Holding aloft the FIFA World Cup™ is a surefire way of leaving a lasting imprint on the world of football. Legendary forward Ferenc Puskás, part of the revered Hungary side that lost the 1954 Final, never got to experience that particular feeling, but his 625 goals in 631 club matches and 84 goals in 85 international appearances have assured him a place in the annals of the game.
FIFA has cemented this status even further by attributing his name to the accolade rewarding the greatest goal of the year. Since 2009, the FIFA Puskás Award is handed out during the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala to the player having netted the most eye-catching effort over the past 12 months.
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to be recognised in such a fashion, and he was followed by Turkish midfielder Hamit Haltintop in 2010 and Brazilian wunderkind Neymar in 2011.
The 2012 Award saw a shortlist of ten – drawn up by FIFA’s Football Committee – whittled down to three after the first phase of public voting, namely Radamel Falcao (Colombia), the aforementioned Neymar and Miroslav Stoch (Slovakia). These three formidable forwards have already fulfilled their part of the agreement by scoring a trio of fabulous goals. Now it’s up to YOU, FIFA.com users, to do your bit.
You simply have to watch the clips of the stunning strikes and vote for your favourite. The goal with the highest number of votes (each user can only vote once) will be awarded the FIFA Puskás Award in Zurich on 7 January, the date of the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, and the day that voting will officially close.
If one thing is clear, it is that Puskás himself would have had trouble picking out a winner from this year’s high-calibre candidates. “He was the best player in our team. He had a sort of sixth sense for football. If there were 1,000 ways of doing something, he would always find a 1,001st,” said compatriot and fellow Mighty Magyars icon Nandor Hidegkuti.
One modern player who has certainly taken a leaf out of Puskás’ book is Neymar. When he received the ball inside his own half in Santos’ Copa Libertadores match with Internacional, few fans inside the stadium would have imagined that, just ten seconds later, it would be nestling in the back of the net.
The young Brazilian drove towards the box at great pace, showing tremendous close control to jink past numerous opposition defenders, and finished with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper with the outside of his right boot.
The impressive feat has led to Neymar, the current holder of the trophy, being nominated for the third successive time. “I’m really happy to be one of the best goal nominees for the third year in a row,” said the young Brazilian on his website after the finalists were announced. “I was delighted that so many people have voted for me so far, and I’m counting on their continued support so that I can win the trophy again,” he added.
But he is up against some tough competition, none more so than Falcao, whose remarkable effort would likely have been much admired by Puskás, who was known for the precision and power of his left boot. The Atletico Madrid striker is actually right-footed, but his goal in a friendly against fellow Colombians America de Cali was certainly not lacking in either of those characteristics.
What made it particularly special was the showstopping way in which it was dispatched past the ’keeper, via an acrobatic scissors kick.
“It was just a perfect cross from Diego; he even gave me a sign before sending it in,” explained the free-scoring South American on Los Colchoneros’ official website. “And when the ball came to me, I saw that the best option available was to attempt a scissors kick. When I made contact, it flew into the net. What a goal!”
“What a goal” was likely uttered countless times during Puskás’ time at Real Madrid, for whom the Hungarian scored an incredible 238 goals, including some memorable long-range gems.
“He had an amazingly accurate shot,” recalled Raymond Kopa, his team-mate for one season at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. “Back then, every goalie in Spain would get nervous whenever he got within 20 to 30 metres of the goal. He always posed a real threat,” he continued.
Custodians in Turkey, for their part, have learned in recent times to be wary of Fenerbahce winger Miroslav Stoch, whose controlled volley from just outside the box versus Genclerbirligi completes the shortlist of three. “It’s the greatest goal I’ve scored so far in my career,” the attack-minded Slovakian told FIFA.com.
“My former team-mate Alex floated in a great corner. The ball made its way towards me, on the edge of the area. I didn’t have time to try to bring it down as there were two defenders closing in fast. My only option was a first-time shot on the volley. It turned out to be the right decision!” said Stoch, a player renowned for his long-range shooting.
The choice to hit the ball first-time has been further justified by the goal’s rating as one of the three most beautiful of the year. “It’s a great honour to be part of the top three, and I’m even more flattered when I look at some of the other equally brilliant goals that made up the top ten,” said the former Chelsea man. “I’d like to thank everyone that voted for me, and I hope that they’ll keep supporting me.”
Don’t forget, it is YOUR votes that will decide which one of these footballing artists will see their masterpieces go down in history, to be remembered as fondly as many goals scored by the great Ferenc Puskás.