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Best goals of the Group Stage

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Just because the World Cup isn’t on, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some goals

Nigeria v Iceland: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s no soccer today, what are we going to do? The last two weeks probably had the most exciting international soccer I’ve ever seen. This World Cup has really delivered and the goals have been spectacular. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can watch them over, and over, and over again, so we invite you to spend the World Cup’s day off doing just that.

Ronaldo’s free kick against Spain was a clinic on the power of positive thinking and visualizing yourself to success. Here Ronaldo composes himself by taking some deep breths to settle his nerves and then sends an absolute rocket into the top corner to even the score with Spain. It almost seems like a commercial for Advocare, come to MLS Ronaldo, FC Dallas need you.

Come get your narrative. Serbia vs. Switzerland was one of the more entertaining games of the group stage and that might have been because some of the players were playing for more than just a result in the World Cup. For Switzerland, Granit Xhaka, whose family came to Swizerland from Kosovo after facing oppression from the government there, opened the scoring. But it would be Xherdan Shaqiri, who wore boots sporting both the Swiss and Kosovo flag during the match, that would give fans - if not a great goal, an amazing moment that shows why the World Cup is beyond a bunch of games played for a month.

Iceland is tough you say? They close on whoever is near their box with four defenders whenever the ball is played to them? The Smiters will kick anyone whose feet touch the ground as they try a shot, you tell me? Ahmed Musa’s solution was to float over the field and set himself up for this glorious goal:

Everything about this is wonderful from the ball fake before the pass into the box to the roulette that sets up the goal - Senegal was done wrong in the World Cup but they showed us some beautiful soccer along the way:

Who doesn’t love a clever goal off of a set piece?

If there’s something we learned during the group stage, it’s that Thierry Henry is the 2006 Jogi Low of the 2018 World Cup. That probably means that somehow the US will hire Roberto Martinez to lead the national team while Henry wins the World Cup with Belgium in 2022 while the Stars and Stripes allow 53 goals in the tournament. So yeah, Belgium scored some great goals like this one by Romelu Lukaku:

South Korea may have lost to Mexico, but their consolation goal was a thing of pure beauty:

While Switzerland was busy kicking Neymar, Philippe Coutinho was doing this. The Swiss keeper wasn’t even mad:

<Extreme Fox commentator voice yelling something that they think has become a cute meme and not a feature of their World Cup coverage that belies the lack of research, analysis, and contempt that viewers have for the way the network has presented the event>

SET PIECES SET PIECES SET PIECES SET PIECES SET PIECES SET PIECES SET PIECESSETPIECESSETPIECES

Ah, Panama vs. England - what a game. The historical political narrative of Panama existing as a country because the US wanted to build the canal and then going on a century later to help knock the USMNT out of the World Cup only to get crushed by America’s former colonists now is a circle only the World Cup could square. This goal is a proper allegory for such a match:

10/10 on the goal 3.5/10 on the celebration slide:

For my taste, the best day in the group stage was Group H playing on June 24 and it might not have been the best goal of the day, but the pass that led to it is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen:

Brian Ruiz missed the single greatest penalty ever taken - the extremely difficult missed penalty, own goal:

It took Peru a while, but it might have been worth it. They showed why they deserved to be in the tournament:

BONUS CONTENT

Best not goals of the first round, but still fun...

Tag yourself: (the ball kid is Putin, the ball is a Super Bowl ring, and the ref is Robert Kraft).

Then there’s this:

What could better encapsulate a goal that wins a game, but puts Belgium on the harder side of the elimination bracket?

And finally, every high school soccer final ends on a flip throw-in in the last minute that wins the game - it doesn't really work in the World Cup though.