The first half of 2012 has ended, and throughout it we experienced some of the best soccer matches, top goals, and breathtaking moments in recent years. With most major soccer leagues around the world on their summer break, and with the upcoming Olympic Soccer Tournament, Euro Cup, and World Cup Qualifiers, I think this is an excellent point to look back at the best soccer games, and top goals of 2012.
15. Montreal Impact’s first goal in MLS
The goal itself isn’t a beauty, but its significance is what’s important. Montreal’s first goal in its short MLS history represents the growth of soccer in the United States and Canada. The Impact haven’t been doing too well so far, finding themselves near the bottom of the standings, but their inclusion in the league shows the growing demand for soccer in North America.
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14. Sevilla – Levante tennis ball protest in La Liga
As a way to protest Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s powerful influence over the Spanish Primera DIvision, and La Liga’s decision to postpone the game an extra 30 minutes due to the ongoing Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, Sevilla fans threw hundreds of tennis balls on to the pitch. Sevilla fans had some pretty funny signs saying “Shhh, Mourinho is still talking”, as a sarcastic reference to the fact that the post-match press conference was still going on.
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13. Sporting Kansas City wins first 7 matches of the MLS 2012-13 season
No team has had such a successful run in Major League Soccer since the LA Galaxy won 14 straight in the first season of the MLS. This terrific start propelled Kansa City to the top of the standings; however, it’s a long season, and an appearance in the Playoffs is no guarantee.
12. Monterrey scores late in 2nd half of CONCACAF Champions League Final
The CONCACAF Champions League final between Santos and Monterrey of the Mexican League started off with a 2-0 win by Monterrey at home, in the first match of the two-game final. Back on their home turf, the Santos team lead by Peralta came back and tied the aggregate score 2-2, and it looked like we were going to see the match go to OT. Neri Cardozo had something to say though, and scored the championship-sealing goal in the 78th minute. An exciting series that would serve as the ‘warm-up’ before these two teams met again in the Final of the Liga Mexicana de Futbol.
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11. Landon Donovan scores hat-trick in the U.S. vs Scotland friendly
Although the match was just an international friendly, it served to reassert Donovan’s role as the leading figure in the U.S. Mens’s National Team. The 5-1 U.S. trouncing over Scotland was a prime example of what the U.S. team is capable of when Donovan is at full throttle. At age 30, Donovan has just one more World Cup appearance left in him, lets hope he maintains a high level of play until then.
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10. APOEL Nicosia defeat Lyon in Champions League Round of 16
2012 will be forever marked as the year a team from Cyprus reached the Quarter Final of the UEFA Champions League. The ‘lesser’ Cypriot side was able to overcome a deficit of skill by playing a smart, tactical game, by taking advantage of Lyon’s sub-par play, and by pure grit and heart. The thrilling penalty shootout win was a deserved victory for APOEL. Unfortunately for them, their opponent in the Quarter Finals was Real Madrid, and that’s where the Cinderella story ended for APOEL. However, they had a great run, and it always warms my heart to see an underdog battle huge odds to make a deep run in a tournament.
9. U.S. loses to El Salvador in CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers
The unthinkable happened, the U.S. Men’s u-23 will not play in the London 2012 games due to a very late goal in the match against El Salvador. This is the biggest setback in recent U.S. Men’s soccer history, and a crushing blow to the developing group of young players. To not even make it out of the group stage was simply surprising (and reminiscent of the Mexican team 4 years earlier).
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8. Petr Cech great save in FA Cup Final
With 7 minutes left in the match, and down 1-2, Liverpool needed to score in order to take Chelsea into overtime. Cech’s fantastic save allowed Chelsea to maintain the lead and win the FA Cup.
