Archive | August, 2012

Top 50 Big Game Scorers – 30-21

20 Aug

The countdown continues from 30 through to 21. This ten feature four players still active(ish), and some all time greats. For 40-31, click HERE

Cristiano Ronaldo makes the Top 50 Big Game Scorers – ahead of Lionel Messi…..for now

30. Sandro Mazzola (Italy) 1960-1977 / 15 points – 6 goals

Son of the great Valentino Mazzola of Torino and sadly the Superga air disaster, Sandro Mazzola was a great in his own right. Part of ‘Le Grande Inter’, he had a massive impact on the golden era of Inter Milan under Helanio Herrera. Despite the defensive tactics employed by the team, Mazzola was a regular scorer from the outside right position and especially so in the European Cup. An integral part of Inter’s run of three finals in four years from 1964-67, he scored some of the most crucial goals in that time. Facing European giants Real Madrid complete with Di Stefano, Amaro, Gento and Puskas in the 1964 Final, Mazzola was the difference with two goals in a famous 3-1 win, coming after his two goals in the Semi finals put Inter through against Borussia Dortmund. A year later, it was Mazzola’s away goal in the semi final away to Liverpool that made the difference on aggregate as the Italians defended their crown. Fast forward to 1967 and Mazzola scored in the final again although this time it would end in defeat to the Lisbon Lions of Celtic.

29. Pieter Robert (Rob) Rensenbrink (Netherlands) 1965-1982 / 15 points – 6 goals

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed Kurt Hamrin’s pretty impressive four goal tally in UEFA Cup Winners Cup Finals – in fact it’s the joint highest in the history of the competition. Joint with Rob Rensenbrink. The left winger took an unusual career path, when you see a Dutch player from the 70′s featuring on this list then there’s a good chance he was part of the great Ajax team. Oh no. Rensenbrink played for AFC Door Wilskracht Sterk in Holland from 1965 to 1969 before moving to FC Brugge in Belgium. Surprise number two is that he joined big rivals FC Anderlecht after just two seasons. And it’s with Anderlecht that he shone – winning the Belgian league twice, as well as the Belgian Cup, and most importantly for this list, two Cup Winners Cup medals. In the 1976 Final, it was Rensenbrink that scored twice to deny West Ham their second European trophy in a 4-2 win. A defeat the following season in the Final was forgotten just a year later as they defeated Austria Vienna 4-0 with Rensenbrink scoring the all important first and second goals. His other big game entries came in the Final Group stages of the 1974 and 1978 World Cups where he scored against East Germany and Austria respectively. He could however have been a lot higher up the list and in the list of greats had it not been for a few inches. The 1978 World Cup final was stuck at 1-1 with hosts Argentina competing with Holland. Resenbrink was able to play in his preferred wide left of the front three due to Cruyff’s absence. With just 30 seconds left, this happened:

A few inches to the right and Rensenbrink would have scored the winning goal for the first time in Holland’s history and finished as the tournament’s top scorer. Instead, people talk about how they would have won it with Cruyff. Football can be a cruel game. In the words of Jan Mulder, his Holland and Anderlecht team mate “Robbie Rensenbrink was as good as Cruyff, only in his mind he was not”.

28. Hernan Crespo (Argentina) 1993-Present / 15 points – 6 goals

Now onto someone a bit more current – just. Hernan Crespo is currently a free agent (at the time of writing) after leaving Parma, though aged 37 it’s just a matter of time before he hangs up the boots. Perhaps, understandably compared to Argentine team mate Gabriel Batistuta, Crespo was once the holder of the World Record Transfer fee when he moved to Lazio for £35m in 2000. Famous for his off the ball movement, he was a clinical finisher and especially in the big games. Most notably in the 2005 Champions League Final, scoring two goals to put AC Milan 3-0 up. That didn’t end particularly well for him and his team mates, but his second goal was one of the best finishes seen on the big stage:

The previous year also saw him score in the semi final stage against Monaco for Chelsea, whilst in 1999 he scored the opening goal in the UEFA Cup Final as a star studded Parma team demolished Marseille 3-0. And to confirm his big game credentials, 1996 saw Crespo’s brace in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores Final to win the tournament for River Plate, for only the second time in their history. Final goals in three major competitions leaves his place in the list unquestioned.

