It’s nearly the end of 2016, which means it’s time for the yearly slog of “awards”.
Mixed amongst the clutter of player and manager of the year awards, is perhaps the hardest award of the year to decide: Goal of the Year.
For FIFA, the Goal of the Year award takes the form of the Puskas award. Each year, FIFA whittles down the thousands upon thousands of goals into what they tell you are the top 10.
Then the 10 will be voted down to three, and those three to one, the goal of the year.
While it’s pretty clear that FIFA is climbing an uphill battle in claiming that they determine the “goal of the year” (after all, there are countless goals that didn’t make the shortlist that feel pretty deserving) it’s a fun award that lets us take joy from some fantastic goals one more time before turning the calendar to 2017.
With all of that in mind, I decided to rank the 10 shortlisted finalists in order to help you, the fan, vote for the best goal.
10. Hal Robson Kanu, Wales v. Belgium.
When deciding what the best goal of the year should be, there are a lot of categories, and a lot of debate. When deciding which of these 10 is the least best goal of the year, there is no debate.
This isn’t a “bad” goal necessarily, it might even be a “good” one but it’s far away from being a “great” one.
Robson Kanu has no business being anywhere near the final 10. It’s a fine goal that came in a big moment for his country, but it belongs nowhere in the conversation for “best goal of the year”
9. Hlompho Kekana, South Africa v. Cameroon
I love goals from distance. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a keeper stranded on an island desperately running back to his goal only to see the ball float over his head and in. It’s a terrific moment whenever it happens.
That being said, as fun as this goal is, I don’t know that it’s the “best”. Yes, that is quite the distance to score from, but Kekana simply gives this one a long drive to catch a keeper napping. It’s fun, it’s even humorous, but it’s not the “best”.
8. Lionel Messi, Argentina v. United States:
Incredible. That’s the only word for this piece of brilliance from Messi. But it’s not higher for me because even though it’s a perfectly placed free-kick right into the upper 90, it’s a free-kick that with the right goalkeeper could have been saved.
That’s not to say it should have been saved, but if Brad Guzan doesn’t take a brief step guessing to his right, he has a shot to get a hand on this.
Again, it’s a beautiful free-kick, but when we’re deciding the best, even the smallest hint of a goalkeeping error helping you out means it’ll be tough to win in my book.
7. Daniuska Rodríguez, Venezuela u-17 v. Colombia:
This is a really powerful bit of individual skill from Rodríguez, but I’m afraid she benefits a bit too much from defensive incompetence for my liking.
Yes she displays tremendous skills, and yes it’s a terrific finish, but at the end of the day it feels like the defending was just a bit too poor for this goal to win the title, or even crack the top 5.
6. Simon Skrabb, Atvidaberg v. Gefle:
The age-old debate in determining the greatness of goals centres around luck versus skill. How much of Skrabb’s scorpion kick dagger into the corner of the net is luck, and how much of it is skill?
Clearly, based on his dive, his intention is to scorpion this cross into the back of the net. That said, I’m not sure how much of this is credit to Skrabb, and how much of this is simply due to his foot ending up in the right place at the right time.
Look, it’s an impressive goal, but that doubt of whether it was truly skill or not leaves it just outside the top 5 for me.
5. Saúl Ñíguez, Atlético Madrid v. Bayern Munich:
If this were a “best run” competition, Saúl might win. Receiving the ball just outside the centre circle and working past (by my count) 5 defenders from one of the best squads in Europe is top class.
But this is a best goal competition, and while the run is impressive, and the finish good, it’s not “goal of the year” quality.
While I’m a fan of the run, the finish itself is merely great, not incredible. Bonus points for beating Manuel Neuer, but I need a bit more from my finishes to give you my vote.
4. Marlone, Corinthians v. Cobresal:
If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for the Copa Libertadores.
FIFA including a goal from that competition warms my heart, and it’s a pretty impressive one here from Marlone.
Where this goal loses points is in the fact that Marlone is able to reset himself after the initial touch from his chest, before he slots home the volley.
It’s a great bit of skill to take the ball down in that manner, and it’s a great bit of skill to volley that ball home, but the extra second while the ball hangs is enough for me to leave this outside my top 3.
Still, what a hit.
3. Mohd Faiz Subri, Pulau Pinang v. Pahang:
We’ve discussed free-kicks, and we’ve discussed strikes from distance. What happens when the two get combined together to form a super-goal? Well that goal makes the top three.
Subri somehow manages to spin this one past the opposing goalkeeper after floating it in the air. There is so little to criticise about this goal.
At this point I’m merely picking nits, and the fact that this came from a free-kick knocks it down just that slightest step.
2. Mario Gaspar, Spain v. England:
What makes Mario Gaspar’s effort so impressive is his turn to get behind this ball before volleying it past Joe Hart.
He somehow manages to contort his entire body, and is able to spin around the ball in in order to send it towards goal. I could watch him spin and hit this thing all day, I really could!
It’s an incredible goal. The only reason this goal sits at number two and not number one is because I think number one adds in a bit more sheer beauty. That said, if you vote for Gaspar, I won’t be able to complain.
1. Neymar, Barcelona v. Villarreal:
Neymar has won this award before. Neymar is one of the greatest footballers in the world.
He really doesn’t need another piece of hardware. BUT. THIS. GOAL. IS. THAT. GOOD.
Neymar basically does what Marlone did: chest a ball before volleying it home, but he decides to add in a chapéu for good measure. That’s right, he chests a ball down, flicks it over his defender, then slots home on the volley. AND I DIDN’T EVEN MENTION THAT THE FLICK OVER CAME WITH HIS BACK HEEL.
There is so much skill on display in this goal. So many incredible feats put back-to-back that this is the goal that deserves your vote.
This competition featured 8 impressive goals, 1 dud (sorry Hal) and 1 utterly magnificent piece of magic. Neymar deserves this award, not because he’s the best, but because this goal is.