The beautiful game of Football – or Soccer, if you prefer it’s American name – truly gave us incredible moments in 2017. The year was all about broken records, players bidding farewell and clubs throwing hefty amounts of money to secure the players that they desired.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and relive the 10 best moments that marked the year for Football fans.
When Barcelona Made IMPOSSIBLE, I-M-POSSIBLE
It was a night to forget for the Catalan Club when referee blew the full time whistle on Valentine’s Day eve at Parc des Princes. PSG were hosting the Spanish Champions, Barcelona in the first leg of a UCL fixture and completely dismantled the Spanish side as the scoreboard showed 4-0 in favor of the hosts. PSG midfielder Angel Di Maria decided to celebrate his birthday on the field and scored a brace against his old rivals, with Draxler and Cavani scoring one a piece.
The papers in the morning labelled the defeat as the end of Barca’s UCL campaign and the second leg as dispensable. But the tie wasn’t over yet, as the French side were still to visit Camp Nou for the second leg.
It was a fine evening on 8 March, the match kicked off and Barcelona made their intentions clear from the very start by pressing the opposition hard.
At half time the home side was leading 2-0 and with a penalty by Messi in the second half meant that a comeback was on the cards. But all of that changed when Cavani hit the ball hard on the roof of the goal to grab a precious away goal for PSG.
The math Barcelona were after that evening, just got ruined as now the Spanish team needed 3 goals in order to excel in the UCL. There were shots on both sides of the field but none changed the scoreboard, until a free-kick and a penalty from Neymar in a span of 3 mins made it all square, 5-5 on aggregate.
However, the French side had an away goal advantage. This is when the magic happened. In the dying minutes Neymar lofted a free-kick from outside the box and an unmarked Sergi Roberto sent the ball into the net to complete the most sensational comeback in recent past. The Camp Nou erupted in joy as their team performed superbly and there were celebrations all over Catalonia.
Barcelona kicked PSG out of UCL , embarrassing them as they blew up a lead of 4-0.
Dortmund Bus Attack
The year 2017 progressed and the teams geared up for the crunch fixtures as they moved towards the concluding end of the season. One of the most interesting fixtures was the Quarter Final of Champions League where AS Monaco were drawn against the German giants Borussia Dortmund.
The Borussia Dortmund team was coming from the hotel to stadium when the bus was hit by three back to back explosions. The incident occurred at about 7.15pm local time in Dortmund’s Höchstem district, approximately 10km from the club’s stadium.
It was chaos all over, the bus was damaged, nobody knew what happened to the players, there was just smoke in the air, dark grey smoke. The world was in a complete state of shock until Police and Intelligence authorities came to rescue the team.
It was revealed that all the players were safe with some having minor injuries apart from defender Marc Bartra who was on the window seat and was injured by shards of glass.
We all have our heroes that we idealize but all has to end one day. Heroics lasts but not heroes. The same happens in football when the players have to retire. 2017 was a difficult year for all those 90’s kids for all the greats they grew up watching were now retiring.
Chelsea legend, Frank Lampard decided to say goodbye to football. The Englishman was an all time top goal scorer for the London Club and has served the club for 13 years winning numerous trophies and leading the club to its first ever Champions League triumph in the 2011-12 season.
Son of German soil, Phillip Lahm also announced his retirement from professional football at the end of 2016-17 season. His farewell was celebrated at his home club Bayern Munich’s stadium Allianz Arena, a club with which he was associated since 1995.
Unarguably the best fullback of his generation who played right back, left back, central midfielder; ended his career with over 600 appearances without receiving a red card which is quite a feat for a defender. Being nicknamed as ‘Magic Dwarf,’ Lahm was also a great leader as he led his club to a historic treble in 2012-13 season and also skippered the side that won the World Cup in 2014.
The Wolves of the Italy cried their eyes out when Franseco Totti came out for the last time as a Roma player. The Italian striker spent his entire career with Roma for 25 seasons and was their most capped player and highest goalscorer. Many clubs came and tried to lure him away from Roma but Totti’s loyalty remained with his childhood club.
Totti won Serie A, Coppa Italia and Super Coppa Italiana with the club and was an essesntial part of Italy team that won the 2006 World Cup.
Xabi Alonso, the man known for his pinpoint long balls hanged his boots last season and left his fans utterly sad.
