Argentina versus Mexico, World Cup 2006. Mexico had scored in the fifth minute and Argentina answered five minutes after that. Eighty minutes of level, even play followed and the score remained tied up, one goal each, when the final whistle sounded on regulation time and the match moved into the bonus period. Argentina controlled a volley of short, grounded passes, setting up this spectacular goal to follow.
It begins typically enough. The ball is played across the Argentinian half from the left foot of Juan Sorin, the midfielder positioned in the left wing. Sorin bends his pass slightly to the right, applying spin to his pass by bending his left toe around toward the front of the ball to send it traveling in the air cross field to the top right corner of the goal box, where Maxi Rodriguez, positioned in the midfield as the right wing, is running fast to be in position to control the cross.
The ball’s bend allows Rodriguez to lean slightly into the approaching ball, throwing his left shoulder around and bringing his chest out to meet the pass and bump it neatly into the air in front of him.
There’s a Mexican fullback positioned nearby and the Mexican sweeper responds quickly, approaching from Rodriguez’s left. But it’s hard to notice the defense at all unless you’re asked to: far more eye-catching is Rodriguez’s deftly controlled movements to place him quickly in position for a strong strike at the ball: a stutter-step with his right foot, he catches his balance with his left just long enough to re-plant his right and make a strike on the volley.
He hits the ball with the outside of his left foot (his weak shooting foot), putting spin that results in a slight bend to the left. His shot slips out of reach of the frantically diving goalkeeper, catching the side net in the goal with convincing velocity. A perfect shot.
Watch how Rodriguez is involved in action on the Mexican half of the field not 15 seconds before the goal. He trots down the right wing completely unmarked until Sorin sends the ball his way, perfectly timing his run so as not to pick up defensive coverage from a Mexican fullback before he can be spotted for a pass.
- Peter Wolfgang