27. Marcelo Delgado (Argentina) 1990-2010 / 15.5 points – 6 goals

Very much a Copa Libertadores specialist, Marcelo Delgado was not prolific striker (his 18 caps for Argentina produced no goals), but he was very much a man for the big occasion. Only two men in the history of football have scored more Copa Libertadores Final goals – Uruguay’s Alberto Spencer (more on him later) and Coutinho of Brazil (#42). Delgado’s first came in the 2001 Final when Boca Juniors faced Mexican side Cruz Azul. Delgado scored the away goal as the Argentines won in Mexico, only for the second leg to end in a reverse. Penalties ensued, and as befitting of a big game player, Delgado scored what would prove to be the winning penalty to give Boca their 4th title. Two seasons later he was at it again, this time scoring in the semi final win against Colombia’s America de Cali before an all Argentine team beat Santos 5-1 on aggregate. Alongside Carlos Tevez in attack, Delgado scored three final goals (two at home, one away). He then briefly left the club for a one season spell with Cruz Azul where he formed a partnerhip with Delgado (Cesar) before returning to Boca for 2005-06. In all, he won three Libertadores medals with the Buenos Aires team, who have won the trophy six times in their history.

26. Juan Alberto Schiaffino (Uruguay) 1943-1962/ 16 points – 6 goals

The Uruguayan and some time Italian international (that sort of thing was a lot more common back then) was part of the Maracanazo final of 1950. With Brazil leading it was Schiaffino that struck the equaliser in the high pressure Final against the hosts. Uruguay would go on to claim their third crown, much to the World’s surprise, with a goal from Ghiggia (51st on this list). For his club teams the forward excelled for Penarol in Uruguay but it was after a move to AC Milan in the mid 50’s that he’d score more high profile goals. He hit one in the 1956 European Cup semi final defeat to Real Madrid who were taking their first step to becoming the greatest team in competition’s history. Two years later he hit two more at the semi final stage to knock out a Manchester United that were tragically weakened by the Munich air disaster. In the Final Shiaffino actually put the Italians 1-0 up, but it wasn’t to be as the game ended 2-2 after 90 minutes and 3-2 to Madrid after extra time, thanks to Gento.

25. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) 2002-Present / 16 points – 7 goals

Ronaldo has an unfair reputation of being something of a flat track bully. But fear not Cristiano, you’ve made it into the Top 50 big game scorers, which is one of, if not the biggest achievement in football. He’s specialised in the Champions League with a semi final goal against AC Milan in 2007, followed by a brace at the same stage in 2009 against Arsenal, and then another two in this year’s semi final against Bayern, this time for Real. The biggest goal came in the 2008 final against Chelsea as United completed a memorable double when Ronaldo scored one of his famous headers. A year later, he didn’t score in the Final, but was Man Utd’s best player and the only one that put any real pressure on the Barca goal. For his country, a semi final strike for Portugal on home soil in Euro 2004 is the biggest goal he scored as they qualified for the Final, and if you point to the winning goal in the Copa del Rey Final (2011) against Barcelona and an FA Cup final goal against Millwall, then you have a case for the defence. In short, he’s not a bottler.

24. Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina) 1995-Present / 16.5 points – 8 goals

Despite spending a large chunk of his career in Spain with European regulars Barcelona and Villarreal, all of Riquelme’s big game goals have come in South American games, for club and country. A gifted if slightly lazy number 10, Riquelme specialised in dictating play and set pieces. A legend at Boca Juniors where he’s sometimes been seen as a disruptive influence (it is rumoured that team mate Martin Palermo retired instead of playing another season with him), the talented number 10 and Scarface impersonator brought back the good times to Boca. Scoring in the semis on the way to Boca’s first title in years (alongside Delgado), he would go on to do so again on his return to Argentinean football with semi final goals in both 2007 and 2008. But it was for his contribution to the 2007 final that would result in a statue being erected in his honour. Facing Brazil’s Gremio, Boca won the first leg 3-0 with Riquelme scoring the second. In the second leg, the playmaker scored both goals to give Boca a 5-0 win. Impressive. For his country, he often played second fiddle to Veron and Aimar but was on target in the Copa America semi final of 2007 against Mexico on the way to defeat in the final against Brazil.

23. Hector Rial (Spain) 1947-1964 / 17 points – 7 goals

Another of the great Real Madrid side of the 1950’s, Rial joined Real from fresh from winning the Uruguayan championship with Nacional. Born and bred in Argentina (although he played for Spain), the front man spent seven seasons in the Spanish capital from 1954 to 1961 – neatly coinciding with the five straight European Cup wins. And he had a pretty big part to play in them too. In the Semi Final of the first ever European Cup in 1956, Rial scored the first goal as Madrid knocked out Milan 5-4 on aggregate, and in the final, would score both an equaliser and the winning goal as they defeated Stade Reims 4-3. Not content with being the man to make the difference in the biggest club game ever played, he scored two semi final goals the following year – this time home and away against Matt Busby’s Manchester United before Real would claim the trophy against Fiorentina. In the 1957-58 competition he scored a 79th minute equaliser as Real came from behind to beat AC Milan to win their third successive trophy. He was scoring not only in the big games, but decisive goals. By the time the 1958-59 season had come around, the tournament had grown from 16 teams to 28, not that it made any difference to Rial and Madrid. He scored the equaliser in the semi final stage against city rivals Atleti before claiming another winners medal in the final. Sure, his international career wasn’t much to write home about (5 caps and 1 goal for Spain), but when it came to performing in the big matches, Rial was a man to rely on.

