There have been a flurry of goals this World Cup – 136 of them so far, to be exact – and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
Those 136 goals mark the most ever in a World Cup group stage, and it even set the record for most goals per game to beat out earlier World Cups with fewer qualified teams.
Every single World Cup team scored in the group stage. Many were beautiful, a few were spectacular, but they all counted the same.
So with that in mind, we’re set to run through the best ten goals of the World Cup group stage.
10. Claudio Marchisio vs. England
Italy bowed out disappointingly in the group stage, but they have one point of brilliance to hold onto from the team’s only win. Scoreless against England late in the first half, they struck on a set-piece. A corner came through low towards the top of the box, and Andrea Pirlo’s perfect dummy teed up midfielder Claudio Marchisio. The midfielder struck a rocket along the ground perfectly into the far corner past Joe Hart for the game’s opening goal.
Unfortunately, Marchisio would follow that up with two dreadful performances against Costa Rica and Uruguay, culminating in a straight red in the finale.
9. Silvestre Varela vs. United States
With the United States on the brink of securing a guaranteed place in the knockout round and Portugal themselves on the precipice of elimination, star forward Cristiano Ronaldo combined with substitute striker Silvestre Varela to produce an equalizer that would prolong their country’s chances at making the knockout stage.
In the 95th minute with literally the last kick of the game, Ronaldo sent in a cross worthy of his Ballon d’Or, and it found the head of the streaking Varela to beat Geoff Cameron and give the game a 2-2 final score. The situation and the build-up play give this goal the flair it needs to be on this list.
8. Clint Dempsey vs. Ghana
The fifth-fastest World Cup goal ever, Clint Dempsey opened school for John Boye and gave the United States a vital early lead after just 29 seconds against Ghana in a must-win match.
DaMarcus Beasley’s ball up the left flank was one-touch passed to Dempsey from Jermaine Jones, and the US striker did the rest as he deked passed Boye and hit the far corner with his low shot.
7. Memphis Depay vs. Australia
The up-and-coming Dutch midfielder secured the match-winner as his team went on to beat a pesky Australia 3-2 and mark one of their three group-stage wins. Depay, just 20 years old, came onto the field when defender Bruno Martins Indi was forced off after a challenge from Tim Cahill.
With the game knotted at two each, Depay blasted a strike from well outside the box that curved and dipped, finally bouncing just in front of Maty Ryan and ended up in the far corner. The goal was Depay’s first for his country.
6. James Rodriguez vs. Japan
With Colombia dominating its Asian opponents en route to its Group C victory, James Rodriguez wasn’t going to leave Cuiaba empty-handed. In stoppage time already up 3-1, the Monaco forward produced an amazing piece of individual skill to plant Japanese defender Maya Yoshida flat on his back after a complete 360.
5. John Brooks vs. Ghana
A winner that resonated all the way across the United States, the header by John Brooks earned the US three of their four eventual Group D points and was essential to their knockout-stage qualification.
Coming in the 87th minute against their arch-nemesis Ghana, the 21-year-old German-American defender – on as a substitute for an injured Matt Besler – picked out Graham Zusi’s corner and put it straight at the ground, bouncing it past Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey for the winner. The ball actually just barely missed the head of Geoff Cameron who attempted to put the ball on net just in front of Brooks, so the youngster gets added points for not losing focus despite his teammate’s attempt in his face.
Jermaine Jones also bagged a pretty impressive goal for the United States against Portugal, but this one earned the US three points, and that alone gives it the trump card onto the list.
4. Lionel Messi vs. Iran
Lionel Messi has come to play in this World Cup. Playing on his home continent, he’s been the star man for Argentina despite plenty of doubters. He earned three points with a late winner against Iran, a classic Messi goal in injury time, finding himself space at the top of the box before finding the far corner with the ball. Nothing a diving Alireza Haghighi could do about that one.
3. Xherdan Shaqiri vs. Honduras (#1)
Scoring a goal quite similar in look to the Messi one was young Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri. The Bayern Munich player doesn’t have a central role for his German giant, but for the national team he’s their main man. Needing a result against Honduras to advance past the group stage, Shaqiri bagged himself a hat-trick, but he’ll be hard-pressed to beat his first.
Just six minutes in, Shaqiri cranked a long-range shot perfectly into the top corner to set the tone early.
2. Tim Cahill vs. Netherlands
If it weren’t for the absolute stunning nature of our #1 goal, this one surely had Goal of the Tournament flair. Having fallen behind just a minute prior, a Ryan McGowan long-ball from the midfield found Cahill streaking on goal, and despite being marked well by Stefan de Vrij, the New York Red Bulls striker ripped an immaculate volley off the crossbar and over the goal line before the ball could even touch the ground.
1. Robin van Persie vs. Spain
With the Netherlands under pressure from a bright Spanish start, the Dutch found themselves down 1-0. Just as the sides were ready to go into halftime, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie produced one of the moments of the World Cup so far, and on just the second day of the tournament.
An absolutely perfect lofted ball from the defending half by Daley Blind caught van Persie flying on goal, and the Dutch striker launched himself through the air, connecting with the diving header and putting the ball past Iker Casillas. Tied up at the break, the Dutch would go on to dismantle Spain in the second half, announcing to the 2014 World Cup how things would go in the group stage.
Honorable mention: Miroslav Klose vs. Ghana
This goal has to be mentioned at least once because it tied the all-time record for World Cup goals. It would have made this list too if there hadn’t been so many beautiful strikes, since his run was timed perfectly and it secured a valuable point for the Germans, but nonetheless it deserves to be given its due. We may yet see Klose break the record in the knockout stages if Germany progresses to the later rounds.
[ MORE: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly.com]