Football’s folklore


Argentina 2-1 England – 1986 World Cup Quarter-Final

Few individuals have ever stood out at the World Cup quite like Diego Maradona did in 1986. This game in particular saw not only one of the greatest ever goals in the tournaments history, but also one of the most controversial.

Maradona gave his side the lead in the 51st minute courtesy of this infamous goal. England’s Steve Hodge miskicked a clearance which managed to float into the box, supposedly meeting the head of the oppositions star man. English players and management were furious when the goal was allowed, feeling he could not have beaten the significantly taller Peter Shilton in the air without the use of his hand. This proved to be the case as photographic evidence hit televisions and newspapers across the world, a goal since dubbed “The Hand of God”, or perhaps as then England manager Bobby Robson put it, “The Hand of a rascal.”

Maradona's Hand of God goal

Maradona’s Hand of God goal

Three minutes later, Maradona doubled Argentina’s lead with the “The Goal of the Century” when he bombed forward from his own half, skipping past five England players, including the goalkeeper, before slotting home. Normally, a goal of this quality would be the highlight of any game, but almost 27 years later, the goal that broke the deadlock remains the biggest talking point of this quarter-final.

Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich – 1999 Champions League Final

Injury time in the Camp Nou stadium, the ribbons are already being placed on the trophy as Bayern Munich look set to lift the European Cup for the fourth time, but in typical Manchester United fashion there would be a late twist as the Germans failed to sufficiently deal with a David Beckham corner. The ball eventually found its way to the feet of Teddy Sheringham who struck to make it 1-1, extra time surely. But amazingly, there was still time for more drama in the remaining two and a half minutes. Bayern kicked off, but United immediately forced another corner which Beckham also took. Sheringham got his head to the ball to nod it onto Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who poked into the roof of Oliver Kahn’s net to secure the Red Devils first European title in over 30 years. Many football fans hail this as the greatest European Final of all time, but six years later there would be another clash to rival, if not top the drama which unfolded in this game.

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan – 2005 Champions League Final

In Rafael Benitez’s first season at Anfield, he really appeared to defy all the odds as he guided his side to the 2005 Champions League Final, eliminating the likes of Chelsea and Juventus along the way. The Reds got off to a nightmare start in Istanbul when veteran defender Paolo Maldini broke the deadlock for AC Milan within the opening minute, followed by a Hernan Crespo brace just before half-time as Milan looked to already have it in the bag, but it wasn’t to be.

Steven Gerrard pulled a goal back nine minutes into the second-half, but they soon had more than a glimmer of hope when substitute Vladimir Smicer struck from range two minutes later to bring Liverpool to within a goal of pulling off what look unlikely just 15 minutes earlier. As the game approached the hour mark, Liverpool were gifted a chance to level the score at 3-3 when Genaro Gattuso appeared to take Steven Gerrard down in the box. Despite seeing his initial effort saved, Xabi Alonso made no mistake on the rebound as he ensured his side completed the comeback. Both sets of fans will have already had their nails bitten off by the time Jerzy Dudek somehow denied Andriy Shevchenko with an astonishing double save to force this game into penalties. Liverpool put themselves in pole position with a 2-0 lead in penalties through Didi Hamann and Djibril Cisse, while Serginho and Andrea Pirlo failed to convert theirs. As with earlier penalties, Dudek did a little shimmy on his line to throw a nervy Shevchenko off and it may well have worked as he denied the Ukranian to seal Liverpool’s place in history with their fifth Champions League trophy, an ending few could have predicted at half-time.

France 1-1 Republic of Ireland – 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

One of the most recognisable images to Irish sports fans in recent years

One of the most recognisable images to Irish sports fans in recent years

We’ve already talked about ‘The Hand of God’, now we look at something which the Irish media dubbed ‘Le Hand of Frog’. After falling 1-0 behind in the first leg to a Nicholas Anelka goal, the Republic of Ireland forced their World Cup qualifier with France into extra-time in Paris through a Robbie Keane strike. A 103rd minute goal for William Gallas was heavily protested by the Irish players who, as it turned out, had every right to feel agrieved as Thierry Henry visibly handled the ball before squaring it to the centre-back to tap-in. The referee and two assistants missed this, as well as two French players in an offside position. This game was followed by calls from the FAI for a replay, then the more embarrassing request of the Republic of Ireland being included in the 2010 competition as a 33rd team, however FAI Chief Executive John Delaney has insisted this was never actually seriously proposed to FIFA.

