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Gol olimpico

Corners leading to goals is a part of everyday football. But Cris Freddi looks at the rare occasions when a corner goes straight in

It’s known as a gol olimpico in Argentina. The first corner to go straight in during an international match was probably the one taken by Cesareo Onzari against Argentina’s rivals and Olympic champions Uruguay in 1924. It beat a goalkeeper as good as Andres Mazali, and others found their way past Lev Yashin, Peter Shilton and Vitor Baia – which should make David Seaman feel a bit better.

Mind you, he seems to have been the only man to let in two such goals in internationals. The Macedonia shocker we know about, but against Czechoslovakia ten years earlier he let Jozef Chovanec’s low corner go in off his foot.

You can’t always blame the keeper. Chovanec scored because Tony Dorigo missed it, and Yashin let in a corner against Colombia in the 1962 World Cup because defender Givi Chokeli ushered it in, to the great man’s comic indignation.

Shilton was beaten against West Germany in 1987 when Pierre Littbarski’s corner skimmed off Viv Anderson’s head.

England keepers seem to have been particularly prone to this kind of mishap. Jack Hacking wasn’t capped again after letting in a last-minute corner at Hampden in 1929. The scorer, Alex Cheyene, who was making his Scotland debut, did the same thing (twice) in a Scottish Cup match the following year. Harry Holdcroft (on his debut in 1936) and Gil Merrick (1952) let in corners by Seymour Morris of Wales and Northern Ireland’s Charlie Tully respectively.

Republic of Ireland players seem to be especially adept at the trick. Johnny Gavin scored direct from a corner against Finland in 1949, as did Stephen McPhail against South Africa in 2000 – and the only player to do it twice in international football seems to have been Steve Staunton, of all people, against Portugal in 1992 and Northern Ireland in 1993.

Corners provided the only goal of two Euro 2000 qualifiers – from Andrey Stolcers, who later joined Fulham, for Latvia against Georgia, and veteran Jan Heintze for Denmark against Belarus. Two weeks after Bolton’s Ricardo Gardner scored for Jamaica v Honduras in 2001, Con Boutsianis curled in the most important of the lot. When Nicky Salapu let it in, he started an avalanche: it was the first goal in Australia’s record 31-0 win over American Samoa.

Two goals were scored direct from corners in European Cup-Winners Cup finals. The second, by Barcelona’s Carlos Rexach, just made the scoreline respectable as Slovan Bratislava won Czechoslovakia’s only European trophy (1969) – but the first was the only goal of the game. After a 3-3 draw with MTK Budapest in 1964, Sporting Lisbon won their only European trophy when Joao Morais scored in the replay.

In club football, George Best scored from one corner and hit the bar in trying to prove it wasn’t a fluke. The nearest he came to doing it for Northern Ireland was in a World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in 1972, when he hit the bar again. He was so miffed he got himself sent off and never played in the finals.

From WSC 193 March 2003. What was happening this month

Comments (1)
Comment by SamLKelly 2010-02-04 23:35:13

A footnote regarding the first ever gol olímpico: In that year's Olympic Football Tournament final (also between Argentina and Uruguay), Uruguay had scored a goal in this fashion, which had been chalked off because, at the time, the rules didn't permit goals scored direct from corners.

The Uruguayans protested the thinking behind this - although of course they couldn't do anything about that particular goal - and a rule change was put through shortly after (FIFA's board being quicker about these things back then than they are today). Just in time for Onzari's goal against them in the 'revenge' match when the teams returned home.


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