Aloso has played for various great clubs and is among the few players who won every silverware there is to win for both club and country. He scored an all important goal to secure Liverpool’s historic comeback in 2005-06 UCL final. He was Real Madrid’s main man in holding their midfield who won the league and UCL during his time there and pulled reigns in Bayern’s team winning 3 consecutive leagues before retiring. He was one of the most important players of Spain’s Golden generation which won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.
The Brazilian Prince, Ricardo Kaka also resigned as a player after having an illustrous career, which saw him lift the World Cup with Brazil and win numerous trophies with the clubs he played for. He was a huge part of the legendary AC Milan team that dominated Italy and Europe and won awards on both club and individual level. Kaka was the only footballer who defeated Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in a Ballon D’or race when hebagged it back in 2007 after having a great season with AC Milan.
The Italian legend and the midfield maestro, Andrea Pirlo hanged his boots this year after playing for Italy’s most elite clubs for almost all his career.
The midfielder was known in the world for his creativity, ball control and vision of the game. He was part of the Italy’s generation which grabbed the World Cup 2006 and enjoyed domination with AC Milan and then with Juventues, winning 4 leagues in a row.
El Classico – “Where heroes become legends and moments become history.” The biggest rivalry in football gave some breath taking moments to the fans as Barcelona and Real Madrid locked horns 4 times this year.
The first Classico was fantastic as we got to see best attacking football at home of Real Madrid but all didn’t go well for the hosts as Messi scored a winner in the stoppage time, completing 500 goals for his club and holding his shirt up in front of his fierce rival fans as a celebration.
The next two classicos were the two legs of Spanish Super Cup where Real Madrid dominated the Catalan club completely thumping them 5-1 on aggregate. In the first leg Ronaldo scored a long range shot from outside the box and copied exactly the same celebration Messi did with his shirt, in front of the Barcelona fans which created a lot of buzz in the press.
The last Classico was played just a week ago, in which Barcelona emerged as winners. The first half completely belonged to Real Madrid where they rattled their opposition but couldn’t capitalize the opportunities in front of the net, while the second half belonged to Messi and co. where the Madrid side looked exhausted and allowed 3 goals past them. Certainly, a classico that Madrid fans won’t enjoy recalling much.
The summer window is one of the most exciting times in Football World. Managers, Sport Directors and Owners can all be running after their target players making bids after bids to secure the move to make profit by selling the dead log in their squads. The transfer window of this summer was no different.
We saw the big clubs raiding AS Monaco youngsters in the summer window who had a sensational season where Bakayoko moved to London for Chelsea and Bernardo Silva to Manchester City. The highlight however, was the French starlet Kylian Mbappé who went on loan to rivals PSG from Monaco for a whooping 180 million Euros, making him the the world’s second most expensive player at only 18 years.
Another transfer that surprised the world was that of the Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci who left Juventus to be a part of a refashioning AC Milan for 42 million Euros. The Juventus fans were in awe with the news as the defender took the Captain’s arm band for their rivals.
Last but not the least, the most talked about and most hyped transfer was when PSG decided to break the bank for the Barcelona superstar Neymar and agreed to pay a mammoth 222 Million Euro for the services of the Brazilian. This made Neymar the most expensive player in the history of the game and will see him bound with the French club for the next 5 years.
2017 FIFA Confederations Cup
It was the mid of June 2017 when Confederations Cup kicked off with all the 6 winners of FIFA Confederations Champions, the World Champions and the host of the upcoming World Cup 2018.
Ronaldo’s Portugal which won the Euro 2016 with flying colors, were eliminated in the Semi-final by Chile on Penalty Shootouts after the game remained 0-0 till extra time.
On the other hand, the World Champions Germany crushed New Zealand quite comfortably 4-1 to grab a spot in the final.
On 2 July 2017, Chile and Germany were up against each other to take the trophy home but it proved to be too difficult for Chile despite having stars like Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and others to unlock Germany’s defense or beat the mighty Andre Ter Stegen. Germany scored in the twentieth minute, thanks to a brilliant piece of work from Timo Werner and a finish from Larz Stindl, which resulted in a lead early in the game and remained till the end, eventually crowning them the Champions of the Competition.