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7. Chelsea defeats Barcelona with 10 men at Camp Nou
Having lost John Terry to a 37th minute red card, and down 2-0, Chelsea had a miracle comeback that propelled them to the Final of the Champions League. This is one of the best soccer moments of 2012, because the match had everything: an early red card, a late game-tying goal, excellent level of play, and even a rare penalty miss by Messi. La Liga fans had to be disappointed, but Chelsea played an amazing game that deservedly led them to an eventual Champions League title. This match also reinforced the idea that the Barcelona ‘golden era’ was coming to an end.
6. Bayern Munich defeats Real Madrid
A hard fought series saw Real Madrid and Bayern Munich go down to penalty kicks for a spot in the Champions League Final. With two early goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, it looked like Real Madrid was on its way to the final match, but a comeback goal by Robben put things even. Ninety minutes and 30 minutes of overtime weren’t enough to settle the difference, and it all had to be resolved with a penalty shootout. Real Madrid’s best player, Ronaldo, went from hero to villain as he missed a vital penalty kick (though his teammates didn’t help either). Bayern fans celebrated, as they were going to see their home team play in its own arena for a shot at the Champions League title.
5. Real Madrid wins La Liga
It wasn’t all bad for Real Madrid though, as they managed to finally win La Liga and end Barcelona’s three year supremacy in Spain. For a moment there it looked like Real Madrid was going to lose its lead over Barcelona, but the decisive victory in the second Super Clasico sealed the deal. Real Madrid’s supremacy in La Liga also meant the end of Barcelona’s golden era, and brought joy to Madrid fans world wide.
4. Chelsea wins Champions League
This championship match was a tight affair that had Chelsea beat Bayern Munich (playing at home) in a penalty shootout. Usually, Champions League finals are included in best soccer matches lists, though this one deserves special mention. Having a Champions League champion being decided by a penalty shootout began a debate about the use of this ‘tie-breaker’ to decide important matches (what do you think?). Furthermore, Chelsea had to beat a team playing in their home field, a difficult task under normal circumstances, specially against a top tier team in the most important game in a footballer’s career. Overall, it was a good reward for Chelsea’s team, which more than made up for a sub-par performance in the Barclay’s league.
3. Pep Guardiola quits Barcelona
Three La Liga titles, two Champions League titles, two Copa del Rey titles, three SuperCopa titles, two Uefa Super Cup titles, two FIFA Club World Cups, and air guitar world champion. Ok, so he didn’t win that last one, but he won a lot at Barcelona, a total of 14 titles in a span of four years. However, he had a “bad” year in 2012, only making it to the semifinal of the Champions League and getting the second spot in La Liga. Seems like he decided to call it quits at Barcelona, take a break from soccer (right…), and leave a legacy that will be hard to match. The reason I put this as number three on my list, is that it officially marks the golden era for Barcelona. Tito Villanova will certainly have a difficult task matching the successes achieved by his predecessor.
2. Santos defeats Tigres in the semifinals of La Liga Mexicana de Futbol
Ok, so you may be asking why I put something that happened in the Mexican League as number two in my best soccer matches list, well, it’s because I can only think of another match that was more intense and had more riding on it than this one. After having tied 1-1 at Tigres’ stadium, all that Santos needed to move on to the final was a tie at home; well, 26 minutes into the match Mancilla made it 2-0 for Tigres. By the 85th minute it looked like Tigres was set to play the final against their arch-rival Monterrey. Peralta scores in the 86th minute… No way Tigres is going to allow another goal. Just minutes away from defeat, Peralta scores again in the 90th minute, tying the game 2-2 and sending Santos to the championship fixture, where they would eventually be crowned as champions. Obviously winning a Champions League semifinal is more important, but this come-from-behind, 2-goals in three minutes match is a thing of legends.
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1. Manchester City beats QPR to win Barclay’s Premier League
I’m sure you all knew this was going to be number one in the best soccer matches list, this match is why soccer is such a great sport! I’m sure you’ve all read, heard, seen, and discussed what happened in this match, so I’ll just leave you a good video that really captures the feeling of this great moment.
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