The Spot

Nothing Can Be Better than an Amazing Header: In Praise of Robin van Persie

This is going to be a candidate for goal of the tournament no matter what happens over the course of the next month. Here it is, with the obligatory “Goooaaaaal” call.

Flying Dutchman Robin Van Persie was played just onside and flung his entire body in one dolphin-like motion at the ball, blasting it into the goal from just inside the penalty box to begin the scoring for the Netherlands in the team’s 5-1 romp over Spain. The decisive scoreline for Holland in a replay of the 2010 final was the worst defeat for a defending champion in the history of the World Cup. But what will be most remembered in this game was Van Persie’s header.

Spain was involved in another long header at the last World Cup, but this time on the scoring end when defender Carles Puyol blasted this beauty into the corner for the winner against Germany in the semifinals.

Argentina’s Gabriel Heinze also scored an amazing winner at South Africa, putting in his own version of the dolphin dive against Nigera.

A few players have actually been able to score headers from inside their own half, and in 2011 a Japanese second-division player, Ryujiro Ueda, broke the record for longest header with this 58.6-meter volley.

No one has ever scored a goal like van Persie’s, though, on a similar stage—the opening group phase match of the World Cup against the defending champions.