Soccer may be a team sport, but the fate of a squad can rest solely on the shoulders of one player. Here are seven of the best to have come through in the clutch.

By 90Min
March 13, 2018

Football is a team sport, but in certain instance the fate of a whole squad can rest solely on the shoulders of one player, and his shoulders alone.

Here's a look at seven times the fate of a team rested on one player's shoulders:

Mo Salah - Egypt

The last time Egypt made it to a World Cup, Bobby Robson was the England manager and Sinead O'Connor was at the top of the charts. So as you can imagine, Egypt's qualifying decider against Congo last October had the entire country praying for a result, with only a win taking them to Russia. 

Egypt's dream looked to be in tatters when Congo's Arnold Bouka Moutou equalized in the 88th minute. However five minutes into stoppage time, Egypt had a lifeline when it was awarded a penalty. Up stepped Salah, who held his nerve to make himself a national hero.

Andy Cole - Manchester United

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Signed for a British record fee of £7m, Andrew Cole showed his goalscoring prowess early in his Manchester United career when he became the first Premier League player to score five goals in a single game during a 9-0 thrashing of Ipswich Town.

But later in that same 1994/95 season, Cole's goalscoring touch deserted him when it mattered most during a must-win final game against West Ham.

With challengers Blackburn only able to draw, a victory for United would have sealed a third straight Premier League title in as many years. Cole had the opportunity to win the game and the league with two late chances, only to squander both. Due to this, Blackburn Rovers would go on to be crowned Premier League champions for the first and only time in their history.

Lionel Messi - Argentina

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After a disappointing campaign, Lionel Messi went into Argentina's final 2018 World Cup qualifier knowing that he would have to step up and give the performance that his reputation as a five time Ballon d'Or winner warranted, or risk the Albiceleste missing out completely.

Only a win in Ecuador - whom Argentina had beaten away from home just once since 1960 - would guarantee at least a playoff place, and things got even tougher when the hosts took a first minute lead.

But Messi immediately then took center stage, scoring a quick fire brace to turn things around and eventually completing a hat trick on the hour mark to seal a 3-1 win.

Jerzy Dudek - Liverpool

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In a single moment, goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek denied AC Milan Champions League glory in 2005, pulling off a now iconic point blank save to stop Andriy Shevchenko - the then Ballon d'Or holder - scoring what would surely have been an extra time winner in the 3-3 final.

Acting on pure instinct, the Polish stopper put his hands up to deflect the ball to safety, and had he not been there in the right place at the right time, Liverpool's efforts in clawing back a 3-0 deficit would ultimately have been in vain.

Dudek then thwarted Shevchenko again from the spot in the penalty shootout that soon followed, to hand Liverpool their fifth European crown.

Asamoah Gyan - Ghana


As Asamoah Gyan stood over the ball on the penalty spot on the Soccer City pitch in 2010, the Ghanaian striker had the chance to make history by putting his country into the semi finals of the World Cup, and become the first African country to reach that stage.

It was the last seconds of extra time and Uruguay's Luis Suarez had been sent off for deliberate handball on the goal line. With the score tied at 1-1, all Gyan needed to do was convert the penalty to send Ghana though.

He missed, crashing the ball against the crossbar. He scored in the subsequent penalty shootout, but Ghana lost and a continent's dreams died on the spot.

David Beckham - England

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All England needed to secure automatic qualification for the 2002 World Cup was a point in their final qualifier, a home fixture against an unexceptional Greece team.

England were generally poor on the day, though, and a one man effort from David Beckham kept them in the game and ensured the path to the finals was still there in the closing stages. And when the Three Lions, trailing 2-1, won a free kick in stoppage time, the fate of the team rested entirely on Beckham's shoulders as he lined up the shot.

The ball flew into the top left hand corner of the net, and England got their point to top the group, sending second place Germany into the playoffs.

Sergio Aguero - Manchester City

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Time almost seemed to stand still when Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero had the ball at his feet in the QPR penalty area on the final day of the 2011/12 Premier League season.

City, who had clawed their way back into the driving seat, had been losing 2-1 going into the final stages. First, Edin Dzeko grabbed an equalizer, but still the Sky Blues needed another goal to wrestle a first English crown since 1968 away from Manchester United, who had already won their game at the Stadium of Light.

In that moment, if had Aguero been tackled, missed the target, or seen his shot blocked or saved, City would not have won the league and there would have been no more chances. He did score, though, sending the blue half of Manchester into ecstasy.

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