Today’s footie (and repost)

July 4, 2014 • 4:23 am

You all know the drill: France vs. Germany at 11 a.m. Chicago time and (a corker) Brazil vs. Colombia at 3 p.m. Here’s a video of Colombia’s hero, James Rodríguez, in 2004 at age 10 (he’s now only 23). According to the Spanish description, he’s playing “en el festival Ponyfútbol”:

Just to get everyone in the mood for the quarter finals, I’m putting up my first repost: my chat with football announcer Seamus Malin previously published on Oct. 30, 2012.  Of course everyone will disagree with Seamus’s choices, but the man has experience! I believe Seamus is broadcasting or providing color for some of the games in this cup, too, though I haven’t heard him.


I’m staying with friends in Cambridge who have another visitor, too: Seamus Malin. You soccer fans might recognize the name, since Seamus was a soccer announcer for 40 years, working at ESPN, ABC, NBC, and CBS.  Altogether he covered soccer in seven World Cups and three Olympic games, and watched or broadcast thousands of games, both live and on television. He’s in the National Soccer Hall of Fame for his broadcasting.

Although I’m a soccer neophyte, I took advantage of Seamus’s presence and affability to ask him, since he’s seen so much soccer, to tell me what he considered the best players, games, and goals.  Here is his list, divided up by category. Players are ranked in order of quality, with the best at the top. For each player I provide a link to his Wikipedia entry and to a YouTube video of his performance. And for each player I give his nationality and the clubs he’s most commonly associated with.

Seamus has seen every one of these guys play.

The seven best nonactive players (again, in descending order of greatness):

Pelé (from Brazil; Santos). Video.

Diego Maradona (from Argentina; Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli). Video.

Bobby Charlton (from England; Manchester United). Video. Seamus was at this game, which he considers Charlton’s greatest day of glory.

Alfredo Di Stéfano (from Argentina; Real Madrid). Video.

Ferenc Puskás (from Hungary; Real Madrid). Video. A rare left-footed player.

(next two added later)

Franz Beckenbauer (from Germany; Bayern Munich). Video. Seamus says he’s the only player in the history of the game to have won World Cups as a captain (not just a player) and later as a coach. Video.

Johan Cruyff (from the Netherlands; Ajax and Barcelona). Video.

As Seamus told me, “Nobody can argue with any of these choices.”

The eleven best active players:

Lionel Messi (From Argentina; Barcelona). Seamus considers him the best player of all time, better than Pelé were the latter to be fast-forwarded to today’s game.  I’m embedding a “best of” video for Messi; this guy is fast!  Note: turn the music off before watching; it’s offensive and I noticed it only much later.

Cristiano Ronaldo (From Portugal; Real Madrid). Video.

Falcao (Radamel Falcao García; from Colombia; Athletico Madrid). Video.

Andrés Iniesta (From Spain; Barcelona). Video.

Xavi Hernandez (From Spain; Barcelona). Video.

Iker Casillas (goalkeeper, Real Madrid). Video.  The only goalkeeper on this list.

Neymar (Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, from Brazil, Santos). Video.

Zlatam Ibrahamovic (From Sweden; Paris St-Germain). Video.

Wayne Rooney (from England; Manchester United). Video.

Andrea Pirlo (from Italy; Juventus). Video.

Robin van Persie (from the Netherlands; Manchester United). Video.

Seamus notes that people may argue with his choice of Pirlo.

Seamus’s “best game”:

Seen live in person, as a fan.  The 1966 World Cup Final in London, which England won 4-2 in overtime against West Germany.  Germany scored in the 90th minute to send the game into overtime. England, however, made a controversial goal (the ball bounced down after it hit the crossbar, and it’s unsure whether it crossed the goal line). And, according to Seamus, existing video isn’t capable of settling the issue. Video of the highlights is here.

