Euro 2016: In praise of average players scoring incredible goals


Sports writer Alistair Mason thinks Hal Robson-Kanu's goal against Belgium was everything that's good about football.

"If that was Messi, they'd be talking about it for years," said Robbie Savage, as Hal Robson-Kanu wheeled away to celebrate the greatest moment of his career.

Savage is a man so uncomfortable with being on the right side of the argument that even in the moment of Wales' greatest triumph he was finding someone to pick a fight with - albeit imaginary people in an imaginary future where everyone had somehow forgotten about Robson-Kanu's masterpiece.

We're used to Savage being wrong, of course - it's the unfortunate lot of a pundit to be publicly and provably wrong every so often - but has he ever been so completely wrong as he was about Robson-Kanu's screamer in Wales' 3-1 win over Belgium?

He had the whole thing back to front.

If Lionel Messi had scored that goal, against, say, Sporting Gijon in La Liga, he'd have done something equally or even more brilliant a few days later and we'd all have forgotten about it.

That goal would have been lost in the wholesome vat of football porridge that is Messi's genius.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring for Barcelona
Lionel Messi: too good for his own good (Adam Davy/PA)

It's precisely because it was scored by Robson-Kanu that we will be talking about it for years.

Here's the truth about sustained footballing excellence: it's wearying. It's boring. It's alienating.

If Messi had scored that goal, we'd all have enjoyed it approximately 90% less. He's Lionel Messi and he scores incredible goals. That's just the way the world is. What's that got to do with us?

When the highlight reel of Robson-Kanu's career is played, it will just be that one goal over and over again, because - well, you saw it, right?

Hal Robson-Kanu scores for Wales
The single greatest moment of Hal Robson-Kanu's career (Joe Giddens/PA)

It's not that Robson-Kanu is some bumbling everyman character - that because he did, we imagine we could do it. That would be overstating it just a touch.

It's more the fact that Robson-Kanu is human, whereas Messi is on another plane of existence.

It's the same reason we'd rather hear a bin man singing on Britain's Got Talent than go the opera. Who cares if an opera singer can sing opera? That's not impressive. That's what they're supposed to do.

So while Messi goes through the range of his scales and arpeggios at the Camp Nou opera house, the real entertainment happens pretty much everywhere else.

Barcelona fans at the Nou Camp
These guys actually expect great goals (Stephen Pond/EMPICS)

Messi has scored a million brilliant goals, but after a while they all just merge into one. They're forgettable. Lionel did another genius, did he? That's not sport. That's what he's supposed to do.

It's the wonder goals scored by plodders, donkeys and journeymen that we really remember. They're what football is, really.

Give us Phil Jagielka's 25-yard screamer in the Merseyside derby over another Messi wonder goal any day of the week.

We'd take a Peter Crouch overhead kick over anything Cristiano Ronaldo has to offer.

Peter Crouch playing for Portsmouth
A Peter Crouch overhead kick is better than anyone else's overhead kick (Adam Davy/EMPICS)

And we guarantee that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not produce a moment at Old Trafford next season to rival what Robson-Kanu did.

Sport is about moments, and the best moments are the ones you never could have predicted.

Of all the things Robson-Kanu could have done with that ball, you'd have guessed he'd take it to Nando's for peri-peri chicken before you'd have considered he might actually do what he did.

That's what made it such a great moment, just like that's what makes Wales' whole story so irresistible - not to mention Leicester's title run.

Leicester celebrate winning the Premier League
Still can't believe that actually happened (Nigel French/PA)

So you don't need to worry. Nobody is going to forget that goal any time soon.

In fact, the only way people are going to stop talking about it is if he does something even better in the semi-final against Portugal... Or even the final.

And then the whole of Wales will be happy to have something else to talk about - even Robbie Savage.