Ranked! The 10 best goals of World Cup 2002

Matt Holland Cameroon
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5. Ilhan Mansiz, Turkey vs Senegal

At the start of extra-time in the quarter-finals between two sides that had entirely cancelled each other out over 90 minutes, this fixture already looked destined for penalties. But suddenly Umit Davala’s bazooka cross was turned in quite brilliantly by Ilhan, who shaped his body perfectly to fire home across the goalmouth into the far corner. 

Ilhan's strike was all the more important because it was a Golden Goal – the match ended immediately, with Turkey reaching the semis. A 32-man Turkish pile-up ensued, while Senegal’s dreamboat coach Metsu sulked like Michael Bolton with a faulty mouthpiece. Incredibly, Ilhan is now an internationally renowned figure skater.

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4. Nelson Cuevas, Paraguay vs Slovenia

One of the glories of the World Cup, certainly in the pre-broadband era, was witnessing preposterously talented South Americans like Cuevas that you’d never seen play (unless you happened to have popped over for a River Plate match or international fixture in Asuncion).

Here, Cuevas got the ball 30 yards out, danced around his marker until he was woozy, skipped past the advances of a retreating Slovenian, evaded another lumpen challenge and pumped an unstoppable strike past the keeper, grazing the underside of the bar artfully just because he can. A thing of beauty from a wing marvel who curiously once trained with Portsmouth.

3. Francisco Arce, Paraguay vs South Africa

There were some absolutely terrific free-kicks at World Cup 2002 (Roberto Carlos hit a traditional blockbuster against China, and Spain’s Gaizka Mendieta angled a pearler against South Africa), but Chiqui Arce’s cheeky effort against South Africa took the biscuit. 

Watch and learn, kids: Arce (“it’s pronounced Ar-saaaay, actually...”) sculpted a pinpoint right-foot swinger into the top corner. “We practised free-kicks so much, we must have had a 60% success rate,” said the notorious dead-ball specialist afterwards. “It went into an area that made it impossible to save.”

2. Dario Rodriguez, Uruguay vs Denmark

Denmark beat Uruguay 2-1, with Jon Dahl Tomasson named man of the match for two crisp strikes up the other end – but Rodriguez’s wicked finish is the one that lives long in the memory. 

Alvaro Recoba’s corner was cleared by the Danish defence, juggled by Pablo Garcia and looped over to looming left back D-Rod, who caught it plum to larrup home from 25 yards. Along with Forlan’s strike, this was a rare highlight of a poor World Cup for Uruguay, who went out in the group. 

1. Edmilson, Brazil vs Costa Rica

One of the greatest strikes of any World Cup, full stop, in one of 2002’s best games. The ball into the box is a little bit non-league: Junior’s meek cross deflected off a Costa Rican shin and looped innocuously towards goalkeeper Erick Lonnis’s near post.

But Edmilson’s improvisation was world class: with his back to goal, he executed a 180-degree mid-air twist to catch the ball perfectly at head height in an overhead kick that morphed balletically into a volley. 

The game ended 5-2 to Brazil, who eventually won the tournament. The defensive midfielder had never scored for the Seleção before, and would never do so again – but this one was worth 50 tap-ins.