Arsenal Legend Bergkamp On His Favourite Ever Goal...
One of the finest players to ever grace this planet, Arsenal and Holland great Dennis Bergkamp reveals his finest footballing moment, how he accomplished it and what it still means to him.
Holland v Argentina,
World Cup quarter final,
July 5, 1998,
The 90th minute
“That’s my top goal, I think. Also because of everything around it. It’s a goal that gets you to the semi-final of the World Cup, a massive stadium, lots of people watching and cheering... My reaction afterwards was very emotional.”
You covered your face as if to say: “I can’t believe I’ve just done that!”
“I didn’t know what else to do! It’s funny. Every boy has a dream: ‘I want to score in the world cup. Score the winning goal in the final, of course. But in this way... to score a goal like that, in the style of me, you know? The way I score goals, on that stage, in a game that really means something, because that’s important to me too. I love good football, nice football but it has to mean something. It has to bring me somewhere. And that’s what happened with this goal. At that moment I thought about when I was seven or eight years old, playing football in the house, you know? This is the moment! It’s a good feeling.”
You’re a long way off the ground when the ball comes. For a wide receiver to catch that with his hands would be difficult. You do it with your foot! What were you thinking? How much was planned? How much improvised?
“Again, it’s a question of creating that little space, eh? So you get to that ball first. You’ve had the eye contact... Frank knows exactly what he’s going to do. “
You asked for the pass?
“Yeah, yeah. There’s contact. You’re watching him. He’s looking at you. You know his body language. He’s going to give the ball. So then: full sprint away. I’ve got my five, six yards away from the defender. The ball is coming over my shoulder. I know where it’s going. But you know as well that you are running in a straight line, and that’s the line you want to take to go to the goal, the line where you have a chance of scoring. If you go a little bit wider it’s gone. The ball is coming here, and you have two options. One: let it bounce and control it on the floor. That will be easier, but by then you are at the corner flag. So you have to jump up to meet the ball and at the same time control the ball. Control it dead. And again, like the Leicester one, you have to take it inside because the defender is storming that way. He’s running with you and as soon as the ball changes direction, and you change direction as well, then he’s gone, which gives you an open chance. Well, it’s a little bit on the side but it gives you a chance to shoot.
It’s an astonishing piece of control. How did you manage it?
“We talked about balance on the ground. This was balance as well, but you have to be in the air. You’ve got to be as still as possible, as if you are standing still... but in the air, and controlling the ball. If you’ve got a lot of movement, and try to control with the inside of the foot, then the ball could go towards the defender. So you want to keep it on the top of your foot. That gives you the best chance, and the best chance of controlling it. I’m not worrying about the angle of my foot because that’s something you do all the time. I know I can control almost any ball that comes to me. But I want to be very stable. I didn’t realise how high in the air I was. But you know you want that ball in that position. Not there but here. So you have to jump up to meet the ball.”
How much looking back were you doing while the ball was on its way to you?
“You first look back when the ball comes, of course. But there wasn’t much wind, so I’m looking forward, to keep sprinting, to meet the ball. You know the line, and at the last moment you think: ‘OK now I have to jump’. And when I’m in the air it’s going to meet my foot. There’s a little bit of calculation at that moment. But it’s experience.
And after you had landed it?
“You just think: that’s step one. You want to get the whole moment, the whole sequence. It’s three touches. Everything can still go wrong at that moment, so you are concentrating on doing it step by step. But you don’t know the steps. You can only do the second step if the first step is right. If the ball shoots on a little bit further, then you have to adjust again.”
So you’ve killed the dropping ball, you touch it inside to get rid of Ayala [the defender] and make a better angle, and you don’t take the shot with your left foot but with the outside of right.
“Yes because I feel more confident with that at that time. It’s in the middle of my feet and I have the confidence, and it’s not the right angle to take it as well with the left, because that’s a different kick. So I choose to take it with my right - ideally, the outside of the right - and aim it for the far post, then let it turn in...
It even curves.
“That’s what I wanted. Take it away from the goalkeeper and let it come in.”
Did it cross your mind that he might save it?
“No. Because when you’re in that moment ... You know, sometimes you have these moments where you think: ‘This cannot go wrong! No way!’
God is flowing through it?
“Yeah. What can you compare it to? Different sports? Like running the hundred metres and you know this is going to be a good time? But you’re in that moment. That’s the feeling. After the first two touches... that moment! You give absolutely everything in that movement. It’s like your life has led up to this moment.”
This is an extract from David Winner's interview with Dennis Bergkamp in issue one of The Blizzard, a new quarterly journal of football writing available in print and digital formats on a pay-what-you-like basis from www.theblizzard.co.uk.Edited by Jonathan Wilson, it features articles by a host of top writers including Philippe Auclair, Sid Lowe and Simon Kuper.
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