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10 incredible goals wasted in meaningless friendlies

Zinedine Zidane
(Image credit: Getty)

Friendlies aren't the most exciting thing in the world: that's why football invented the transfer window and kit releases, after all. Most fans probably couldn't tell you where the training camp is - let alone who their sides are playing in preseason.

But every now and then, something amazing happens in an otherwise pointless exercise before the season begins. The only man to win three World Cups, Pele, scored most of his goals in friendlies: if they were good enough him, really, they should be good enough for anyone on this list. 

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So just bear these 10 strikes in mind when you're wondering whether it's worth tuning in to see your side take on a local conference outfit - or whoever it might be...

1. Radamel Falcao vs America de Cali

Falcao might not have impressed at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge (no thanks to his physio fetish), but El Tigre proved himself capable of stonking home net-busters like this either side of those disheartening spells in England. This one was casually dispatched in a May 2012 friendly for Atletico Madrid in his native Colombia.

Falcao had absolutely no right to attempt an effort on goal after eyeing up Diego's drifted corner, but with his back to goal 16 yards out, the striker launched legs over head to rifle an obscene overhead kick into the top corner. Filthy. 

2. Michael Owen vs Hangzhou Greentown

Let’s start at the end and work back: Owen’s finish is a good one, controlled and accurate, giving the Greentown goalkeeper no chance. His first touch was similarly immaculate, as Manchester United went all Harlem Globetrotters on the Chinese side in July 2009.  

The beauty of the goal, however, is in its conception. This is a bona fide instance of Berbarotica, an authentic crystallisation of all that the Bulgarian stands for.

Setting aside his snuff box and cane for an instant, our 18th century man of leisure dollies the ball up for himself, attracting no fewer than six Greentown players like bees to a particularly beautiful flower. Then he clips a delicate pass over the defence to help set up an onrushing Nani to cross in. Seven minutes later, The Toff scored himself (with an unneccessarily sideways volley); United ended up 8-2 winners before our elegant hero settled down in front of a warm fire at his stately home, content with the evening’s work. 

3. 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 in Chelsea's opening pre-season friendly of 2011 defies description 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.

4. John Arne Riise vs Celtic

Now, this is more like it. Yes, the finish is a good 'un, straight from the Roberto Carlos school of hopeful smashes, as Liverpool set about demolishing Celtic 5-1 in a July 2004 friendly. 

What makes this footage 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 scream of “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” 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.

5. Harry Kane vs Juventus

Do this at the Euros against Scotland and you win Goal of the Tournament. Do it against Juventus in a preseason friendly and it's easily forgotten.

Harry Kane may have provided plenty of moments, for club and country, to surpass exquisite halfway line lob but it's still (probably) the greatest goal he's ever scored. That it won the game made it even sweeter - and that it was scored against an ex-Arsenal keeper? Even better. 

6. Filippo Inzaghi vs Barcelona

Super Pippo, The World’s Greatest Poacher©, uses an August 2010 friendly at the Camp Nou to demonstrate that he did 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 – what with the ball dropping over his shoulder, and onto his weaker left foot. Inzaghi, however, is unperturbed. Hurdling joyously into the Catalonian air, he unleashes an impeccable volley, bending the ball beyond Jose 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 awe. As Super Pippo told FourFourTwo: "I know I am remembered as a player who scored most of his goals from close range, but I think that this goal shows I could score spectacular ones as well." Indeed, sir. 

7. Didier Drogba vs 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 30 yards out.

This goal, from a 2009 pre-season friendly in Baltimore, 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.

8. Thierry Henry vs Weiz

The first thing you notice from this July 2005 friendly is that Philippe Senderos actually manages to find a team-mate with a pass more than eight metres in length.

That, in itself, warrants praise. What follows is truly delightful, however, even by 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. Staggering.

9. Chris Eagles vs Shenzhen

Another from a summer Manchester United tour to Asia, this one in 2007. 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. 

10. 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 August 2004 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 (we're not even sorry).

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