22. Alessandro Del Piero (Italy) 1988-Current / 17 points – 7 goals

There’s always been a feeling of Del Piero going missing in the big games (regular readers may remember these stats), but that’s only when taking his ability into account. The fact that he’s still 22nd on the all time list of Big Game Scorers suggests that maybe he has been a man for the big occasion. Hi first big game goal came in the 1997 Champions League Final against Borussia Dortmund as Juventus lost their crown as the Champions of Europe. Fast forward to the 1997-98 competition, and Del Piero was top scorer with 10 goals. In particualr, he absolutely dominated the semi final stage – hitting a hat trick in the first leg at home to Monaco, before soring his fourth against them in the return leg. Unfortunately for him and Juve, despite reaching their third successive final, they’d lose 1-0 to Real Madrid and a goal from Pedrag Mijatovic. He wasn’t quite done there though, as he scored in the semi final of the 2002-2003 tournament, getting revenge on Real as they were defeated 4-3 on aggregate. In the final, despite scoring his penalty in the shoot out with AC Milan, he ended up with his third runners up medal in seven years. Even more disappointing is that Juve had finished a massive 16 points ahead of their conquerors in Serie A. For the natioanl team, Del Piero famously missed two good opportunities as France came from behind to win Euro 2000 in extra time, but he would have redemption in the shape of World Cup semi final goal against hosts Germany in 2006.

21. Romario (Brazil) 1985-2009 / 17.5 points – 6 goals

World Player of the Year? Check. World Cup Golden Boot? Check. Scorer of 1000 goals? Check. All things point to a natural inclusion for Romario on this list. His most important goal came in the 1994 World Cup semi final win against Sweden to Brazil in their first final for 24 years. He also scored his penalty in the World Cup Final shoot out better known for Baggio’s miss. Aside from 1994, Romario also popped up with some valuable goals on the way to winning the Copa America in 1989 and again in 1997. The 1989 edition saw final group stage goals against bitter rivals Argentina, Paraguay and then in the final group game to decide the winners against Uruguay. Eight years later and with the tournament back in a knock out format, Romario scored a double in the semi final as Brazil scraped past Peru 7-0 on the way to winning the tournament. Big game scorer then?

Well maybe, but if you’ve claimed to have scored 1000 goals (including youth matches and presumably headers and volleys in the back garden), surely you should have scored more than six goals in the Finals and Semi Finals of major tournaments? Especially when playing for the likes of Brazil and Barcelona. In fact, when you scrapte the surface, he played in the Finals of the 1994 World Cup, the 1994 Champions League, and the 1997 Copa America, but didn’t score. Fair enough, you can’t be expected to score in every match, but when you say that you’re better than Messi, and equal to Pele, Maradona and Zidane, then you should probably be able to back it up a bit better. More on Messi vs Romario (and Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho) here.

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Top 50 Big Game Scorers – 40-31

12 Aug

The next 10 players to feature include the World’s best player, a few Ajax legends, England’s first entry and the odd Brazilian here and there. For numbers 50-41, click HERE.

40. Andreas Brehme (West Germany) 1978-1998 /13 points – 3 goals

I think people dwell on that penalty in 1990 a little too much. We deserved to win. Argentina didn’t play well enough in the Final and that is the long and the short of it

Well Andy, the reason people dwell on that goal is because a left footed player took a penalty in the final of the World Cup with just five minutes left, on his right foot. That is ballsy.

In reality, Brehme was pretty much both footed, he took free kicks on his left foot and the odd penalty on his right. That’s all well and good, but to do it on the biggest stage to win the game is something else completely. There’s a big game temperament and then there’s showing off. Even Ibrahimovic would think twice before trying a stunt like that. His other two big stage goals were at the semi final stage of both the 1986 World Cup and then four years later against England in Italia ’90 – both were free kicks on his left foot. He scored 8 goals for his country (pretty good for a left back), five of which were in either the World Cup or Euros. Quite simply, he was a big game player.

