Diego Maradona vs. England at the Estadio Azteca (1986 World Cup)
There are few individual performances that can rival Maradona’s in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final against Argentina’s hated rivals England. The Argentine captain put in a performance that defeated the Three Lions both with his incredible play as well has his mendaciousness.
The match saw Maradona put his team in front with a blatant handball that was not seen by the match officials, and then went on to score from an incredible run from the halfway line. No wonder it is still regarded as the greatest goal ever scored.
Ronaldinho vs. Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu (2005/06 La Liga)
When a Barcelona player receives a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu after the Catalans have triumphed at the home of the Spanish giants, one can be assured that something incredible has happened.
Ronaldinho gave a display for the ages at the home of Barcelona’s biggest rivals during a the first Clasico of the 2005/06 season as he ran rings around Los Blancos’ defence to guide his team to a 3-0 win. “I will never forget this because it is very rare for any footballer to be applauded in this way by the opposition fans”, he later said.
Robert Lewandowski vs. Real Madrid at the Westfalenstadion (2012/13 Champions League)
Borussia Dortmund were not the favourites when Jose Mourinho took his Real Madrid to the Westfalenstadion for the first leg of the semi-final. However, the tables had completely turned after the 90 minutes as the Black and Yellows registered a comprehensive 4-1 thrashing of Spanish side.
Lewandowski put in a display that will be remembered for years as he scored all four of his team’s goals. The Pole’s stock rose high after that game as Real Madrid were keen to bring him to the Santiago Bernabeu, however, he ultimately moved to Bayern Munich.
Lionel Messi vs. Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou (2014/15 Champions League)
There were no clear favourites in this match between two of the strongest sides of the modern era. And the match was living up to the expectations of being a tightly-contested affair until the last 15 or so minutes as both teams remained locked at 0-0, and then Messi decided to take the matters into his own hands.
He took a shot from distance to put his team in front in the 77th minute before going on an absolutely thrilling run three minutes later that saw Jerome Boateng fall on his backside, Manuel Neuer dinked and Rafinha scampering in vain to keep the ball out. He also added an assist later as the Catalans won 3-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Sweden at the Friends Arena (2014 World Cup qualifying)
Portugal’s ambition of 2014 World Cup qualification was hanging on this playoff against Sweden and, quite naturally, the focus was on Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ronaldo’s goal in the first leg in Portugal had given them a slender 1-0 advantage before the second leg in Sweden. Ibrahimovic struck twice for his team, but Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to put his team on the plane to Brazil.