Wondergoal

Patrik Schick’s goal from his own half fused art and science. It assures him a place in Euro folklore.

Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick’s goal against Scotland from his own half, from a distance of 49.7 yards, the longest in the history of Euros, fused both art and science. Art in the way he struck the ball, and science in the path the ball traced as it found the nets. Everything about the parabola-like lob was measured — drift, curl, dip, distance, power and precision — making it a wondrous strike, worthy of the Euro Hall of Fame.

Though managers don’t encourage long-rangers anymore, when such a moment arrives, it invokes awe and admiration. The player is ensured cult status. Like Nelinho’s equaliser against Italy in the 1978 World Cup third-place play-off, which curved like a Wasim Akram inswinger past one of the greatest goalkeepers, Dino Zoff. Or like Eric Cantona’s thunderbolt against Arsenal, his the-boss-is-here moment, or better still Ronaldinho’s several screamers from the half-line or thereabouts. For much of the 1990s and mid-2000s, such goals were not as rare as they are now, when efforts from the half-line are seen as nothing more than a careless loss of possession. Contemporary managers see them with as much love as ghosts do a cross.

It’s the modern game’s fixation with a defensive line that makes goalkeepers leave their space and surge forth. Scotland’s goalkeeper David Marshall was 35 yards out of his usual perch, and once Schick beat him in the air, his rescue mission was destined to a futile, if not comic, end. Hard enough to shatter the morale of the best of keepers. England’s David Seaman was never the same after the Ronaldinho free-kick in the 2002 World Cup. But don’t blame the goal-keeper. Admire the artful science behind Schick’s strike. It is a goal that has assured the forward a place in Euro folklore.

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