The FIFA World Cup always produces a collection of sensational and memorable goals, and over the years a number of Asian players have contributed to this rich collection of historic FIFA World Cup moments.
With the 2018 FIFA World Cup just weeks away from kicking off in Russia, with Saudi Arabia playing the host nation in the opening match in Moscow on 14 June, we take a look at five iconic goals scored by Asian players in FIFA World Cup history.
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1. Pak Doo-ik (DPR Korea vs Italy, 1966)
Still regarded as one of the greatest upsets in FIFA World Cup history, DPR Korea’s 1-0 win over Italy in the final match in Group 4 of the 1966 sent shockwaves throughout the world, knocking Italy out of the tournament and sending DPR Korea to the quarter finals, the first time an Asian nation had advanced that far in the tournament’s history.
With half-time fast approaching and with scores still locked at 0-0, the ball fell fortuitously into the path of Pak Doo-Ik on the edge of the area. With the 22-year-old reacting quickest, and having got the better of his Italian defender, he fired a powerful first time effort that whizzed past Enrico Albertosi and smashed into the back of the net to stun the Italians heading into half time.
DPR Korea were then able to hold on during a tight second half to secure the most memorable win in their history, a win that is still talked about to this day.
2. Saeed Al Owairan (Saudi Arabia vs Belgium, 1994)
After a loss against the Netherlands and a win against Morocco, Saudi Arabia entered their final Group F match against Belgium knowing a win would see them through to the knockout rounds at their first attempt.
Receiving the ball deep inside his own half, after a turnover from Enzo Scifo in just the fifth minute, Al-Owairan looked up to see just two teammates ahead of him and began dribbling at speed, brushing past Dirk Medved and Michel De Wolf, before taking aim at the hastily retreating Rudi Smidts.
Slipping the ball between the legs of the defender on the edge of the penalty area, Al-Owairan glided into the box and smashed the ball home past a helpless Michel Preud'homme in the Belgian goal.
The goal sent the large contingent of Saudi fans into delirium and was enough for the Green Falcons to record an historic 1-0 win and earn a spot in the quarter finals at USA 1994.
3. Hamid Estili (Iran vs USA, 1998)
The Islamic Republic of Iran has only won one of their 12 matches they’ve played across four FIFA World Cup tournaments (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014), but that one win was one of the most memorable in FIFA World Cup history.
The match against the USA was one of the most eagerly anticipated matches at France 1998, and the moving display from the two teams showed the power of football to bring people together, but it was still a match both teams were desperate to win.
And it was to become one of the abiding images of the 1998 World Cup that broke the deadlock. Iranian midfielder Hamid Estili rising high to loop a header home before wheeling away to celebrate, the emotion clear on his face, showing just how important the moment was for IR Iran as a nation, not just a team.
"Today, everyone reminds me of that goal," said Estili, whose strike along with Mehdi Mahdavikia's later in the match earned a 2-1 victory.
"People from five to even ninety-five admire me for that goal. Many Iranians who are living abroad now proudly confess that they're Iranian. That victory unified all the Iranians."
4. Ahn Jung-hwan (Korea Republic vs Italy, 2002)
Italy must have nightmares about facing Asian opposition at the FIFA World Cup. After their loss to DPR Korea in 1966, it was the turn of Korea Republic 36 years later when they played Italy in the Round of 16 in Daejeon.
Having taken an early lead through Christian Vieri, the Italians looked headed for the win until Seol Ki-hyeon pounced with just minutes remaining to send the match into extra time.
With the ‘Golden Goal’ rule still in effect, both teams knew any goal would win the game and with 117 minutes on the clock, Lee Young-pyo clipped in a hopeful cross that was met by Ahn Jung-hwan, with the Italian-based striker’s header beating the outstretched hand of Gianluigi Buffon, sending Korea Republic through to the quarter -finals and consigning Italy to another defeat at the hands of Asian opposition.
5. Tim Cahill (Australia vs Netherlands, 2014)
With a young and inexperienced squad, Australia had started the game well against their more fancied Dutch opponents, but a goal from Arjen Robben after 20 minutes took the wind out of their sails. Enter Tim Cahill.
Australia went on the attack straight from the kick off, and with the ball played out wide to right-back Ryan McGowan, the Chinese-based defender, who was playing for Shandong Luneng at the time, hit a perfect first time cross to Cahill whose first time left-footed volley smashed back off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
While Australia would lose the match 3-2, Cahill’s goal was all everyone was talking about after the match and will go down as one of the best in Cahill’s illustrious career with the Australian national team.