Football 2014 year in review: five unforgettable moments
As 2014 winds to a close, let us take a look back at five pivotal moments from the past footballing year.
Godin jumps the highest
It is unlikely you will see the name Diego Godin in many end-of-year best player lists – which is a shame. Few players have had quite a 2014 like Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan defender.
Last season, Diego Simeone’s team became the first to break the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly of the Primera Liga since Rafa Benitez’s Valencia 10 years ago. It was a triumph based on organisation, hard work and indomitable spirit (as well as nifty set pieces). No one epitomised those qualities more than Godin.
Three moments stand out.
His thumping headed equaliser – and what proved to be the title-winning goal – at the Camp Nou on the last day of the Spanish season as Atletico got the point they needed against Barcelona to be champions.
Another header to give his side the lead against Real Madrid in the Champions League final a week later, only for Gareth Bale’s heartbreaking 93rd minute equaliser to deny them glory.
Finally, a carbon copy of his goal against Barcelona to give Uruguay a 1-0 win over Italy at the World Cup, a moment somewhat overshadowed by Luis Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini.
In 2014, Godin hit more heady heights in a few months than others can only dream off in a long career.
Gerrard takes a tumble
April 27, 2014. Liverpool versus Chelsea.
The script was perfect. A win or draw for the home team and captain Steven Gerrard, enjoying a late-career renaissance, would be within touching distance of leading Liverpool to their first top flight title in England since 1990 and first under the Premier League brand name.
But instead what happened next was, Gerrard tumbled, Demba Ba scored at the Kop end, and Manchester City eventually won the Premier League.
The slip seen around the world has inspired a mini industry of jokes, online memes and terrace chants. But it is not that simple.
Never mind that Liverpool had the second half of the match to save themselves and that there is no reason to assume that Chelsea would not have emerged victorious at Anfield anyway.
Neither is Gerrard the first player whose unfortunate slip has proven so costly – just ask John Terry, whose footing let him down when he missed the penalty that would have won Chelsea the 2008 Uefa Champions League final.
Gerrard deserves better than to shoulder all the blame for Liverpool falling short.
Rightly or wrongly, though, he will have to endure the memory, and the taunts, of that slip for the rest of his career, and probably beyond.
Neuer goes for a walk
It was one of the most virtuoso performances of the 2014 Fifa World Cup.
In the last 16 win against Algeria, German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer performed practically as a sweeper, touching the ball outside the penalty area a remarkable 21 times.
Football hipsters around the world swooned over this seemingly unprecedented originality.
Neuer did not invent the sweeper-keeper role. The legendary Soviet Lev Yashin, Liverpool’s Ray Clemence in the 1970s and, more recently, Ajax and Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar, among others, all exhibited their own interpretation of goalkeeper as outfield footballer.
Neuer, however, has taken the methodology to new levels. It is a deliberate tactic, not a necessity. The Bayern Munich keeper is an excellent, often unorthodox shot-stopper, but the advanced role – eliminating danger before it is even created – often negates that primary function of the goalkeeper.
Not every keeper has the technique – and certainly few have the confidence – that Neuer possesses in spades.
Yet after his Brazil 2014 heroics, you can expect more and more young goalkeepers to follow in his footsteps. All the way outside the penalty area.
Sydney in the spotlight
A club established only in 2012 comes within seconds of playing Real Madrid in the 2014 Club World Cup semi-finals.
Fairy tales like this are not supposed to happen in modern football. Yet that is exactly what Western Sydney Wanderers achieved last year.
Finishing their first season in the A-League in 2012/13 on top of the table – although they missed being crowned as champions after defeat in the A-League’s play-offs final – was remarkable enough for Tony Popovic’s team, especially as they made the play-off final again in their second year only to lose again.
But the best was still to come in the shape of the 2014 AFC Champions League triumph over Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia. A 1-0 win in Sydney, followed by a 0-0 draw in Riyadh completed a scarcely believable story.
It seems there is still some romance left in football.
Goodbye to Henry
“Ronaldinho is a special player, but Thierry Henry is probably technically the most gifted footballer ever to play the beautiful game,” Zinedine Zidane once said. It was a generous, perhaps hyperbolic, compliment from one great Frenchman to another. Yet it is not too far from the truth.
Watching Henry at his devastating best for Arsenal, it was hard to imagine that a more magical player had existed. The highlights are endless as between 1999 and 2007 he bewitched defences across England and Europe with his pace and poise, before he left the London club for Barcelona.
After a spell in the MLS in the United States with the New York Red Bulls he announced his retirement. He joins a decent squad who also called it a day in 2014: Javier Zanetti, Carlos Puyol, Eric Abidal, Rivaldo, Clarence Seedorf, Juan Sebastian Veron and Ryan Giggs. Football will be poorer for their absence.
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Published: December 26, 2014 04:00 AM