Of the 72 goals that were scored before the Sundays final in the 2012 European Championship,five strikes stood out. While a couple of them were crucial,the others werent as significant one,in fact,came after all was lost. But,their importance aside,all of them were those moments of pure brilliance that make football such a beautiful game.
Welbecks back heel
The Manchester United forward scored only once for England at the continental championship,but his goal was brilliant for its cunning and exquisite timing. With England and Sweden tied at 2-2 in the 78th minute of their June 15 group stage match,winger Theo Walcott sent in a cross. His back to the goal,Welbeck met the ball with his right leg and flicked it behind him with his heel,stunning Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson. A top five pick because the 21-year-old Welbecks execution was astounding and the goal secured the win for England.
ZLATANs parting shot
Sweden were already eliminated when they played France on June 19 in Group D,but their towering frontman was determined to go out with a bang. With a roundhouse kick Bruce Lee would have been proud of,Ibrahimovic met Sebastian Larssons cross and threw himself nearly sideways in the air to volley the ball with his right boot past Hugo Lloris. Thumping.
Poetry in Motion
Controlling the ball 12 meters out,the nippy Spain and Manchester City midfielder David Silva faced a seemingly impenetrable wall of three Ireland defenders blocking his route to goal. So he improvised,dancing right then left before hitting the ball with pinpoint precision past one defender,through the legs of two others,and just beyond a diving goal-keeper Shay Given. It was Spains second goal in a 4-0 win Group C on June 14. Laser-like.
When Alessandro Diamanti swung in a 90th minute corner,two of Mario Balotellis mates ran in to attack it,drawing with them a couple of defenders. The forward,who had hung back,had just the attentions of defender John OShea to deal with,but still had a lot to do. For one,he was positioned with his back to the goal and with OSheas arms more or less wrapped around him,he would not also have been able to turn around in time. As it happened,he didnt have to. Bracing himself against the grappling defender and still facing the other way around,the striker waited for the ball to arrive and swung his foot around. In the blink of an eye the volley flew past OShea and keeper Shay Given,neither of them having the time to react. Deft and skillful.
Having the gall to softly chip a penalty over a diving goalkeeper,rather than firing to his left or right,is such the height of cool that this technique is named after its pioneer,Antonin Panenka. He used it to win the 1976 European Championship for Czechoslovakia against West Germany in a penalty shootout. At Euro 2012,Andrea Pirlo did it in Italys quarterfinal shootout victory over England,and Sergio Ramos performed a panenka again,to help defending champion Spain beat Portugal in their semifinal penalty shootout. Brave,beautiful,both.