Mario Götze brought the curtain down on one of the greatest World Cups of all time with a superb winning goal in extra time to beat Argentina. The strike brought the goal tally for Brazil 2014 to 171, equaling the record set in France 1998. Several of them were spectacular, with these five the pick of the bunch.
James Rodríguez (Colombia 2-0 Uruguay, Round of 16)
James Rodríguez was to secure the World Cup’s Golden Boot with six goals and had already scored three of them through the group stage before his Colombia team met South American rivals Uruguay in the last 16. Against defensively focused opponents, the match was deadlocked heading to the half-hour point when the ball arrived at the chest of the supremely talented Monaco playmaker. In a blink of an eye he had controlled it perfectly before thumping a volley with peerless technique in off the underside of the crossbar.
Tim Cahill (Australia 2-3 Netherlands, Group Stage)
Little was expected of Australia at this World Cup and similarly little was expected from their 34-year-old veteran Tim Cahill, whose ever slowing legs were required to lead the line. Instead, Australia gave the Netherlands all they could handle in the second group game, helped by Cahill scoring in a third World Cup with a sensational strike. From a fine pass forward over the top of defense, Cahill set himself up and then met the ball impeccably with his left foot to send a volley soaring into the back of the net. It was a breathtaking strike that came out of nowhere.
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Robin van Persie (Netherlands 5-1 Spain, Group Stage)
The Netherlands’ 5-1 destruction of world champions Spain was the game that truly kick-started a great group stage and Van Persie’s equalizer right before half time the catalyst. Danny Blind’s chipped pass from the touchline had plenty to marvel at as he caught out a terribly flat-footed Spanish defense. But Van Persie still had an awful lot to do as the ball angled to meet his run just inside the penalty area. Rather than take a touch, he capitalized on Iker Casillas being stranded out of his goal and launched himself horizontally before looping a majestic header over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net.
Lionel Messi (Argentina 1-0 Iran, Group Stage)
His free-kick against Nigeria may have been better, but it was his strike against Iran that embodied much of his and Argentina’s World Cup. For more than 90 minutes he had been shackled by diligent opposition and, with none of his teammates able to step up, the match remained goalless. Then came a trademark Messi moment, as he picked the ball up 30 yards out, showed incredible close control while dribbling at speed to bypass two players before placing a shot beyond the goalkeeper.
Mario Götze (Germany 1-0 Argentina, Final)
In a great World Cup one of the best goals was saved for last. Götze had been dropped from the team midway through the tournament, but came off the bench in the final to produce a brilliant and most decisive piece of brilliance. André Schürrle’s cross was excellent, allowing Götze to chest it into his path. From a tight angle and with the final still goalless deep into extra time he still had an awful lot to do in a match characterized by poor finishing. Defying the pressure of the occasion, the Bayern Munich star produced a stylish volley past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero to land Germany their first World Cup trophy in 24 years.