The 2018 version of football’s premier tournament has captured the world’s imagination yet again and already we have had classic matches and goals that will live long in the memory.
From hosts Russia scoring two potential goals of the tournament in the opening match, to Cristiano Ronaldo scoring that free kick in the last-minute against Spain, Philippe Coutinho’s strike against Switzerland and Benjamin Pavard’s goal screamer against Argentina.
Of course the World Cup consistently offers up amazing goals, with many of the greatest of all time being scored at previous tournaments.
From Diego Maradona’s solo run against England to Brazil’s beautiful team goal against Italy finished off by Carlos Alberto.
World Cup goals hold a special place in the hearts of football fans and the public at large and live long in people’s memory for years to come.
One such strike that people still talk about is Dennis Bergkamp’s amazing last-minute winner against Argentina twenty years ago.
So let’s take a look back on one of the defining goals of the World Cup and how we got to that unforgettable moment.
The Netherlands and their non-flying Dutchman
The Dutch team that Dennis Bergkamp was part of at the 1994 World Cup had been ripped apart in the four years after the first World Cup in North America, out were the likes of Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard and in came Jaap Stam, Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf.
After another explosion of talent from the famed Ajax academy, the Dutch were seen as an outside bet for the 1998 World Cup in France.
Following a disappointing performance at Euro 96, the Dutch strolled through the World Cup qualifiers, finishing top of their group as this young generation of Dutch players continued to grow with every game.
In the lead up to the 1998 World Cup, Dennis Bergkamp had just had the defining season of his life, scoring 22 goals and helping Arsenal to a league and cup double.
During that 97/98 season Bergkamp scored what many pundits believe is the greatest hat-trick of all time against Leicester City, with his third goal highlighting Bergkamp’s sublime first touch and Iceman like qualities.
Even though there had been an injection of youth in the national team and Patrick Kluivert was scoring regularly, Bergkamp was still the main man for the Dutch.
After his decision to stop flying had earned him the nickname the Non-Flying Dutchman, Bergkamp would drive to away games in the days prior, this didn’t affect his form and he finished as the Netherlands top scorer in World Cup qualifying.
At the 1998 World Cup the Netherlands topped their group on goal difference from Mexico with Bergkamp among the goals in their victory over South Korea.
Next up for the Dutch was a last 16 tie against Yugoslavia. With Patrick Kluivert serving a suspension Bergkamp was deployed as the lone striker against the Yugoslavians, and he opened the scoring goal with a fine finish past goalkeeper Ivica Kralj.
Just after half-time Yugoslavia equalised and moments later they had a penalty with Jaap Stam adjudged to have fouled midfielder Vladimir Jugovic.
Luckily for Stam, Mijatović blasted the penalty against the bar and, with the match looking like it was heading for extra time, Edgar Davids hit a late winner for the Netherlands as they advanced to the quarter finals to face Argentina.
On 4 July, 1998 over 60,000 supporters packed into the Stade Velodrome in Marseille to see a heavily favoured Netherlands face off against Argentina in the World Cup quarter finals.
The first goal arrived on 12 minutes with the returning Patrick Kluivert opening proceedings with a fine finish after Dennis Bergkamp put the ball on a plate for him.
Argentina were only behind for five minutes as the Dutch attempted to play the offside trap, Claudio Lopez snuck in and finished past Edwin van der Sar and the game was level.
Argentina struck the post twice as the game progressed, as the heat in the south of France began to affect the players, tackles began flying in with both teams having a man sent off, and the match looked like it was heading towards extra time as the clock ticked down.
With the game in the final minute, Frank de Boer came out of defence with the ball as the Argentinians began to retreat into their own half.
From inside Dutch territory, de Boer launched a cross field pass deep into the Argentinean half. The ball landed perfectly on the right foot of Dennis Bergkamp just inside the box.
With his next touch Bergkamp deftly knocked the ball through the legs of centre half Robert Ayala and freed himself up for a one-on-one shot against Carlos Roa.
Bergkamp fires past the goalkeeper into the far corner and reels off in celebration with the Dutch through to the semi-finals of the World Cup.
In terms of skill, Bergkamp was able to pick a 50 yard cross field ball out of the air with his first touch, knocked the ball through the defender’s legs and freeing himself up for a one-on-one with his second touch, and then fired past the keeper with his third and final touch as the Argentina players fell to the ground and Bergkamp reeled off in celebration.
From Frank de Boer playing the cross field ball to it hitting the back of the net it took a total of five seconds, there’s no other word for it than sensational.
Bergkamp and the Netherlands couldn’t produce the same heroics against Brazil in the semi-final as the Netherlands bowed out on penalties.
Although many people thought that this young Dutch team would go on to bigger and better things at Euro 2000 and the next World Cup, it didn’t come to past.
After losing in the semi-finals of Euro 2000 to Italy again on penalties, Dennis Bergkamp retired from international football to focus on his club career at Arsenal.
Perhaps another factor in his retirement was the fact that the next World Cup was being held in Japan/South Korea and the journey by car would be too far for the Non-Flying Dutchman.
Ultimately what had been seen as a team destined for a World Cup final didn’t even qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
Bergkamp’s career at Arsenal continued for another six years after his retirement from international football and during that time he would continue to score sublime goals.