It's never too late
© Getty Images

As every player and fan knows, until the final whistle reverberates around the stadium, anything is possible. Some of the most incredible chapters in the history of the game have been written by teams that refused to let their heads drop, as FIFA.com explores in this look back at famous last-gasp goals and the players who scored them.

What better place to start this journey back in time than in the birthplace of football? England's finest hour came 43 years ago as host nation of the 1966 FIFA World Cup™, but not before late drama in normal time during the final. Alf Ramsey's men led 2-1 with 89 minutes gone and were readying themselves to lift the Trophy when West German defender Wolfgang Weber levelled the scores in the dying seconds. Determined to keep the famous silverware in London, though, Geoff Hurst added to an earlier goal with an extra-time double, completing his hat-trick and putting the result beyond doubt in the 120th minute.

The former West Ham United striker attained iconic status in his homeland for those feats and, during the last 16 at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy nearly 30 years later, England conjured up another sensational last-minute strike in extra time to see off a determined Belgium side. With just moments to go before the match ended in penalties, Paul Gascoigne floated in a free-kick towards substitute David Platt, who hooked the ball into the net with a superb volley to register the latest goal ever scored in the history of the global showcase. Along with his match-winning intervention, the midfielder's wide-eyed, ecstatic celebrations have also entered competition legend.

Colombia was going through a difficult period politically and that goal came as a relief for the entire nation.
Freddy Rincon after scoring late against Germany in 1990

During the same tournament, Daniel Fonseca earned Uruguay a Round of 16 berth with a 90th-minute winner against Korea Republic, a finale not dissimilar to that witnessed in Colombia's final group game against West Germany. Already through thanks to consecutive triumphs, the Mannschaft thought they had prevailed yet again when Pierre Littbarski struck in the 89th minute, only for Freddy Rincon to equalise a minute later. "Colombia was going through a difficult period politically and that goal came as a relief for the entire nation," recalled the scorer.

To experience those kinds of emotions on the greatest stage of all, teams obviously have to qualify first - as France learned with dismay in November 1993 during their failed bid to reach USA 1994. Needing just a point from their last two qualifiers at home against Israel and Bulgaria, Les Bleus succumbed in the final minute of both games. Israel's Reuven Atar spoiled French festivities with a 93rd-minute winner in the first match, before Bulgaria's Emil Kostadinov found the back of the net in the last minute of the second encounter to leave France needing to make alternative plans the following summer.

Gerard Houllier's side had clearly failed to heed the lesson learnt by Japan just a month earlier. The Samurai Blue required victory over Iraq to seal their place in the USA and were poised to do exactly that until the 91st minute, when Jaffar Salman restored parity to shatter Japanese dreams.

Continental competitions have produced a healthy stream of timely interventions too, with no fewer than seven goals recorded in added time at UEFA EURO 2008. That pattern prompted UEFA technical director and FIFA Technical Study Group member Andy Roxburgh to search for a tactical explanation. "Lots of coaches are leaving their substitutions late to influence the result," said the former Scotland manager. "These decisions are having an enormous impact in the final minutes, producing some spectacular endings."

The fashion perhaps began during the EURO 2000 final between Italy and France, when the Azzurri held a 1-0 lead with 93 minutes on the clock. Their supporters were already opening the champagne, but Sylvain Wiltord forced them to re-cork their bottles after four minutes of stoppage time, before David Trezeguet lashed in an extra-time golden goal. Four years later, Les Bleus began EURO 2004 much in the same way as they had ended the previous edition, with Zinedine Zidane hitting a 91st-minute equaliser against England from a free-kick and securing his team three points with a penalty two minutes later.

I tried it because when I was a child I'd scored a few similar goals. I saw the goalkeeper was off his line and had a go. It worked!
Nayim, Zaragoza's hero from 1995

In South America, Argentina thought they had wrapped up the 2004 Copa America title until Brazil's Adriano had his say. The Seleçao striker cancelled out Christian 'Kily' Gonzalez's spot-kick opener with the last kick of the first half during the final and struck again during added time after Cesar Delgardo had put the Albiceleste back in front. There proved no way back for Marcelo Bielsa's crestfallen troops who then succumbed on penalties.

The history of club football is littered with similarly memorable late strikes, not least the pair of goals Manchester United mustered against Bayern Munich as time ticked away in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final. Bayern held a 1-0 lead and had rarely been threatened until substitute Teddy Sheringham levelled the scores during stoppage time. Before they had time to recover and steady themselves for extra time, Bayern were then stunned by Norwegian forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who had come off the bench just moments earlier. "I never get tired of talking about that match," the archetypal 'Super-sub' told FIFA.com. "No matter how many goals I was able to score for Manchester United, that one will always be special."

The 1995 European Cup Winners' Cup showpiece boasted another thrilling conclusion, with Arsenal and Real Zaragoza deadlocked as they headed into the last minute of extra time. Just as the coaches were drawing up their lists of penalty takers, though, Spanish midfielder Nayim unleashed a stunning effort from wide on the right and close to the halfway line, the ball arcing its way over David Seaman's desperate lunge to clinch the trophy for Los Maños. "I tried it because when I was a child I'd scored a few similar goals," recalled the former Tottenham Hotspur player. "I saw the goalkeeper was off his line and had a go. It worked!"

In Scottish football, the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers is well-known, with its long history of passionate opposition often loaded with suspense. On the final day of the 2004/05 season, the Hoops knew victory at Motherwell would guarantee them the league title and thanks to a Chris Sutton effort they looked to be well on course, rendering Rangers' lead at Hibernian meaningless. A helicopter was on its way to Motherwell with the trophy when Australian striker Scott McDonald fired the Steelmen level in the 89th minute, and as Celtic poured forward in response they conceded a second goal on the break. The helicopter set a new course for Edinburgh.

No matter how many goals I was able to score for Manchester United, that one will always be special.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on his famous winner in Barcelona in 1999

Arsenal know all about last-day drama too, having won the 1988/89 English title with practically the last kick of the entire season. Second in the standings as they headed to Anfield to take on leaders Liverpool, the Gunners needed to win by two clear goals to deny their opponents and went ahead through Alan Smith in the first half. Reds goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar and his defence held firm after the break, however, keeping the visitors at bay to give Liverpool at least one hand on the trophy. That was until Michael Thomas bundled his way clear in the final seconds of added time and poked the ball past Grobbelaar to earn the north London club their first league crown in 18 years.

Our global tour ends on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Argentina, where tension reigned at the end of the 2002 Clausura campaign. With three games remaining and fellow title hopefuls Gimnasia La Plata convincing 3-0 winners elsewhere, River Plate welcomed championship rivals Racing. The match seemed to be destined to end in stalemate until the River goalkeeper was sent off in the final minute, his place between the posts being taken by young defender Martin Demichelis for the free-kick that followed. Racing's supporters sensed victory but River cleared the ball and launched a blistering counter-attack capped off with a goal for Paraguayan winger Nelson 'Pipino' Cuevas. Los Millonarios took the points and went on to claim the title.

Have your say
Share your own memories of last-gasp goals in years gone by with fellow readers by clicking on 'Add your comment' and having your say.