Seen live in person, as a broadcaster:  The 1992 gold-medal Olympic game played in Barcelona. Spain beat Poland by a score of  3-2, with the winning goal coming in the 90th minute. According to Seamus, 90,000 people were in the stadium, providing a rousing atmosphere that carried the Polish team to their best.  Further, King Juan Carlos arrived at halftime, which is the first time the Spanish national team had played in hostile Catalonian Barcelona. Seamus was broadcasting the game for NBC, though only the highlights were shown on American television. Some of the highlights are shown on this video.

Viewed on television:  The 1970 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and Italy, played in Mexico, which the Italians won in overtime by a score of 4-3. The score at the end of regulation time was 1-1, but then 5 goals were scored in a thrilling free-for-all overtime. Sadly, Italy went on to lose to Brazil in the final. The video is here.

Best team ever:  The Brazil national team in 1970, which beat Italy 4-1 in the World Cup final. Seamus considers this the benchmark for any cup final game. This video shows some highlights of Brazil’s World Cup performance.

Best individual performance in a game seen live: Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final game against England. (Argentina, which won the game 2-1, went on to win the final.) Maradona made one illegal goal using his hand (the infamous “Hand of God” goal) which wasn’t spotted by the referees, and then made another fantastic and genuine goal dribbling by a half-dozen defenders. Seamus was the NBC studio host of this game, and the studio technology was able to show the illegality of the first goal much more clearly than the referees were able to discern.  This video shows both goals:

Seamus has amended this to add Cruyff’s performance for the Netherlands against Argentina (4-0 for Netherland) in the 1974 World Cup.  Cruyff was brilliant, scoring one goal, setting up the other, and completely dominating the game.  Video highlights are here.

Seamus has also added a special category:

Best performance by a duo seen live:  This occurred in the 1960 European Cup Final, with the final score Real Madrid 7, Eintracht Frankfurt 3.  Puskás scored 4 goals for Real Madrid and Di Stefano scored 3 (see list of top five non-active players).  This combination of talent, according to Seamus, produced one of the most thrilling games he’s ever seen. As Wikipedia notes,  “It is widely regarded as one of the greatest football matches ever played,” and was watched by 125,000 people in the stadium.  The highlights, showing all the goals, are in this video.

Many thanks to Seamus for imparting this information to me. Here’s a photo of him I took yesterday afternoon:

It’s almost unnecessary to add that because I know I have many soccer-loving readers, you’re welcome to agree, disagree, and add your own opinions in the comments. Seamus might weigh in himself if you ask him questions or take issue (politely, I might add!) with his judgments.

45 thoughts on “Today’s footie (and repost)

  1. I heard this anecdote… considered by some as the best sportscasting comment ever but subject to review: On the eve of the WC final in I think 1966 between Germany and England, a commenter apparently said, “If Germany prevails over us tomorrow at this, our national game, we would do well to remember that we have twice beaten them at theirs”.
    Cannot verify, apologies to German readers….

      1. The Mail is to journalism what Maradonna was to the game of football – brilliant at what they do/did, but in the end, just liars, cheats and crooks.

    1. Hence the famous (notorious) chant “Two World Wars and One World Cup”.

      The chant doesn’t mention that we needed a lot of help from the Russians in all three cases……

  2. “Here’s a video of Colombia’s hero, James Rodríguez, in 2004 at age 10 (he’s now only 23)” – In a mere 10 years, he has managed to age 13? Now THAT is a talent

    Bobby Charlton, ahead of Di Stefano and Cruyff? Behave.

    Casillas hasn’t even been first choice for Real Madrid for a couple of years. let alone the best in the world.

    1. You know what? You don’t have to be so rude in your comments. “Behave,” really?

      You’re free to take issue with Seamus’s choices, and I expect many will, but, as always, I expect commenters to be polite, especially because I know Seamus.

      1. No rudeness or offence was meant.

        “Behave” is polite. It’s just a good natured phrase said between people in the UK when disgreeing.

        I would be shocked if Seamus took any offence whatsoever

        1. Football and friendly banter goes hand in hand, but the web may not be the best place for it.

          The irony doesn’t translate well. 😉

      2. Rude or not, he has a valid point about the arithmetic. If it helps, Rodríguez’s 23rd birthday is on the 12th of this month so technically he is still 22 just (according to Wikipedia, anyway).

