A soccer year that has included the high points of the Women’s World Cup, Copa America, a thrilling Champions League climax and plenty more is almost at an end. Along the way there have been some memorable goals, many from the sport’s biggest stars, but some from players who secured themselves 15 minutes of fame.
Here’s a look at 10 of the best goals from 2015.
Lionel Messi (BARCELONA vs. Athletic Bilbao, May 30)
This was the year where the greatest player of his generation returned to his very best, producing moments of individual brilliance like this magical goal in the Copa del Rey final. It contained so much of what makes Messi so good, cutting in from his position on the right, the Argentine displays a balance and control of the ball perhaps unmatched in the history of the game. And when he gets into a shooting position, he is unwavering with his finish. Quite simply a genius.
Alessandro Florenzi (ROMA vs. Barcelona, Sep. 16)
It takes something special to go up against Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and co. and upstage them. And that’s what Roma’s versatile Florenzi did in a Champions League clash at the Stadio Olimpico earlier this season. Coming forward down the touchline from his right-back role, the Italy international got just past halfway, looked up and struck an inch-perfect shot over the head of the stranded Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Robert Lewandowski (BAYERN MUNICH vs. Wolfsburg, Sep. 22)
The goal itself is special enough. As Philipp Lahm delivers a ball toward the edge of the box, Poland international Robert Lewandowski watches the ball intensely before adjusting his body and leaping to connect perfectly with a midair volley and send the ball flying into the Wolfsburg net. But the fact that it was the Bayern Munich striker’s fifth goal in just nine minutes means it is more than deserving of a place on any end-of-year list.
Carli Lloyd (USA vs. Japan, July 5)
To score a goal as good as this is achievement enough, but to do it in a World Cup final ensures it will be forever immortalized. The showpiece occasion in Vancouver between the U.S. and holders Japan already had everyone rubbing their eyes in disbelief, as the Americans took a 3-0 lead inside 14 minutes. But two minutes later the U.S. really was in dreamland when Lloyd completed her hat-trick with a spectacular 50-yard lob.
Lionel Messi (BARCELONA vs. Bayern Munich, March 6)
Poor Jerome Boateng. The Bayern Munich man had been enjoying the finest season of his career and truly establishing himself as one of the world’s premier defenders. But Messi left him prone on his back and the subject of a thousand internet memes. Again it’s Messi’s mastery of the ball that amazes, leaving Boateng completely dumbfounded before the Barcelona star then dinks a shot over the world’s best goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, with his weaker right foot.
Wendell Lira (GOIANESIA vs. Atletico Goianiense, Mar. 11)
When Wendell Lira was first told he had been nominated for FIFA’s Puskas award, he admits he thought it was a prank. For a player plying his trade in Brazil’s third tier and whose goal had come in the local championship in the state of Goiás, such a reaction was understandable. But his effort more than warrants its place among such illustrious company. And it’s not just the quality of Lira’s brilliant acrobatic strike either, but the exceptional passing play that preceded it.
Neymar (BARCELONA vs. Villarreal, Nov. 8)
His incredible talent has been evident for some time, but it was in 2015 that Neymar stepped up to become one of the very brightest stars in world soccer. And it was during a two-month injury absence for Lionel Messi earlier this season that the Brazilian really came of age, including producing this piece of instinctive brilliance as he lifts the ball over his and a defender’s head before turning and volleying into the net.
Eduardo Vargas (CHILE vs. Peru, June 29)
Eduardo Vargas has had a patchy club career, failing to sparkle in spells at Napoli, Valencia, Queens Park Rangers and now Hoffenheim, but his appearances for Chile have been a different story. Never more was that evident than during this season’s Copa America when the lively forward’s goals helped his country secure their first ever title. He scored twice in the semifinal against Peru, including this stunning goal from distance to put Chile in the final.
Bobby Zamora (QPR vs. West Brom, April 4)
That this goal happened on the same weekend as Charlie Adam’s strike from the halfway line for Stoke City against Chelsea and that it was scored by someone who doesn’t have a star name, perhaps led to it getting less attention than it certainly warranted. While Queens Park Rangers would ultimately be relegated from the Premier League, this was the undoubted high point of their season as the journeyman striker struck a audacious lob from a ridiculous angle with the outside of his boot.
Diego Cortés (MEXICO U17 vs. Nigeria U17, Nov. 5)
It may have been at Under-17 level, but this goal from Mexican Cortés would make any senior star proud. With Mexico 2-1 down to Nigeria in the semifinals of the U-17 World Cup in Chile, the midfielder picked up the ball out on the right and slalomed from one foot to the next past five defenders before calmly supplying the finish. It was a goal that brought back memories of the fine incredible individual efforts of Messi and Diego Maradona. Whether Cortés reaches anywhere near their level remains to be seen, but he will always have this goal to look back upon.