If you’ve heard soccer fans screaming about an ‘Olimpico’ goal, you’ve just witnessed something that happens rarely in the sport. U.S. women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe became the latest player to score one at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
But an Olimpico goal need not be scored at the Olympics to earn the title.
What is an Olimpico goal?
An Olimpico is simply a goal that is scored directly from a corner kick. The name has stuck for nearly 100 years, since Argentina’s Cesareo Onzari scored against reigning Olympic champions Uruguay from a corner kick in 1924 (though it didn’t happen at the Olympics).
From that point onward, a goal directly scored from a corner became known as a ‘gol olimpico’ in Spanish and it has been adopted in other languages without the need for translation.
At first there was some confusion over whether such a goal should stand, but the game’s rule-making body, IFAB, had cleared such goals to be scored prior to Onzari’s hit.
It is still perfectly legal to score directly from a corner kick, but it is difficult given the angle involved: The corner kick arc is practically even with the goal line and only an expert shooter of the ball can bend it past the goalkeeper and all the bodies in the penalty area. The swerve applied must be sufficient to bend it away from the endline and then back in towards the net.
Of course, it is entirely possible for a player to accidentally score an Olimpico goal, but some players do deliberately attempt them, including Rapinoe’s effort against Australia in the 2021 bronze medal match:
Olimpico goals: Which players scored off corners?
Believe it or not, Rapinoe had a previous Olimpico goal nine years earlier at the 2012 London Olympics, but she said it was the 2021 strike that was the intentional hit.
In the epic 2012 semifinal game against Canada, Rapinoe curled the ball directly into the goal at the near post from her corner. In the process, she became the first-ever player to score an Olimpico at the Olympics.
As well as Onzari and Rapinoe, a number of other high-profile stars have managed the feat.
Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry scored an Olimpico for New York Red Bulls against the Columbus Crew in a 2012 match in Major League Soccer.
Former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham has also scored directly from a corner kick, doing so for the LA Galaxy against the Chicago Fire in 2011.
But the Chicago Fire also scored one of their own. It was another MLS Olimpico came off the foot of left-footed specialist Marco Pappa:
U.S. international Michael Bradley scored an Olimpico against Panama while with the senior U.S. national team: