- Bergkamp wheels away in ecstasy; Ayala looks devastated
- Eye contact was key to one of the greatest goals in World Cup history
- Bergkamp has, astonishingly, never watched a replay of it
Gorgeous goals were one of Dennis Bergkamp’s great specialities. Every football fan is likely have a personal favourite from the Dutchman, and he certainly gave us plenty to choose from.
But for Bergkamp himself, there was no dilemma. Faced with picking the best of his spectacular strikes, the former Arsenal, Ajax and Inter Milan striker answered without hesitation.
“The goal against Argentina is my top goal,” he said. “To score like that, in my style, on that stage. I love nice football but it has to mean something, and that got us to the World Cup semi-finals.”
The skill involved in each of the three glorious touches that produced it instantly established the goal as one of the greatest ever at the FIFA World Cup™. Asked how he managed it in the 89th minute of a tough, tense and energy-sapping quarter-final at France 1998, Bergkamp was able to provide a step-by-step guide.
“First,” he told FourFourTwo, “there's eye contact with Frank de Boer – he's going to give the ball. Then: sprint away, get six yards away from the defender. The ball is coming over my shoulder. I run in a straight line, jump up to meet the ball, kill it dead.
"The second touch turns inside, to make sure [Roberto] Ayala is gone, and to get a better angle on goal. I aim for the far post and let it curve in. After the second touch I know it can't go wrong. No chance!
"You give absolutely everything, like your life is leading up to this moment. You never play the perfect game. But the moment itself was, I think, perfect."
It is a vivid description of a truly wonderful goal, and the image above captures the moments that followed – before the goalscorer was mobbed by ecstatic Dutch team-mates. “My reaction after the goal was emotional,” he recalled, “because I remembered the dreams of the World Cup I had when I was seven or eight.”
Yet despite the goal’s significance and status as his personal favourite, Bergkamp has admitted to having never watched it back – for one good reason. “It’s still in your mind,” he explained. “I don’t really need to see it on television. I know exactly how it went.”