      1. I have a ton of work to do today so I’m not even going to be able to have the game in the background because I’m one of those people disturbed by noises when I have to do heavy thinking. 🙁 I really want to see the France vs. Germany game too as I suspect it will be a close one like you predict.

        1. No early weekend for you?

          I had a birthday party I was supposed to attend that got cancelled. Not to be antisocial, but it suits me fine. 😀

          I have great expectations for both games….hopefully we’ll see some great attacking football although there’s always the risk of the teams playing conservatively at this stage of the tournament.

          Vamos Colombia! 🙂

          1. Nope, we Canadians had Tuesday off….Tuesday. But I took Fri & Mon to make it longer….which means I have to do the work I didn’t do on those days. 🙂

            1. Oh well, at least there’s plenty more footie tomorrow.

              I have the luxury of a long weekend this week, but I guess there’s no need to rub that in your face. 🙂

  3. This post is great and very informative. The discussion of who is considered the best of all time is between Pele and Maradona. Another one is whether Messi has already passed Maradona. To start, Pele is a three-time WC champion and Messi does not have a single WC. Also, I recommend everyone to watch the videos of Maradona during practice; he looks like a magician.

  4. George Best, unfortunate enough, like me, to come from a small country, Northern Ireland, and to have never played in the World Cup?

    Americans might not know the famous Best anecdote. Fabulously handsome, he retired young to drink it all away and bed a few Miss Worlds on the way.

    One night in his hotel with the latest beauty in his room, and a pile of winnings from the casino strewn on his bed, a hotel waiter entered his room and surveyed the scene.

    “Where did it all go wrong, George?” he said.

    1. “I spent most of my money on women and booze. The rest of it I wasted”

      He did play for the San Jose Earthquakes, so some Americans might be aware of him

    2. Yes, I’d go with Bestie as the major omission from Seamus’s list. I was only a boy but I did see him play in the flesh. Newcastle United v Manchester United, St. James’ Park, 1972. The Mags won 3-2. If Best had been from a major footballing country he’d be on everyone’s list.

      1. Hang on. Seamus is being modest. With a name like that – Malin, as in Malin Head, Donegal, just up the road from Best’s Belfast – he doesn’t want to be accused of parochialism. At least that’s my explanation.

        Slaínte (as, no doubt, Best often said himself).

  5. I wonder what Seamus thinks of Howard’s recent performance? I believe Iker would be jealous!

  6. Ah, the notorious “Wembley Goal”, still hotly debated!
    I guess it’s why German engineers developed the Goal line technology now in place, no more debates about goal or not.

    I hope Germany will win, so I still can win the autographed WEIT book. But Germany really need to step up to have a chance.
    Brazil will win the gave against Columbia, I’d say. There are rumours though that Neymar isn’t fit enough to play. If he’s not playing, Columbia has more than a good chance to win.

  7. High expectations for today. These may be the two best matches of the WC so far. 538 has the favorites (and probability of winning) as:
    Brazil (72%), Germany (53%), Netherlands (76%) and Argentina (70%).

    I think Germany has the most overall talent of any team but does not have that one superlative player. Germany/France feels like a coin flip, I think Germany has more talent but think France will win.

    I think Colombia can easily beat Brazil. Brazil has not shown much so far. It could be the home field disadvantage – enormous pressure.

    Tomorrow’s games appear to be less competitive and ARG and NED should win. So I expect to be wrong – two easy, disappointing matches today and two great matches tomorrow.

  8. Check out this awesome video of the best moments of Colombia’s team in this World Cup. Some really impressive plays and it shows how James changes from a shy kid overwhelmed to be in his first World Cup to a true football crack and the inspiration of his team and country. Starts with the first national anthem, when the music stops short of a full anthem, the 30,000 Colombians in the stadium just keep on singing at the top of their lungs.

