by Caleb Washburn
That’s the kind of goal I remember dreaming I would score as a kid: a run right through the middle of the defense, a perfectly placed crossing pass from midfield, laying myself full out to connect on a header, the ball having a cartoonishly perfect arc over the goalkeeper’s arms, straining to follow the ball into the net. Reckless abandon as art form. Even as a goalkeeper I dreamed of scoring that kind of goal.
All told, the six goals scored in the game show us the six kinds of goals we will see over the course of the World Cup.
1) Xabi Alonso scored on a PK which may or may not have deserved to be awarded. Penalty Kicks are the least interesting way to score a goal, and what makes them worse is that there’s almost always debate about whether or not the foul should’ve been called or not. We’re lucky this one didn’t matter.
2) Van Persie’s first goal was genius. It really can’t be overstated, and we will be lucky if another goal tops it in the tournament. The perfection required to have the timing just right is what sets this apart.
3) Arjen Robben’s first goal was beautiful, but it is the kind of beautiful we can expect to see when watching the World Cup: a world class player making a smart play. He gave himself space with his run before getting the ball, then a razor sharp cut once he had the ball to square up on the goal—it’s beautiful technique, which is hopefully what will lead to most of the goals during this tournament.
4) Stefan de Vrij scored on a set piece where he was in the right place when he needed to be. Casillas, Spain’s goalkeeper, got tangled with another Dutch player going for a header, and de Vrij was there on the back post as the ball came down on the cross. He was going for the header even as the ball was going off his left foot, so it’s hard to give the 22 year old too much credit, but this goal shows how much being on the back corner of a cross can pay off.
5) On ESPNs coverage, after van Persie scored his second goal, the announcer shouted, “Spain’s embarrassment is complete!” which is about perfect. Van Persie took advantage of a terrible play by Casillas to win the ball all alone in the box. Some nice dribbling away from Casillas led to an easy goal. This is the kind of goal you expect to see Australia give up, not the defending World Cup champs.
6) Robben’s second goal would have been cruel had it not been so beautiful. He outran his defender right down the middle of the defense, pulled Casillas to the top of the box, stopped on a dime and cut back across the box (leaving Casillas sprawling after him), and finally burying the ball in the net. Had this goal been Netherlands’ first, it would have been the best of the game. This is what happens when one team is totally out of the game and the other is enacting revenge.