06 April 2009

Goal theory

A few months back, I made the case that to watch great goals as discrete, on-demand YouTube videos is to miss some of the essence of the moment; not watching it as it happened, as a part of the match it took place in, deprives it of context, and therefore of some of its meaning. I gave as an example Dennis Bergkamp's goal for Holland against Argentina at the 1994 World Cup. But I may have erred in using such a monumental goal to illustrate my point. Sometimes, it may be that nothing — or as near as makes no difference — is lost in a great goal's transfer to webular semi-immortality.

This struck me a few months ago when I saw that Yoann Gourcuff goal:

I struggle to see how this goal would have been better experienced live. I reckon this is because the goal was largely inconsequential and didn't add much to the drama of the match as a whole. Bordeaux were already 2-0 up in a mid-season league game. Perhaps, shorn of any greater meaning, its aesthetic quality is all (all!) that remains.

One beautiful goal this weekend was most certainly dramatic and consequential:

This goal is stunning, whether seen live or later. Sweet Jesus, it's amazing. I'm tempted to say that this goes against my initial assertion: that to see it out of context would cause it to lose something. I'm really unsure on this...

On a somewhat related point, you will probably have seen this over the weekend: Grafite's goal for Wolfsburg against Bayern Munich:

Various people have been proclaiming this as one for the ages ("the most superlative goal of this or any season").

Am I missing something? Don't get me wrong: it was a lovely goal and all. Any time someone scores with a backheel, it's worth seeing. But he was running at a demoralised defence (Bayern were already 4-1 behind at this point) too stupefied to do anything about his run. Not to turn into Alan Hansen or anything, but for him to be allowed to get into the heart of the penalty area so easily is just bad defending.

Lionel Messi has scored several goals better than this one this season alone. Surely we haven't begun to take Messi for granted already, that we may be dazzled by Grafite's goal and pass over efforts like this one?:

That is a great goal. That is the kind of thing you need to worship. And Federico Macheda's may be better still. And I'm an Arsenal fan, for god's sake...


Jumpthefence 6/4/09 10:33 PM  

Hmmm,interesting one. Im really not sure that Macheda's goal yesterday would be as thrilling without the meaning and a knowledge of the timing and importance of it. I had to watch motd last night to get back the energy of seeing a goal like that live. There's surely no buzz like it.
Oh and agree completely on the wolfsburg goal. He hardly beat anyone on the run and the game was over. Doing that sort of thing with a game at 1-1 or 2-2 cant be compared to doing it when its showtime.

JD,  7/4/09 12:24 AM  

I'm going to fall on the side of context, with the recognition that a short(ish) clip can still set up all you need to know, and therefore work. For instance In that Man Utd clip, it's too short to provide everything you need to know: the Liverpool win earlier, the time left in the match, the fact that this kid had never gotten a kick in the first team. (Yes of course, if you're looking for the video, you already know all/most of the details, & now you just wanna see how it happened).

But for me, I had heard only that Wolfsburg blew out Bayern, and didn't know when the backheel occurred. So watching that, I find myself watching the play first, then checking the time/score in the corner.

Then, once he strolls through and backheels it and you say "That's the most un-German defending I've ever seen" do I backfill with all the details.

oliver,  7/4/09 7:26 AM  

This is a sidebar really, but as a long-time and dedicated hater of Man U, it's *only* by viewing the Macheda goal out of context in a youtube clip that I can actually appreciate its quality. Watching it live on Sunday, there was a flicker of "wow" but I mostly just wished it hadn't happened.

Fredorrarci 7/4/09 1:11 PM  

For my part, I wrote the post a few short hours after Macheda's goal, and I was still a bit too giddy from it to soberly assess it. Let that be a lesson to me.

I don't really think it is a sidebar, Oliver. In fact, I think it, as well as Jumpthefence and JD's comments, get to the heart of the issue. How you happened to have first seen the goal is so important to how you end up feeling about it. As an Arsenal fan, it's probably impossible for me -- however I may rave about the beauty of the goal -- to separate its beauty from the fact that it condemned Aston Villa to defeat. Perhaps it's subjective like music is -- it's never about only how the song is by itself without the circumstances in which you heard it.

matthew,  8/4/09 9:03 PM  

I think it's a pretty special goal, mostly for its rarity value. For all that the Messi goal linked to there is wonderful, the Grafite one is at least as interesting to me because it seems like something i have never really seen done quite like that before (the audacious finish rather than the run into the box)

Also i imagine it falls into the category of goals that acquire a certain sort of added significance because they end up summing up the nature of a particulary big win - off the top of my head, see also carlos alberto in the 1970 world cup final, or peter schemichel getting chipped by either phillip albert or davor suker. and the fact that bayern seem so tired/demoralised is a part of this

Fredorrarci 9/4/09 12:46 AM  

I kind of agree with you on the Grafite goal, Matthew. As I noted in the post, I do think that a backheeled goal is always noteworthy. But...I don't know -- it still just lacked something for me. It's horses for courses, I suppose. Your point on the crowning-glory type of goal is an excellent one, one which I hadn't even considered.

Red Ranter 9/4/09 2:33 AM  

In terms of quality and context, this one takes the cake.

Fredorrarci 9/4/09 3:55 PM  

And like the Bergkamp goal, from a Frank de Boer pass.

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