Esteban Cambiasso of Argentina celebrates scoring against Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. ((Jamie McDonald/Getty Images))

It was, quite simply, the goal of the tournament.

The Sequence

  • Move No. 1: Javier Mascherano fed a pass up to fellow midfielder Maxi Rodriguez, who received the ball just inside Argentina's half of the field.
  • Move No. 2: Rodriguez made a backwards pass to midfielder Juan Ramon Riquelme.
  • Move No. 3: Riquelme fed a diagonal, backwards pass to defender Juan Pablo Sorin on the left wing.
  • Move No. 4: Sorin passed a diagonal ball up to Riquelme, who then dribbled into Serbia's half of the field.
  • Move No. 5: Riquelme passed back to Sorin in Argentina's half of the field.
  • Move No. 6: Sorin fed a diagonal ball up to Mascherano.
  • Move No. 7: Mascherano made a forward pass to Rodriguez.
  • Move No. 8: Rodriguez ran with the ball to his right before passing to defender Roberto Ayala on the right wing
  • Move No. 9: Ayala played a forward pass up to midfielder Esteban Cambiasso just inside Serbia's half of the field.
  • Move No. 10: Cambiasso passed a diagonal ball back to Mascherano in Argentina's half of the field.
  • Move No. 11: Mascherano played a long pass forward to Rodriguez in Serbia's half of the field
  • Move No. 12: Rodriguez played a long, diagonal ball to Sorin on the left wing, just inside Serbia's half of the field.
  • Move No. 13: Sorin shifted the ball sideways to Rodriguez, who tracked back from his previous spot on the field.
  • Move No. 14: Rodriguez played a long, diagonal pass to the right to Cambiasso.
  • Move No. 15: Cambiasso fed a diagonal ball into the middle of the field to Riquelme.
  • Move No. 16: Riquelme passed back to Mascherano.
  • Move No. 17: Mascherano played a ball out to Sorin on the left wing.
  • Move No. 18: Sorin fed a short pass up to forward Javier Saviola, who was on the edge of Serbia's 18-yard box.
  • Move No. 19: Saviola played a backwards pass to Riquelme.
  • Move No. 20: Riquelme fed a short pass forward to Saviola, who was on the edge of Serbia's 18-yard box.
  • Move No. 21: Saviola played a backwards, diagonal pass to Cambiasso.
  • Move No. 22: Cambiasso passed forward to striker Hernan Crespo, who was inside Serbia's 18-yard box.
  • Move No. 23: Crespo played a back-heeled pass to Cambiasso, who broke into the middle of Serbia's 18-yard box.
  • Move No. 24: Cambiasso collected Crespo's pass in full stride and thumped a one-timer into the back of the net past the helpless Serbian goalkeeper.

One hundred and forty-seven goals were scored at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but none came close to matching the sheer beauty and buildup of Esteban Cambiasso's effort against Serbia and Montenegro in the first round.

Cambiasso was credited with scoring Argentina's second goal in the 31st minute en route to a 6-0 win. But in reality it was a team effort, the culmination of a brilliant passing sequence and master-class in the art of possession.

It was a goal crafted with equal parts South American flair and German precision.

After winning possession of the ball in its half of the field, Argentina made 24 consecutive passes as part of a fluid and sweeping play that lasted just under a minute and half before Cambiasso thumped his shot from 12 yards out into the back of the net.

For approximately 90 seconds, the Argentines methodically pinged the ball around the field — to chants of Ole by fans in attendance — without the Serbs getting a single touch until goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric picked the ball up from out of his net.

English play-by-play announcer Martin Tyler, who called the game for Australian television, lavished the Argentines with praise.

"That is one of the all-time great World Cup goals," Tyler gushed just seconds after Cambiasso scored. "When you talk about football being a team game, Argentina has just given you the perfect example."

Soccer correspondent Paddy Agnew, who was in Germany covering the tournament for the Irish Times, was equally impressed.

"After seeing it, I thought to myself: for the rest of my life, I'll never see a better goal than that," Agnew said. "It was just pure magic."

The goal was even more impressive when you consider the opposition.

Serbia and Montenegro was touted as one of the dark horse teams to watch prior to the start of the tournament. Hard to break down at the best of times, the miserly Serbs gave up only one goal in the World Cup qualifiers, a stunning testament to their defensive prowess.

But the Argentines ripped the Serbs to shreds, toying with them like a cat pulling at a ball of twine.

"I think coaches should be forced to watch that," opined Tim Vickery, a Rio-based journalist and South American soccer expert.

"There are people who say you can't do that anymore — that the physical development of the game means that you can't play that kind of football anymore. That it's all about quick breaks down the flanks, and you can't be patient and change the rhythm, but that goal proved you could do it."

More important, it was a goal that underlined the fact that soccer is a team sport, a concept that seemed to be forgotten at a time when all the media focus was on the game's individual stars.

"If you look at the individual passes, there's nothing astonishing there, but it's the collective ideas of moving the ball, looking for the hole and for a teammate," Vickery explained.

"Forget the over-elaboration, look for a teammate, and if you keep doing that, a goal will come. For me, that goal was a declaration of what football can be — the collective beauty of the sport."