39. Lionel Messi (Argentina) 2005-Present / 13 points – 5 goals

Strange as it may seem, there were still question marks over whether or not Messi was the best player in the World as recently as 2009. They said that Ronaldo could do everything Messi could but could score headers as well. Then in May 2009, Messi scored his first Champions League final goal – a back post header that was expertly directed back across goal and over van der Sar. The arguments stopped pretty soon after that. The dominant force in the recent history of the Champions League, Barcelona have won titles in 2006, 2009 and 2011, with Messi also scoring in the 2011 final, as well as two semi final goals against Real Madrid. Sure, he hasn’t quite been as devastating with his national team, but a recent hat trick against Brazil has hinted at a change there as well. To date, his biggest goal for Argentina was in the semi final of the 2007 Copa America. There’s still a lot of time to go though.

38. Jari Litmanen (Finland) 1987-2011 / 13 points – 6 goals

If Messi has been the most consistent scorer in high profile Champions League games of the past few years, then Jari Litmanen was his equivalent in the mid 90s. A winner with Ajax in 1995, the diminutive forward scored two in the semi’s that year. He went a step further a year later, repeating a semi double but also notching in the final against Juventus which won him the Golden Boot. Ajax lost it on penalties though Litmanen did score his. In 1997 he scored once again in the semi’s but it wasn’t enough to take the Amsterdam club to their third successive final, and brought to an end a great team. He went on to play for Barcelona and Liverpool, and is the only player to play international football in four different decades, with the 90s being the high point.

37. Jonny Rep (Netherlands) 1971-1987 / 13.5 points – 4 goals

Something of a troublesome character at Ajax (daring to question Johan Cruyff’s tactics when still a youngster), Rep was never short in self belief, and to be fair, he could back it up. Although his Ajax career was a lot shorter than it should have been (41 goals from 97 games), he did manage to score a pretty famous goal. In the third of three successive European Cup wins, it was Rep that scored the only goal as they beat Juventus 1-0 in Belgrade. He left Amsterdam in 1975 for spells with Valencia, Bastia, and St. Etienne (among others), but never again reached the heights of that night. For Holland he also performed well in the 1974 and 1978 World Cups as they lost in the final of both. He’s still the Netherlands top World Cup scorer with seven World Cup goals, and three of those came in the final group stages (no knock out games in either tournament), against Argentina in 1974 and a brace against Austria in 1978

36. Zico (Brazil) 1971-1994 / 13.5 points – 5 goals

When you have the nicknames “God of Soccer” and “The White Pele” then you know you’re a pretty good player. In fact Pele himself once said “throughout the years, the one player that came closest to me was Zico” which was both pretty arrogant but also not really worth much based on some of his previous quotes (“God gave Freddy Adu the gift to play soccer” – really?). Either way, Zico was the mutt’s nuts. The heartbeat of the 1982 side thought to be the best team never to win the tournament, he was prolific from midfield, scoring 52 goals for Brazil in just 72 games. He bagged four in the 1982 World Cup alone, but as Brazil didn’t get past the Quarter Final (damn you Paolo Rossi!), his only national team goal to make the list was in the Final Group stages of the 1978 World Cup where he scored against Peru. The rest of his entries were down to his biggest success as a player – the 1981 Copa Libertadores. In the first leg of the final, Zico scored a double against Cobreloa of Chile to give Flamengo a 2-1 lead. The second leg ended 1-0 to the Chileans, meaning a one off final was to be played in a neutral venue (Uruguay). Once again Zico scored two goals, this time without reply, to win the trophy for the Brazilians and finish the tournament on 11 goals.

35. Johan Neeskens  1968-1991 (Netherlands) / 14 points – 4 goals

Known as “Johan the Second”, Neeskens played alongside Cruyff for Ajax, Barcelona, and Holland. Initially a right back in his early Ajax days, Neeskens matured into a centre midfielder of high work rate which was equalled by his ability. A regular scorer from deep, Neeskens could be counted on for the big occasion. He scored the third goal in the 1971 European Cup semi final against Atletico Madrid as Ajax went on to win the trophy for the first time. For his country, he also delivered on the big stage, scoring in the 1974 Final Group Stage against East Germany on the way to a 2-0 win before facing Brazil in what was effectively the semi final. Neeskens put Holland 1-0 up in the 50th minute before Johan the First finished off the World Champions. In the Final, Neeskens continued to show his big game prowess by opening the scoring once more against West Germany. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the Dutch, they lost to their bitter rivals 2-1.

34. Chico (Brazil) 1939-1956/ 14 points – 4 goals

Francisco Aramburu, better known as Chico, was part of the great Vasco de Gama team of 1947-52. Known as the Victory Express due to five title wins, Vasco had the lightning quick Chico up front (wide left) forming a deadly partnership with national team mate Ademir. And it was the Vasco pair that would dominate the Final Group stages of the 1950 World Cup. Brazil walked through the first group stage, undefeated and scoring 8 goals along the way. And things would get better. Chico scored a brace in a 7-1 demolition of Sweden, and repeated the trick in the next game – a 6-1 trouncing of Spain. Going into the final group game, in what was essentially the World Cup final, Uruguay had only drawn with Spain, and snuck past Sweden with an 85th minute winner. Brazil were heavy favourites, with the media claiming a victory on front pages of that day’s newspapers. People were having street parties in anticipation of Brazil’s first World Cup. But Uruguay had other ideas. In front of a world record crowd at the Maracana (200,000+), it wasn’t to be Chico’s time, nor Ademir’s for that matter. In a game that would go on to be known as the Maracanazo (the Maracana Blow), Uruguay run out 2-1 winners with neither of the prolific Vasco boys on the scoresheet. No pressure for 2014 then….

33. Kurt Hamrin (Sweden) 1952-1972 / 14 points – 6 goals

If you think about early Swedes in Serie A, then it’s more than likely that you think of Gre-No-Li, the AC Milan trio of the 1950s. That however, would be doing a disservice to Kurt Hamrin. The lightning fast winger had a pretty impressive career in Italy with Juve, Padova, AC Milan, Napoli and above all, Fiorentina. He scored over 150 goals for the Viola including goals in the final of the European Cup winners cup in both 1961 and 1962 (beating Rangers and losing to Atleti). In fact that seemed to be his favoured competition as he also scored a final brace for AC Milan in 1968’s 2-0 win over Hamburg – only Milan’s second European trophy. To cap things off from a big game perspective, he also scored the decisive goal in the European Cup semi final in 1969 to knock out holders Manchester United, on the way to lifting the trophy. And for his country he also performed well in the 1958 World Cup on home soil – scoring in the semi final against West Germany.

32. Geoff Hurst (England) 1959-1979/ 15 points – 3 goals

The only entry that scored all of his points in one game, (Sir) Geoff Hurst is known the world wide as being the only man to score a hat trick in the biggest of all games – the World Cup Final. Not just that, but it was also a perfect hat trick. Bouyed by the home Wembley crowd, Hurst and his West Ham England team mates won the nation’s only trophy (excluding 1997’s famous Le Tournoi). And yet it was almost so different for Geoff. If it wasn’t for the last minute equaliser by Wolfgang Weber for West Germany then Martin Peters would have been the match winner after his 78th minute goal. In fact, had it not been for injury, Jimmy Greaves would have been England’s centre forward for the latter stages of the tournament. It’s a funny old game. Its easy to forget that Hurst’s England career aside from the 1966 World Cup (where he also scored the winner in the quarter final) was pretty good – 24 goals in 49 games. Just to prove that ol’ Geoff wasn’t a one game wonder, he also scored in the 1964 FA Cup final for the Hammers.

31. Sandor Kocsis (Hungary) 1943-1961 / 15 points – 5 goals

To give a rough idea of just what a great Goalscorer Kocsis was, there’s a few stats that tell the story. He was the first man to score two hat tricks in one World Cup. His strike rate of 1.1 goals per game for Hungary is the best in the history of international football for those with 43 caps or more. And lastly, he was the highest scorer in the top leagues of world football in both 1951 and 1952. Prolific doesn’t really do him justice. Yet the 1954 World Cup was a bittersweet experience for him and the magic Magyars. Whilst he scored a massive 11 goals in 5 games, the only game he failed to score in was against Germany in the Final. A team they’d beaten 8-3 in the earlier rounds defied the odds and the Olympic Champions, unbeaten in competitive games for four years, lost at the worst time.
By 1958, Kocsis was at Barcelona, trying to counter Puskas’ influence at rivals Madrid. The European Cup would elude them until 1992 but the Hungarian striker did score in the 1960 semi final and again a year later as well as scoring in the 1961 Final defeat to Benfica.

Numbers 30-21 tp follow

Top 50 Big Game Scorers – 50-41

6 Aug

And the countdown begins. 1071 scorers, 62 years, and 1,931 goals. This is the countdown of the Top 50 Big Game Scorers. To see the other pages with rules and workings, click HERE

Treble Dutch – All three of these players have scored in major finals, but only two make the Top 50

