a peach of a goal… or ten

FIFA Puskas Award

Not that this is a groundbreaking thought or anything, but most individual awards in the world of sport are one hundred percent subjective.

Soccer is particularly guilty of this when awarding prizes like league MVP’s, goalkeepr of the year awards, or the yearly handing out of the FIFA Balon d’Or. It’s not always the case, but often times an argument can be made for multiple people to be deserving of the award — much to Cristiano Ronaldo’s delight/chagrin.

Anytime you try to decide who the “best” player is, or who did something the best — aside from awards like Golden Boots where it’s pretty darn easy to determine who did or didn’t score the most number of goals — there are way too many factors for any one human or group to consider to say definitively that “this one guy is the best”. Nevermind that everyone has their own opinions, too. I might think something is better than you do, and you might think something is better than I do.

But despite that tangled mess of opinion and fact, we still give out these awards year after year and season after season. Personally, it seems like they’re handed out simply so we all have something argue about. And so people like me have something write about. That the Balon d’Or was originally voted on by a group of journalists is not an irony that has just dawned on me.

Anyway, the FIFA Puskás Award is no different. Named after Hungarian great Ferenc Puskás — a guy you should know about if you don’t already — the prize is awarded by FIFA every year to the player who scored the “best” goal. Please also ignore the fact that FIFA isn’t exactly known for its ability to make non-biased decisions.

But regardless, making a selection from their list of ten nominees is still good fun. And for me, it was an excuse to watch a bunch of fabulous goals all over again. Though it also make me wonder how some goals were left off the list — which I’ll get into later.

So below you will find the ten nominees for the FIFA Puskás Award, in video format, and my thoughts on each. At the end of the article, I’ll also choose my winner, who you will likely disagree with… because this is all subjective anyway.

Tim Cahill
Australia vs Netherlands | World Cup 2014
June 18, 2014

Technically speaking, Cahill’s superb goal during the World Cup might have been the most difficult goal to pull off on this list. The service came in the air, across his body, over his shoulder and he struck it with his off foot. That he kept that from exiting the stadium was miraculous in itself, never mind that he kept it under the crossbar. Unfortunately for Cahill and his Aussies, his wonder strike wasn’t enough to salvage the Soccerroos’ hopes of advancing in Brazil.

Diego Costa
Atlético Madrid vs Getafe | La Liga
November 23, 2013

For a guy who is better known for his poaching capabilities and brutish style of play, this finish was pretty damn acrobatic from the Brazilian Spaniard. Overhead kicks are difficult enough to just connect with, let alone keep on frame. Not that I’m saying I would do it better — I wouldn’t — but Costa didn’t fully extend in the way that Rooney did a few seasons back. So for that I’ll deduct style points. However, I’ll credit the man for his lighting quick reflexes to pull it off.

Marco Fabián
Cruz Azul vs Puebla | LigaMX
October 19, 2013

I don’t know whether to chock this Marco Fabián thriller up to his own brilliance, or LigaMX’s sub par defensive reputation. In all likelihood, it’s probably a bit of both. Either way, Fabián did really well to recognize the keeper cheating off his line, and his quick turn opened up just enough space to quickly release the deft chip. I’m not knocking the effort, but why additional defenders weren’t pressuring him does make me scratch my head a little.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paris St. Germain vs SC Bastia | Ligue 1
October 19, 2013

What more can you say about this goal other than “Only Zlatan”. The Swedish superstar is well known for his craftiness and creativity, and he seems to score ridiculous goals on a regular basis. But his cecision to backheel this chance, when most players would have attempted to settle it to lay off or turn to take a more traditional shot, makes this one of his finest efforts. Only Zlatan would have thought to do this. And only Zlatan would have been able to pull it off too.

Pajtim Kasami
Crystal Palace vs Fulham | Premier League
October 21, 2013

Swiss international Pajtim Kasami’s stay in West London wasn’t very long, and it didn’t exactly help out the Cottagers in their hopes to escape relegation. But that doesn’t make this effort from last season any less impressive. Running away from goal, his angle narrowing by the second, Kasami settled with his chest and volleyed home. It was truly a rare moment of brilliance in an otherwise turgid campaign for Fulham.

Stephanie Roche
Peamount United vs Wexford Youths | BEWNL
October 20, 2013

What, you don’t regularly follow the Irish women’s league? It’s alright, neither do I — or most people for that matter. But luckily someone had the camera rolling when Steph Roche decided to pull off this stunner last fall. The Peamount United star went viral after pulling a sombrero over her defender and then firing home from distance.

James Rodriguez
Colombia vs Uruguay | World Cup 2014
June 28, 2014

Watching James barnstorm Brazil was one of my favorite parts of the big dance this past summer, and this effort against fellow South American’s Uruguay was the icing on his metaphorical Golden Boot cake. That it was in the knockout round made it even more impressive. We’ve been lucky enough to be treated a few more spectacular James goals since then too, proving this goal wasn’t a one-off for the new Real Madrid star. He absolutely knew what he was doing, and the confidence to take that kind of chance is rare.

Camilo Sanvezzo
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers | MLS
October 6, 2013

First an American coach — well, he’s not American, but he coaches us — is nominated for World Manager of the Year, and now MLS get’s nomination for World Goal of the Year?! How times have changed! But honestly, this goal from Camilo was a pretty spectacular and acrobatic finish. And considering he had a Portland defender sprinting right towards him, the concentration to pull it off is pretty impressive.

Hisato Sato
Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Kawasaki Frontale | J.League
March 8, 2014

It feels every bit as weird seeing a J.League goal nominated for such a prestigious award as it does MLS, but Hisato Sato’s strike against Kawasaki Frontale is just as worthy as its American counterpart. It was certainly one of those “well I might as well try this” type of goals, since he didn’t really have many other options available to him, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular.

Robin van Persie
Netherlands vs Spain | World Cup 2014
June 13, 2014

At the time and for a while after, I thought this goal was the bee’s knees. And to be fair, RvP’s effort against Spain is still pretty spectacular. What floored me is that, pretty much once the ball was hit, van Persie never even looked towards the goal — that’s pretty damn incredible. He just watched it come in and then headed it on. But upon repeat viewings, a lot needs to be attributed to Casillas’ awful goalkeeping. He was caught in absolute no man’s land, and RvP knew that after getting his initial look in. And to be honest, it was Blind’s ball in that deserves most of the attention. Though the goal on the whole was still gorgeous.

So who win’s my coveted pick for the 2014 FIFA Puskás Award? It was a tight three-horse race between Cahill (class), Ibrahimovic (inventiveness) and Kasami (holy hell I wasn’t expecting that). But I have to give my vote to the New York Red Bulls ace for a couple of reasons: its level of difficulty, the ballsiness he needed to do it and the stage on which he pulled it off. So congrats, Timmy… you may or may not end up winning an award that’s totally based off of the personal preferences of millions of people.

Now with that said, I think it’s shocking that a few other goals didn’t make the nomination list. And since I want to give them their due, I’ve chased down some links to show them off as well, and you can find those further goal-based treats below:

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