back was notorious for unleashing scud missiles from set plays: Branco.
Here, with the game poised at 2-2, the seven members of the Dutch wall line up like firing squad victims as the snake-hipped Brazilian embarks on a run-up longer than Freddie Flintoff’s. When he finally arrives at his destination, Branco drills a swerving effort past wall, keeper and team-mates into the bottom left-hand corner. What’s Portuguese for ‘Wallop’?
8. Thomas Brolin, Sweden vs Romania
Now he's best known in England for waddling ineffectively around the Leeds United midfield in the late-’90s, but it’s easy to forget that at his peak Brolin was one of the best players in the world – and helped guide his nation to third place in this competition.
This inventive team free-kick proves the point. With the Romanian defence expecting a routine cross, Brolin scuttles from behind the wall onto a slide-rule pass and fires just under the bar from a narrow angle. Brainy.
9. Finidi George, Nigeria vs Greece
The Greeks witnessed some superb goals in the summer of 1994 – it was just a shame that they weren’t the ones scoring them. Nigeria’s gifted No.7 added to their woes here: picking up the ball from just outside the area, he guides a pinpoint chip over Adonis Minou. As if he hadn’t done enough to embarrass them, barmy Finidi then celebrates by crawling on all fours like a delighted puppy.
10. Ion Goikoetxea, Spain vs Germany
The unpronounceable Spanish midfielder had tongues twisting across the globe thanks to this deeply cheeky effort.
Out on the right wing and with a wealth of crossing options at his disposal, Goikoetxea instead opts to swerve in an incredible cross-cum-shot which ends up nestling in the far left-hand corner of the German net. It was a genuine "Did he mean that?" moment – but he claims he did, and for that, we can only salute the man who wisely chose to shorten his surname to ‘Goiko’.