There are a couple of familiar names on this year’s FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the year and one not so familiar. Irish striker Stephanie Roche is hardly a household name like the other two other contenders on the list – Manchester United and Holland striker Robin Van Persie and Real Madrid and Colombia midfielder James Rodriquez but her place on this year’s list is as much deserved as theirs. The former Peamount United striker has earned her way onto the shortlist with a stunning goal against Wexford Youths in October. Receiving the ball on the edge of the opposition area from a cross from teammate Wendy McGlone, Roche neatly controls the ball with her right before dinking it over her marker with her left and spinning round to hit an unstoppable volley past the helpless Wexford Youths goalkeeper Mary Rose Kelly.
The strike, which was luckily captured on film by someone in the 95 person strong crowd, has become a YouTube sensation capturing thousands of views only weeks after it was initially posted. The buzz created by the video has worked in Roche’s favour who has now been given a professional contract by French side ASPTT Albi as a result. Pundits and former players have also been quick to praise the strike and in particular the technique applied by Roche in executing the volley. Former Republic of Ireland defender Paul McGrath, ex England striker Matt Le Tissier and former player turned pundit Gary Linekar have all taken to social media to wax lyrically about the strike. Roche herself is over the moon by the attention the strike is getting and by her subsequent nomination stating on BBC Radio 5 in the UK that she has been overwhelmed by the messages of support and encouragement and is generally happy that her goal is getting recognized, not just for herself but for women’s football in general.
Roche’s goal was one of ten to make an initial shortlist before it was eventually whittled down to just these three. Now it is up to users of FIFA.com and FranceFootball.fr to decide which one of the three goals wins the award. Roche though faces tough competition as both goals by Robin Van Persie and James Rodriguez, which happened during this past summers World Cup have enough merit to win the award themselves. Real Madrid ace Rodriguez was undoubtedly the star player at the tournament, scoring six goals as he helped Colombia march into the quarter finals only to be eventually beaten by a Neymar inspired Brazil. But it was his volley in the round of 16 match against Uruguay that earned him a place in this year’s list. With his back to goal some 25 yards out, Rodriguez controlled a headed pass on his chest before swiveling round to unleash a venomous dipping volley which crashed into the net off the crossbar. Perhaps seen as less spectacular that Roche’s or Rodriguez’s volleys, Van Persie’s elegant swan like diving header goal for Holland against Spain in their World Cup group opening match was equally as impressive. The goal which showed great vision and technique by the Dutch striker who carefully watched the ball before leaping well to head the ball over Iker Casillas in the Spanish goal, setting Holland on its way towards a shock 5-1 victory which effectively ended Spain’s defence of their title before it even began.
The award named after Hungarian and Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas, who scored his own fair share of spectacular and impressive goals during his career, will be presented in Zurich on January 12th 2015 at a star studded event. Roche will be present, along with Van Persie and Rodriguez for the announcement of the winner and if Roche’s name is called she will become the first ever female winner of the award.
You can view all three strikes again and vote for your favourite here: http://www.fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award/video=2463789/index.html