50. Karl-Heinz Riedle (Germany) 1983-2001 / 12 Points – 4 Goals

To kick things off is the first of many German players to feature in the list (see the stats section later). Riedle enjoyed spells with Werder Bremen, Lazio, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool before finishing his illustrious career at Fulham in 2001. Not someone that would jump out as a big game player to fans of the Premier League, the Germany International popped up with some notable goals in his career. The most memorable being his brace in the final of the 1997 Champions League. Playing for Borussia Dortmund against holders Juventus, complete with new signing Zidane behind Vieri and Boksic (a frontline so good that Del Piero was only on the bench), Riedle put Dortmund 2-0 up after just 34 minutes. Del Piero got one back before Lars Ricken’s classy lob sealed the win for the German team to give Rielde and new Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert, winners medals. His other big game goals came in the Semi Final of Euro ’92, when his brace was once again the difference as Germany beat hosts Sweden 3-2, which was enough to see him share the golden boot with three strikes overall, though they would lose famously to Denmark in the final. He also scored in the 1989 German Cup Final for Werder Bremen in a 4-1 defeat against future club Dortmund. Sadly for Riedle, he’s not even the highest ranked Karl Heinz on the list.

49. Ruud Gullit (Netherlands) 1979-1998 / 12 points – 4 goals

Not an out and out striker, he was once described as the Dutch Duncan Edwards due to his versatility and quality. He eventually settled as a number 10 and certainly delivered on the big stage. The former PSV Eindhoven and Chelsea star is best remembered for his time in Italy with AC Milan where he linked up with fellow Dutchmen Rijkaard and van Basten. And it’s with Milan that he scored a brace in a 4-0 thumping of Hagi’s Steaua Bucharest in the the European Cup Final of 1989, after scoring in the Semi Final demolition of Real Madrid (5-0). However, the goal he’s most famous for, and on perhaps his biggest stage was in the Final of Euro 88 with that iconic header (before an even more iconic volley by his strike partner). The fact that such a great footballing nation has only won one title (I’m not talking about England), makes this goal even more important. The dreadlocks also made it look a lot cooler.

48. Horst Hubresch (Germany) 1971-1986 / 12 points – 4 goals

Not quite the household name as Gullit (unless you lived in the Hubresch house), the tall West Germany Centre Forward was known for his aerial prowess, and it was with his head that he scored two of his biggest goals, winning the Euro 1980 final with a 2-1 win over Belgium. The second goal was in the 88th minute, to win the whole tournament for the Germans. The surprising thing is that he’d never been capped before 1980, not that nerves seemed to have affected him. Just a few months earlier, he also scored two semi final goals in the European Cup as Hamburg made the final against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, only to get injured on the way to defeat. Described as The Monster, the big frontman also showed his big game temperament with the winning penalty in the 1982 World Cup Semi Final with France, a game famous for Harald Schumacher’s assisination attempt on Patrick Battiston.

47. Fernando Torres (Spain) 2001-Current / 12 points – 4 goals

The first current player to feature on the list, El Nino hasn’t had a good time of it since his £50m move to Chelsea in January 2011, but the green shoots of recovery started to show near the end of the 2011-12 season. Torres’ big game goals have a neat symmetry to them, scoring a Champions League Semi Final goal for Liverpool in 2008, followed that summer by a goal in the European Championships Final. Four long years passed without any other big game goals, including a miserable 2010 World Cup, but a change in fortune came in the Second Leg of the 2011-12 Champions League Semi-Final away at Barcelona. Ten man Chelsea were under immense pressure from the European Champions, with the score level on aggregate at 2-2 but Chelsea ahead on away goals. This was a big game, and this was big pressure – then came the moment of redemption, after Torres lost the ball on the left wing, he found himself out of position, just in time for a clearance to fall at his feet with half the pitch and no opponent between him and Victor Valdes. If he’d missed then you would have feared for his future and mental stability, but Torres went round the Barca keeper to confirm Chelsea’s progression to the final, and give Gary Neville a man crush. Just a few short months later, he became the first player to score in consecutive European Championships Finals, as Spain brushed Italy aside 4-0. That made it three tournaments in a row for the Spanish national team, but only possible with Torres’ winner in the 2008 Final against Germany.

46. Amancio Amaro (Spain) 1958-1976 / 12 points – 5 goals

Moving on neatly from the man that revived Spain’s fortunes to a man that had a big hand in their first International title. Amancio Amaro had the bad luck to join Real Madrid in 1962, just after they’d won five consecutive European Cups. He had to wait until the 1965-66 season before the club won ‘their trophy’ again, scoring the equaliser in the final against Partizan Belgrade in a 2-1 win for the Madrid giants. Three semi final goals in the same competition cement his inclusion, and for his country, it was the extra time winner in the 1964 European Nations Cup (effectively Euro ’64) that proved the most decisive. Playing against Hungary, Amancio struck in the 113th minute to give Spain a 2-1 lead and put them in the final.

