Ranking the 2013 FIFA Puskas Award Shortlisted Goals
Named for legendary Real Madrid striker Ferenc Puskas, FIFA's annual competition for the greatest goal of the year has been running since 2009, when Cristiano Ronaldo won voters' hearts with his stunning long-range strike for Manchester United against Porto.
Football's governing body has now released the 10 nominated goals for 2013, which were selected using its specific four-point criteria: beauty, importance, whether any luck or error was involved and fair play.
A first round of fan voting will select a top three, whereupon a second fan vote will decide the winning strike. The best goal will be honoured at the Ballon d'Or gala on January 13.
Here's my ranking of the 10-goal shortlist; be sure to put your opinion in the comments below.
10. Louisa Necib (Lyon) vs. St Etienne, March 2013
Video must be watched on YouTube site
Regarded by many as the best female footballer on the planet, French midfielder Louisa Necib showed off her skill against St Etienne this year with a 25-yard shot that tucked perfectly into the top left corner of the goal.
A female player has yet to achieve a ranking in Puskas voting, and this great-but-not-brilliant strike seems unlikely to change this.
9. Daniel Luduena (Pachua) vs. Tigres, July 2013
Argentinian-Mexican attacking midfielder Daniel Luduena made the difference in Pachua's 2-1 Liga MX win over Tigres when he spotted the keeper off of his line and took a punt from inside his own half.
Goals from distance like this don't typically fare well in the Puskas voting, but Luduena will get a nod for the vision and audacity he showed here.
8. Lisa De Vanna (Sky Blue FC) vs. Boston Breakers, March 2013
The second of two female Puskas contenders comes from Australian forward Lisa De Vanna, who scored this outrageous overhead kick in the NWSL.
Most players would have gone for a regular volley when a ball like that was looped over to them, but seeing that she had very little defensive pressure, De Vanna went for a flair move instead.
It's a great goal, but the fact that the commentator on this clip immediately mentions Zlatan Ibrahimovic's name suggests it is not the most iconic strike on this list...
7. Neymar (Brazil) vs. Japan, June 2013
To witness Barcelona's latest (and most overhyped) signing, the world tuned into the Confederations Cup to see if Neymar was more than just a YouTube highlight reel.
The young Brazilian only waited until the third minute of the first match to show he was a force to be reckoned with by unleashing a perfect 25-yard blast into the top corner.
Neymar has an outside chance of getting a top-three spot with this effort, but it's not a patch on his goal that won the 2011 competition.
6. Juan Manuel Olivera (Nautico) vs. Sport Recife, August 2013
Uruguayan forward Juan Manuel Olivera scored the best goal of his career in the Copa Sudamerica this year, a left-footed swerving volley from outside the box.
He will get extra points for helping to set himself up with an excellent one-two move, and the voters always like a long-range volley—just ask last year's winner Miroslav Stoch.
5. Nemanja Matic (Benfica) vs. Porto, January 2013
Former Chelsea star Nemanja Matic scored a stunning opener in Benfica's epic 2-2 draw with Porto in January, topping off an excellent set piece.
The goal—and the performance—were so good that the Serbian was awarded a contract extension the next day, which included a €45 million buy-out clause.
Matic will win points for importance and aesthetics, and his status as the Primeira Liga Player of the Year will not harm his chances.
4. Panagiotis Kone (Bologna) vs. Napoli, December 2012
Bologna were 2-1 down in the 86th minute of their visit to Napoli in December 2012 when Greek midfielder Panagiotis Kone pulled off an incredible bicycle kick from outside the box. It's hard to imagine any keeper in the world getting a hand to a rifled volley like that.
The goal wins credit not only for beauty, but also importance, as it started a fight-back that resulted in a shock 3-2 win for Bologna.
3. Peter Ankersen (Esbjerg) vs. AGF, August 2013
Esbjerg's fifth goal of the afternoon against Danish league rivals AGF didn't mean much, but Peter Ankersen's volley was breathtaking.
The strike from an incredibly tight angle is reminiscent of Marco van Batsen's stunner at the Euro '88 Final. Seeing as that is considered one of the greatest goals ever, Ankersen stands a decent chance of Puskas recognition with this.
2. Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) vs. Chievo, April 2013
Antonio Di Natale's left-foot volley against Chievo showed timing, technique and unbridled beauty.
If this doesn't make it into the final three, there is simply no justice in the world.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) vs. England, November 2012
You knew this goal was coming.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic narrowly missed out on the deadline for the 2012 Puskas Award when he evoked a global clang of jaws hitting the floor during Sweden's November 2012 friendly with England.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker scored all four of the Scandinavian goals, but his fourth, a 35-yard bicycle kick, was something only the tempestuous Swede could have produced.
Yes, it came as a result of Joe Hart's goalkeeping error, but the combination of technique, agility, quick thinking and gutsiness required to pull off a goal like this is astounding.
They might as well start engraving the "Z" on the trophy...