    1. Interestingly, in his first interview after landing in Brazil, James said timidly that his biggest dream was to score a goal in the World Cup. Well now he has 5, and 3 of them absolutely spectacular.

  9. I’d include Zico – Brazil, Flamengo, Udinese and Kashima Antlers (we called the White Pele), for me he was an amazing player. I know Boby Charlton was a very good player but sometimes the Europeans tends to ignore some players in South America. The South America’s Cup was way more difficult, during ths 80’s, to win than in Europe some reasons. Some cities like Quito and Bogota are over 2,800 meters above sea level (Potossi is above 4,000m). Second, could you imagine a Brazilian team playing in Chile during the Pinochet’s regime? For example, in 1981, Libertadores da América (the Champion’s League equivalent), Flamengo-BRA played against Cobreloa-CHI. The Chilean Police beat the Brazilian players before the match to intimidate. Mario Soto (Cobreloa) played the whole game holding a rock in his hands to increase his punch power.

    Zico’s goals.

    A Brazilian article about this game (only in Portuguse),,MUL1530935-9865,00-MARIO+SOTO+NEGA+A+ADILIO+TER+JOGADO+FINAL+DA+LIBERTADORES+DE+COM+PEDRA+NA+M.html

  10. Baffling Wayne Rooney is on the list of “best active”. In England, the general feeling is he shouldn’t even be in the England first XI. He’s had a poor domestic season, and his England appearances before and during the world cup have been poor. It would be a safe bet he isn’t even recalled to the national team after the world cup.

  11. My one sporting claim to fame was being at the ’86 world cup and seeing the “hand of god” game as well as the final.

    Also was there for the Negrete goal for Mexico against Bulgaria. To me this was the greatest goal I have seen in person (better than the Maradona goals, which are 2 & 3)


  12. Here’s a question for the soccer fans from someone who only watches a couple games a year. I seem to remember hearing a lot about the Brazilian Ronaldo a few years ago, and his Wikipedia page certainly makes him sound good. Is he being overlooked here, or is he just not the same caliber as these players?

      1. Aye, I’m a bit disappointed about their play so far.

        2-1 and aprox 15 minutes to go….it’s gonna be hectic!

      2. I have to disagree. Brazil played cynically. The reason that Colombia showed nothing was that Brazil stopped them playing. Nothing wrong with that, you might say, but James Rodríguez was kicked around the park all evening and the officials did nothing to halt it. He was also taken out off the ball, quite deliberately, at least once.

        The officiating in the match was dreadful, easily the worst of the tournament so far. A couple of the Brazilians could have had two yellow cards, but there were only two bookings in the game, one of those, ironically, being James Rodríguez for a relatively innocuous challenge.

        The ref ignored Brazil advancing over the line before the ball was touched when Colombia had a couple of free kicks, and the award of a free kick for Luis’s goal (albeit a very good free kick) was dubious, to say the least.

        Soccer’s vainglorious leader, Sepptic Bladder was in the crowd, and the referee was allowing Brazil to get away with antics that he has publicly said should not be seen on a soccer pitch.

        I am sad to see Brazil’s only truly flair player, Neymar, ruled out for several weeks with a nasty injury, but that was brought about by the referee not cracking down on Brazil’s cynical and brutal side. Colombia were bound to get rough themselves, sooner or later, if the match officials weren’t protecting them. In a way, Brazil were hoist upon their own petard in this respect.

        The Brazil that I know and love to watch, plays with flow and flair. This is not that Brazil. In my view, it will be a travesty if Brazil win this World Cup playing this way. It would sully The Beautiful Game.

  13. It looks like Neymar has fractured some bones and won’t be able to play for a few weeks: Advantage Germany.

    1. I guess it is an advantage, but one the German team would rather not have.

      The FIFA is investigating, just seeing that foul hurt.

  14. Mario Zagallo has won the cup as a player with Brazil in 1958 and 1962 and as a coach in 1970.
    So beckenbauer isn’t the only one.

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