45. José Águas (Portugal) 1948-1964 / 12 points – 5 goals

An essential part of Benfica’s golden era alongside Eusebio, Águas scored in both the finals of the 1961 European Cup and the following year’s tournament. A prolific scorer ( 290 goals in 281 games for the Lisbon club), he won the golden boot in Portugal on five occasions. The first big game goal that he scored was in the first leg of the 1961 European Cup Semi-Final, in a 3-0 win over Rapid Vienna. He repeated the trick again in the second leg, this time ending in a 1-1 draw. In the final, Benfica would face the mighty Barcelona, who were hungrily looking for their first European Cup (they’d have to wait a while longer). Containing the legendary Hungarian trio Kubala, Kocsis and Czibor, the Catalan’s went 1-0 up, only for Águas to show his big game mettle once more and equalise, and take his tally to 11 for the tournament – wining him the golden boot. Benfica went on to win that game 3-2 to win their first European Cup. And the following year he was at it again. He scored Benfica’s goal in a 2-1 defeat to Danny Blanchflower’s Tottenham to put Benfica through to the final on aggregate (4-3), where they’d face another Spanish giant – this time it was Real Madrid, and they wanted their trophy back. Despite a hat trick by Ferenc Puskas, Benfica won 5-3 with Águas once again scoring his team’s first goal. The following year Benfica reached the final for a third successive time, but without an injured Águas, they would lose to AC Milan.

44. Santillana (Spain) 1970-1988 / 12 points – 6 goals

In what appears to be a tribute to Iberian footballers, the next up is another Spanish striker. Similar to Amancio in terms of unlucky timings, Santillana (Carlos Alonso Gonzalez) played for Real Madrid for 17 seasons, only to miss out on the European Cup. Not that he’ll be too worried after 9 league titles, two UEFA Cups and four Copa del reys. It was in the UEFA Cup Finals that he scored two of his biggest goals, with the second in a 3-0 Final win over Hungary’s Videoton (me neither) in 1985, followed a year later with the final goal in a 5-1 lesson for FC Cologne. Of course his lack of European Cup medals wasn’t for the want of trying, with Santillana scoring in two semi final goals in 1980, one the following year, and then again just before retirement in 1987. It wasn’t to be for the talented front man (8th in the all time Spanish league goalscoring list), but it wasn’t a bad career to be fair.

43. Jairzinho (Brazil) 1959-1982 / 12.5 points – 3 goals

The first entry from the legendary 1970 team was arguably their most important player. One of only three players in history to score in every game in a World Cup, Jairzinho stood out, even in the team considered by many to be the greatest of all time – certainly the most entertaining. And it’s from the 1970 World Cup that he scored two of his biggest goals, firstly in the Semi Final against Uruguay, and then he scored the 3rd for Brazil in the final against Italy. Whilst he hero worshipped Garrincha (whom he replaced for Brazil), he wasn’t short of his own confidence, claiming that FIFA had awarded him the ‘Best Body on the Planet’ prize – an award that doesn’t exist, at least not in FIFA (as seen here). I’m not sure whether or not he was a comedy genius or very arrogant but no one can deny he was one of the best of all time. His other major goal came in the 1974 World Cup Final Group stages – a winner against bitter rivals Argentina no less. He wasn’t much of a coach, getting sacked by Gabon in his only Managerial role, he did however make up for this by spotting a 14 year old Brazilian lad by the name of Ronaldo, recommending him to his old club Cruzeiro.

42. Coutinho (Brazil) 1953-1972 / 12.5 points 5 goals

Antonio Wilson Vieira Honorio (better known as Coutinho) is the football equivalent of Buzz Aldrin. Sure, a lot of people know his name, but a lot more don’t and should do. Because Countinho’s Neil Armstrong was a fella by the name of Pele. Coutinho was voted Santos’ best ever player – if you exclude Pele. He scored over 370 goals for the team, and was one of the most important players in their team during their golden era of the early 60s. And few had more impact on the team. Of the two Copa Libertadores titles they won in 1962 and 1963, Coutinho scored a whopping five final goals (two in 62/three in 63). It’s a slightly misleading stat as there were three finals in 1962 and two in 1963, but he was certainly a big game player. Just to put it into context, Pele scored three goals in the same five games.

41. Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina) 1988-2005 / 13 points 4 goals

One for the fans of 90’s Football Italia programme next. Gabriel ‘Batigol’ Batistuta was arguably the most complete centre forward of his era. Comfortable on either foot and handy in the air, he had a cannon of a shot on him. He spent the best years of his career with unfashionable Fiorentina, who somehow kept him for ten years, resulting in him not playing in the biggest European club games. One of the very few modern era footballers to play for both River Plate and hated rivals Boca Juniors (in that order), his biggest goals came in the blue and white of Argentina. Although he was a regular scorer in World Cups, he never scored in the last two rounds (he was at least the first player to score a hat trick at two World Cups). As a result, his big game scorer entries are all down to Copa America goals. In 1991, the tournament was decided by a final group table instead of a knock out round. Batistuta’s Argentina beat Colombia and Brazil along with a draw against Chile. Batistuta scored the winner against Brazil in a 3-2 victory, and the winner in a 2-1 win over Colombia – a goal that both won the tournament for Argentina, and the golden boot for the talented striker. Skip forward two years and it was Batigol that scored the decisive goals again to win the title for his country, with a brace against Mexico in a 2-1 win.  Those aside, he also scored in both legs of the 1996 Coppa Italia Final to bring glory and silverware to Florence. They repaid him with a statue.

Numbers 40 to 31 to follow

The Top 50 Big Game Scorers of All Time

6 Aug

When I started this site, it was with the aim of separating the Big Game Players from the Flat Track Bullies as I couldn’t find it recorded anywhere else on the Internet. By tracking the average ranked opponent that a player scores against and tracking the range (Top 6/Middle 8/Bottom 6) I’ve been able to to determine this, but it’s limited when looking at tournament football when there’s no league ranking. That’s where my system is flawed.

Until now. Sort of.

In an attempt to sort out the ultimate Big Game Scorers, I’ve researched what I regard as the biggest and hardest tournaments in the history of World Football to find out who were the best scorers in the biggest games. Each goal is awarded a points weighting, and their accumulation of these points will decide where the player is ranked. I have 1071 different scorers, but have chosen the Top 50.

Tournaments:

International: World Cup, European Championships, Copa America
Club: European Cup/Champions League, Copa Libertadores, UEFA Cup/Europa League, European Cup Winners Cup

Years:

When I say “All Time” I really mean from 1950 onwards, basically from the 1950 World Cup. So it’s the Top 50 Big Game Scorers of the modern era. So the list doesn’t include the scorers from the first three World Cups. Why? Well partly it was due to the reliability of the data, and partly for comparison purposes.

Exclusions:

Why not include domestic cups? Well there’s a lot of countries that play football and I am but one man doing this as a hobby. One man that has just become a first time father, so time is not something that lends itself to me at the moment.

Why only South American and European tournaments? Well I was trying to pick the highest quality tournaments, and in my (possibly blinkered opinion), the other tournaments aren’t quite up to the same standard, and whilst they are still big games, the pressure and audiences are nowhere near as high. There is of course the argument about what makes up a big game – for example, Man City beating QPR to win the league was a massive game, but on paper it’s a game of 1st place at home to 17th place.

Weightings:

This is probably the area of the biggest discussion points. I’ve started off with the World Cup Final being the biggest game in World Football, and have awarded any goal scored in it 5 points. Dropping back a round, I take off a point for all semi-finals. So as the European Championships Final is worth 4 points, the semi final is worth 3.

The Champions League Final is worth 3 points as although it’s seen by many as the highest standard of football, it’s only European based players, and it occurs every year, meaning that the pressure is nowhere near as high as a World Cup Final that only occurs every four years.

As you can see the points change for Final Group stages. The World Cup of 1950 for example was decided on a final group table rather than the knock out stages. Similarly, the Copa America tournaments of 1989 and 1991 were also based on a final table rather than Semi Finals and a Final. The Copa Libertadores Final is rated at 2.5 instead of the European version’s 3 because of two legged finals, and quality. Each weighting was given careful consideration.

What Else?

I’ve deliberately called it the Big Game Scorers instead of Big Game Players as I’m well aware that a player can dominate a game without scoring. Unfortunately, aside from trawling through all of the man of the match records of all time, this data isn’t readily available or accurate. There’s no doubting the goalscorers – that’s fact (unless you go into the mirky waters of controversial goals – I’m looking at you Hurst), but the assists information, and non-goalscoring big game performances just aren’t possible to track.

Format:

Inspired by the awesome Football Pantheon lists (which I’d highly recommend), I’ve tried to avoid imitation but due to the nature of the list, it’s been difficult. So the format takes place in the shape of a countdown, beginning with 50-41 and working down from there, with special focus on the Top Ten players to score in the biggest games. And at the end of it all, I’ll keep in the tradition of the site and throw some statistics in and have a quick look at those to miss out.

Links:

50-41
40-31
30-21
20-11
10-6
5-1
Statistics
Notable Exclusions

Any questions can be posted in the comments section of this page or the page in question, or if you’re shy then e-mail me on lpcorbett@hotmail.com

Thanks,

Liam