Roberto Carlos | Brazil vs. China
2002 Group Stage
Roberto Carlos is most well-known for his free-kick against France in 1997, so sometimes his strike against China in the 2002 World Cup gets overlooked. Brazil was down 1-0 in their opening match, but that deficit did not last long. Roberto Carlos struck the ball as hard as he could and his shot just had enough power to fly right by the Chinese keeper. Brazil would go on to win the match and the entire tournament.
Darijo Srna | Croatia vs. Australia
2006 Group Stage
Darijo Srna was one of Croatia’s best players during his international career. His goal against Australia was the best of his career as he launched an absolute rocket into the back of the net to give Croatia a 2nd-minute lead in this crucial last match of the group stage. This goal is often overshadowed by one of the most bizarre moments in World Cup history when teammate Josip Šimunić was given three yellow cards before being sent off. Croatia ultimately tied this match and failed to advance to the knockout stages.
Kieran Trippier | England vs. Croatia
Kieran Trippier had a phenomenal 2018 World Cup and his free-kick against Croatia was his iconic moment of the tournament. Trippier had a breakthrough year with Tottenham and earned his place a regular starter for the Three Lions. He was not known for his free-kick ability before this moment, but it seemed that Trippier was putting together pleasantly surprising moments every match, and given his form at the time, Trippier’s goal was not a complete shock. Unfortunately for England, Croatia would level the match with Ivan Perisic’s 68th-minute strike and go on to win in extra-time.
Eric Wynalda | USA vs. Switzerland
1994 Group Stage
Although the hosts could not make it out of the group stage, the USMNT did have something to cheer about in their 1994 World Cup appearance. After going down to Switzerland in the opening match, American Eric Wynalda produced the best goal of his career as he was able to find the top corner from a serviceable distance out. The game would end 1-1 and the Americans would be eliminated from the group stage on goal differential.
Rivelino | Brazil vs. East Germany
1974 Second Round
Rivelino’s free-kick against East Germany was special due to how the set-piece was worked. Instead of attempting to go around, above, or below the East German wall, Brazil put its own player lined up beside the East German players. Rivelino aimed directly at him and smashed the ball as hard as he could. Moments before Rivelino struck the ball, his teammate moved out of the way, creating a breach in the wall and leading to the Brazilian goal.
David Beckham | England vs. Colombia
1998 Group Stage
Beckham had quite a reputation for scoring brilliant goals and free-kicks in particular throughout his career. The movie “Bend it like Beckham” is no coincidence — he could move the ball as well as anyone. His goal against Colombia in England’s final group stage game in 1998 was an iconic example of his free-kick ability. He curled the ball around the Colombian wall, always having the ball moving away from the keeper until it was buried in the back of the net.
Cristiano Ronaldo | Portugal vs. Spain
2018 Group Stage
Down 3-2 in the 88th minute, Ronaldo drew a foul outside the box. He had already scored two goals against their Iberian rivals and he needed to produce a third to grab an important point in Portugal’s opening match. Ronaldo stepped up and demonstrated why he is one of the best to have ever played by coming up with the perfect strike when his country needed it. This match is commonly regarded as “Ronaldo vs. Spain” due to Ronaldo’s heroics.
David Luiz | Brazil vs. Colombia
David Luiz’s form has declined significantly over the years, but not too long ago he was regarded as one of the best center-backs in the world. His 35-yard strike in front of the Brazilian crowd against one of their South American rivals in the knockout stage is the greatest individual moment of his career, and arguably its apex. Brazil’s 2014 World Cup run ended in embarrassing fashion as they would be humiliated on their own soil in a 7-1 defeat at the hands of eventual winners Germany.
Bernard Greghini | France vs. Austria
1982 Group Stage
Bernard Greghini may not be a household name in world football, but he produced one of the greatest goals in World Cup history. His precise and powerful long-distance strike made the keeper look silly even attempting to stop it. His goal was the crucial moment in the match, as France would go on to win 1-0.
Ronaldinho | England vs. Brazil
Ronaldinho showed why he was one of the greatest players in the world as his incredible free-kick ended up being the gamewinner against England in the 2002 quarterfinals. Brazil drew a foul in a spot where every player and viewer expected Ronaldinho to serve a cross into the box. Instead, Ronaldinho lifted the ball towards goal with pace and power and right over the unsuspecting keeper David Seamen. Had Seamen known Ronaldinho was going to shoot, he most likely would have saved it, but part of the goal’s brilliance is Ronaldinho’s awareness to recognize the situation and then having the skill to capitalize on it.