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11th Jun 2018

World Cup Moments: Jared Borgetti defies the laws of physics in 2002

It is a goal that defies belief, more with each viewing

Wayne Farry

He had absolutely no right

How could he? Standing where he was, facing the direction that he was, marked by the man marking him, it shouldn’t have even entered his mind to do what he did.

Back to goal, with two of the best men to ever play in their positions between him and the goal. It should have been the end of it. Instead it was just the beginning, the moment at which arguably the greatest ever header the World Cup has ever seen.

It had seemed so innocuous for so long. It had seemed so innocuous right up until the moment the ball nestled impossibly into the bottom corner.

It began with a cross-field ball, as most good things do. The same ball was then passed around on the edge of Italy’s box for a short while, dangerous but rarely threatening, Mexico lightly tapping at the Azzurri door.

It then arrived at the feet of Cuauhtémoc Blanco, a man best known for his ability to cup his feet together like a hammock and scoop the ball up between unsuspecting defenders.

What he did this time was significantly more simple, but significantly more effective.

He took a touch, again Italy were unthreatened. What was this 29-year-old and slightly portly footballer going to do from that distance? Against a defence of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta?

He was going to look up and chip it. Some say dink but it was really more of a chip, it had the back spin which would prove crucial just seconds later.

His chip was successful. It entered the Italian box, but still it appeared innocuous. Yes, Italy’s defence was spread wide, cast around the box in a scatter gun shape which was rarely seen before or since, but still.

Were it Italy’s own Christian Vieri or Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta then perhaps, maybe, this would have been a situation worth committing a modicum of concern towards, but this was Jared Borgetti.

An average player he was not but was he the kind to warrant worry from Paolo Maldini? Considering what was about to come, the answer is undeniably yes. A million times yes.

But at this time, before we witnessed what we were about to witness. Before our eyes were gifted with what we were about to see, the answer was a resounding no.

Then it happened.

Blanco’s chipped ball, good in the moment but perfect with the hindsight of history, was on a trajectory that – if untouched – would have gone safely out of play beyond Gianluigi Buffon’s post.

There was no swing, little pace, just a ball. It was all Jared Borgetti needed.

He had gained an advantage by getting out of the blocks quicker than Paolo Maldini, an advantage many had gained but few had capitalised upon throughout the defender’s career.

Despite this, Maldini would have been unperturbed. Where was Borgetti running to? Away from goal? Towards the corner of the six-yard line? He had it under control. Until he didn’t.

He had it under control until Jared Borgetti, running away from goal, chose to arch his neck and move his head with just enough force away from the goal. A taller man may have headed the ball clear by accident. Instead, Borgetti used the perfect amount of weight to change the trajectory beyond comprehension.

This ball, once going safely out of play beyond Gianluigi Buffon’s post, was now looping, outrageously, over Gianluigi Buffon’s head.

It nestles, perfectly, into the inside netting. Buffon is incredulous. Borgetti is incredulous. Everyone is incredulous.

Each time you watch the goal back – even 16 years on – it seems more and more improbable. And it is a goal which requires repeat viewings. It requires these viewings to truly appreciate, to truly believe what you’ve just witnessed. And even then, you’ll struggle.

It is a goal which cannot be described in a manner which does it justice. It is a goal which must be watched, consumed, over and over again to truly be understood. But you never will, only Jared Borgetti will. And that’s alright.