WASHINGTON, December 19, 2012 — It’s time to look at some of the notable soccer events from 2012. Here’s my Top Ten.
10. Andriy Shevchenko - One of the best moment of at Euro 2012, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, was Andriy Shevchenko’s brace of goals in Ukraine’s comeback 2-1 win over Sweden on June 11. The 35-year-old, clearly in his twilight days as a player after an illustrious career at AC Milan, Chelsea and Dynamo Kyiv, pulled of a stunning performance to propel the co-hosts into the knockout round where they lost to England.
9. David Beckham - Mr. Beckham wrapped up his Major League Soccer career as a two-time champion on Dec. 2nd, helping the Los Angeles Galaxy down the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in the MLS Cup. It was the Galaxy consecutive MLS title. Beckham, 37, joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. During the during the Beckham era MLS started play in San Jose (2008), Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010), Vancouver and Portland (2011), and Montreal (2012). That raised the total to 19 teams in the league.
8. U.S. women win Olympic medal - The United States women won its third straight Olympic gold medal beating Japan 2-1 before 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium in London on Aug. 9th, in a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final. Carli Lloyd scored in both halves to avenge the U.S. team’s most painful loss in its history. Yuki Ogimi answered for Japan in the 63rd minute.
7. Mexico upset Brazil to win gold medal - Mexico won its first Olympic gold medal in men’s soccer at Wembley in England downing Brazil 2-1 on Aug. 11. Oribe Peralta opened the scoring on the 29 second mark. Peralta added another goal in the second half, while Hulk earned a late consolation goal for Brazil. Brazil has yet to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - The Swedish striker scored one of the greatest goals in the history of the game in Sweden’s 4-2 win over England on Nov. 14 in an exhibition game. England goalie Joe Hart, way outside his 18-yard box, failed to clear the ball with a header. Instead, the keeper headed the the ball aimlessly high into the air. It was ideal bait for the predatory skills of the gangly Ibrahimovic. With his back to goal, Ibrahimovic went airborne with the ease of an acrobat. He struck the ball with his right foot over his head with a stylish bicycle kick, sending it looping into the England net.
5. Spain wins Euro 2012 - Spain crushed Italy 4-0 in Kiev, Ukraine on July 2 to claim the Euro 2012 title and its third consecutive major tournament. Pundits praised the Spanish team as the best ever in the history of soccer. After winning Euro 2008 in Vienna and the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, Spain completed an unprecedented hat trick for a European nation.
4. Lionel Messi - Mr. Messi breaks Gerd Mueller’s 40-year-old record for most goals in a year on Dec. 9. In Barcelona’s game against Real Betis in the Spanish league, Messi scored his 85th and 86th goals in 2012 to break the German’s stars record. Mueller scored 85 for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.
3. Chelsea win Champions League - Everything appeared set for Bayern Munich to win its first Champion League title since 2001. On May 20, the German’s were playing on their home turf at the Allianz Arena in Munich and took the lead on Thomas Muller’s header in the 83rd minute. But Didier Drogba soared from a corner to head home the equalizer in the 88th minute and force 30 minutes of extra time, which ended 1-1. Chelsea went on to win the penalty shootout 4-3 and leave the German fans in disbelief.
2. Chelsea stuns Barcelona to advance to Champions League - Chelsea defied
expectations by humbling Barcelona and sending the Spanish giants out of the Champions League in the semifinal round on April 24. Chelsea, playing with 10 men from the 37th minute after John Terry was sent off, fought back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw before 90,000 fans at the Camp Nou and advance to final 3-2 on aggregate. It was a stunning result. Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta put Barcelona up 2-0 by the 44th minute but Ramires’ lob just before the break and Fernando Torres late goal destroyed Barcelona’s hopes. Messi missed a penalty in the 49th minute.
1. Manchester City wins the Premier League - It will go down as one of the greatest games in English soccer. Manchester City’s hopes of winning its first league title in 44 years seemed dashed as the club went into injury time against lowly Queens Park Rangers 2-1 down. At that moment 139 miles away, Manchester United had beaten Sunderland 1-0 and looked to have claimed the Premier League title again. But in a memorable comeback, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero scored injury-time goals to give City a dramatic 3-2 win. Aguero’s winner came on the 3:20 mark into injury time.
Other notable events: Rangers FC were demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish soccer because of financial irregularities; Celtic beats Barcelona 2-1 in a shocker at Parkhead; Tijuana won its first Mexican league title, defeating Toluca, 4-1 on aggregate and in August the U.S. team wins in Mexico for the first time. In February, the U.S. team defeated Italy for the first time, 1-0.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon
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