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Tshabalala’s dance for South Africa, Bebeto’s baby-cradling tribute and Grealish’s special moment for super-fan Finlay - the World Cup’s most iconic goal celebrations

16:44 WAT 16/12/2022
Iconic Goal celebrations
GOAL looks back at nine of the most memorable goal celebrations from World Cups past and present.

The World Cup is a festival of football. People from every corner of the globe coming together to play the world’s greatest and most unifying sport. Something so special that we’re only allowed one every four years. It reminds us why we call it the beautiful game.

Now, imagine scoring at one. Imagine all the hours you’ve put in during your life to reach that moment: scoring for your country. The training sessions as a kid, the long journeys to games in your parent’s car, the dedication needed to get into starting line-ups, the feeling of being called up to the national team for the first time.

When you add it all up, there’s no wonder that some of the most iconic celebrations of all time have come during World Cups. Here’s a rundown of our favourites.

  • South AFrica celebration 2010

    Siphiwe Tshabalala vs Mexico | World Cup 2010

    “TSHABALALAAAA!!! GOAL BAFANA BAFANA! GOAL FOR SOUTH AFRICA! GOAL FOR ALL AFRICA!” The opening goal of the 2010 World Cup gave us one of the most perfect pieces of football commentary ever, and the South African team’s synchronised dance, a sort of remixed Macarena, gave Siphiwe Tshabalala’s incredible goal the celebration it deserved.

  • Laudrup celebration 1998

    Brian Laudrup vs Brazil | World Cup 1998

    Scored against Brazil, sprinted off, slid to the floor, rested on his elbow like he was the very chilled-out subject of a life-drawing. The connoisseur's celebration.

  • Bebeto World Cup

    Bebeto vs Netherlands | World Cup 1994

    Having a baby is quite a big thing, but so is scoring a goal against the Netherlands in a World cup quarter-final. After rounding Netherlands goalkeeper Ed de Goey and rolling the ball into the back of the net, Brazilian forward Bebeto sprinted towards the sideline pretending to rock a baby. Teammates Mazinho and Romario followed, and the three players instinctively cradled together, all with massive smiles on their faces. Great.

  • Roger Milla Celebration

    Roger Milla vs Romania | World Cup 1990

    "It was instinctive," Milla said years later of his celebration. “It was the sun that sent me there; it was a good place to dance on the pitch.” If you could move your hips like Roger Milla, you’d probably celebrate goals like this too, and his Makossa-style dance next to the corner flag is still one of Italia 90’s most famous images.

  • Tite Richarlison Brazil dance 2022 World Cup

    Richarlison vs South Korea | World Cup 2022

    The R9-style haircuts. The memes on his Instagram account. The emotion he plays every game with. Richarlison is a treasure. He’s also a funky pigeon. Celebrating his goal against South Korea, Brazil’s third in the opening half an hour, not only did Richie bring the pigeon back, but he got manager Tite involved too. More pigeon dances, please.

  • Senegal celebration World Cup 2002

    Papa Bouba Diop vs France | World Cup 2002

    Taking your shirt off might be a yellow card offence now, but in 2002, that didn’t matter. After scoring against holders France, Diop sprinted to the corner flag, took his shirt off, placed it on the floor, and danced around it with his teammates. The goal led Senegal to a famous victory in their first ever World Cup match, and the celebration matched the ecstasy of the Lions of Teranga fans in the crowd.

  • Jack Grealish World Cup 2022

    Jack Grealish vs Iran | World Cup 2022

    After meeting Finlay, a 12 year old boy with cerebral palsy earlier in the season, Manchester City midfielder Jack Grealish promised him that he’d do his celebration the next time he scored. After scoring in England’s 6-2 win over Iran in the group stages, Jack hugged his teammates, pointed to the crowd, and then spread his arms and did the little wiggle dance that Finlay had shown him. “You were always in the back of my mind, mate,” Jack told Finlay later. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."

  • Finidi George vs Greece | World Cup 1994

    We’ll keep this one short: Finidi George celebrated Nigeria’s second goal against Greece in the 1994 World Cup by getting on all fours like a dog, and lifting his leg up like a dog would. Bonkers.

  • Julius Aghahowa

    Julius Aghahowa vs Sweden | World Cup 2002

    We’ve counted. We think it’s seven. But he’s moving so quickly that it might be eight. Or nine. After putting Nigeria one-nil up against Sweden at the Kobe Wing Stadium, Julius Aghahowa turned the pitch into his own Olympic gymnastics floor exercise and back-flipped his way from the penalty area to close to the touchline. 10/10.

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    Our love for celebrations was extended earlier this year as Karim Benzema exclusively revealed his new celebration to GOAL as part of the Where the World Celebrates campaign: The Benzayala. Karim told us about the celebration all the way from Dubai.

    “The inspiration came from the famous “Ayala”, Karim told us. “A traditional cultural dance performed by Emiratis as part of special celebrations.”

    "To celebrate my involvement with the Where the World Celebrates campaign, the Benzayala is a combination of my surname and this traditional dance, with my own twist to it.”