Atletico Nacional 2-2 Olimpia – 1989 Copa Libertadores Final

During the late 1980s, Columbian football was growing in popularity and quality, and after previous failed attempts by other clubs, 1989 was Atletico Nacional’s turn to become the first Columbian side to win the Copa Libertadores if they could beat Olimpia of Paraguay. El Verde got off to a disappointing start as they found themselves trailing 2-0 from the first-leg courtesy of goals from Rafael Bobadilla and Vidal Sanabria, but it was an Olimpia player who got the Columbian’s back into the tie in the second-leg when Fidel Mino turned a cross from the right into own net just seconds after the beginning of the second half. The momentum was now with Nacional as they pushed for an equaliser, and their constant pressure finally paid off when Albeiro Usuriaga headed home goal number two to send the game to extra-time and eventually penalties. Rene Higuita was outstanding in the penalty shoot-out, saving four of Olimpia’s nine spot-kicks, but it was Leonel Alvarez who would take the all important penalty as he sent Ever Hugo Almeida the wrong way. This penalty would spark the golden, yet controversial, era of Columbian football during the early 90s.

Portugal 5-3 North Korea – 1966 World Cup Quarter-Final

Following a shock 2-1 victory over Italy in the Group Stages to secure their passage to the Quarter-Finals of the 1966 World Cup, the unfancied North Korean team looked well on their way to causing another massive upset when they put three goals past Portugal in the opening 25 minutes of their quarter-final tie. This Portuguese team was talented, but among them there was one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest, Eusebio. With his side now more than ever relying on him to get them out of an embarrassing situation, he provided one of the greatest individual performances of all time. Two goals before half-time was followed by three more in the second-half, all scored by the striker, as they ended the game with a 5-3 scoreline to end the dreams of a North Korean side whose name will forever be in the annals of World Cup history.

Eusebio in action during one of his finest hours

Eusebio in action during one of his finest hours

Sligo Rovers 3-2 St. Patrick’s Athletic – League of Ireland 2012

Last season’s Airtricity League title decider had absolutely everything. Sligo Rovers, who could win the title with victory over St. Patrick’s Athletic on the day, found themselves 2-0 up at half-time with a terrific brace from Raffael Cretaro. The second half saw The Saints get right back into the tie as goals from Christy Fagan and Chris Forrester leveled the tie with about half an hour to go. The visitors almost completed the comeback through Anto Flood, whose effort struck the crossbar. With less than five minutes remaining, Rovers were rewarded a controversial penalty when the referee felt that Conor Kenna had handled the ball in the box, a decision which looked very harsh on replays of the incident. In-form striker and former Pat’s man Mark Quigley stepped up and made no mistake as he beat Barry Murphy with a confident effort. As the game neared its conclusion in injury-time, there was still time for more late drama as a scuffle among players from both sides resulted in Sean O’Connor and Danny Ventre both being sent-off for their part in it. Just moments later, Dave McKeon blew the whistle, sending The Showgrounds into raptures as the home side secured their first Premier Division title in 35 years.

Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid – 2006/07 La Liga

Although it may not be the greatest El Clasico of all-time, it did prove to be an important game for one rising star as a 19-year-old Lionel Messi well and truly announced himself to the football world with a hat-trick against Madrid, a feat accomplished by very few in this fixture, but for a player of his age and experience to do it was simply stunning. This season was also a massive opportunity for Messi to make his mark as a star player at the Nou Camp when Ronaldinho’s rapid decline in quality began, the club needed a new star and they certainly had one in this product of their youth academy.

Barca fell behind three times through a first-half Rudd Van Nistelrooy brace and a Ramos 72nd minute goal, but the little Argentine replied to each, and secured the point in dramatic fashion when he made it 3-3 after 88 minutes. It was a big season for his impressive progression with the first team, but unfortunately he could not top it off with the League title as Madrid won it based on head to head performances after both teams finished the season on 76 points.

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