Real Madrid UCL Defense and the Best Year in Their History
It’s a dream of every club to paint Europe in their colors and have a UCL trophy in their cabinet, but it’s not very easy until and unless you are Real Madrid. Winning it for a record 11th time last year, they successfully defended their title this year with ease winning the ‘La Duo Decima’. The road to the final wasn’t easy as they were drawn against the German Champions, Bayern Munich in the Quarter Finals but the odds weren’t in favor of Bayern Munich when despite leading 1-0 at half time they lost 1-2 with Ronaldo scoring a brace in the second half and completing his 100 goals in the competition becoming only the first player to do so.
The second leg was not any different as Ronaldo kept feeding the net with a hat-trick to his name and Real Madrid marched on with 6-2 on aggregate. In the semi-finals the Spanish side took on their city rivals Atletico Madrid and left them clueless when Ronaldo scored another fine hat-trick killing the tie 3-0 in the first leg. Atletico tried to bounce back but Real Madrid were too determined to knock them out this season as well and qualified for the Final with the scoreboard showing 4-2. Atletico Madrid left the stadium with bitter taste as Real Madrid ended their UCL journey for the fourth time in a row after knocking them out in the UCL Final of 2013-14, Quarter Final of 2014-15, Final of 2015-16, and Semi Final of 2016-17.
The defending champions were up against the mighty Italian Champions Juventus. The final spurred a lot of excitement as it was said to be the real test of Juventus’ defense against the all firing attack of Los Blancos. Legendary keeper Buffon had his eyes on his first ever UCL medal until Ronaldo put one past him in the first half and gave his side the lead. Minutes later, Mandzukic’s brilliant over head strike balanced scoreboard and gave his side some breathing space till the half time. But everything changed when Ronaldo scored another followed by Casemiro and Asensio. The side which only leaked 3 goals in the entire competition allowed 4 to Real Madrid and handed them the UCL for the record 12th time, making them the only side to retain the European crown.
Real Madrid signed off the year 2017 in style winning almost every competition they were part of under the former Ballon D’or Winner and Legend Zinedine Zidane, bagging 5 trophies in a Calendar year, marking the best year in their glorious history expanding over a century.
Failure of Qualification
When you are a sportsman all you want is to be a part of the national team and win something for the nation and make fellow citizens proud. In football, World Cup is the biggest stage where a player can exhibit his capabilities. 200 teams across the globe compete in order to earn a spot in top 32 and participate in the biggest show but World Cup qualification can be a challenge as it proved this year.
The biggest upset of this World Cup qualifiers was undisputedly that Italy failed to qualify for World Cup 2018. The European giants have claimed the throne of World Champions four times in their paramount history and have been part of every World Cup since 1956.
The Italian fans were deeply saddened when their team was unable to beat Sweden in a do or die match. Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian Captain broke into tears after the debacle and announced his retirement with team mates Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini also bidding farewell to International Football.
Another European firehouse, the team of Flying Dutchman and Van the man were unable to grab a spot in the top 32 as Sweden held on enough to get themselves through. Netherlands were far from their best despite having two successful World Cups where they finished Runners-up in 2010 and clinched Bronze in 2014, but since then their over reliance on Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Huntelaar, all ageing reflected that the Oranje don’t have much in their youth missing the Euro 2016 and now the World Cup 2018.
Arjen Robben has parted from international football and soon it will be over for Van Persie and Sneijder. This can well mean that perhaps the golden generation of Holland is all done and dusted.
The team that won back to back Copa America in 2015 and 2016 fell short of a qualification in the World Cup was a hard pill to digest. Chile completely dominated the South American region defeating Argentina back to back in Copa America’s final and forcing Messi to retire, but the departure of Manager Sampaoli jeopardized their system. The hardworking team just looked a dead duck against Bolivia and Paraguay and a ruthless Brazil handed them the exit card from the World Cup.
Ronaldo: The Best Player
The year ended as one of the finest for the Portuguese International as he continued to smash records.
After taking his team to Laliga glory after half a decade, Cristiano Ronaldo was firing all his cylinders being named man of the match in UCL Quarter Final, Semi Final and Final scoring at least a brace in these games.
He reached his 100 UCL goals this season and was the first man to do so. He also ended this year’s UCL as the highest goal scorer for the sixth time in his career. The award for UEFA Men’s Player of the year looked imminent and rightly so. He won the award beating Lionel Messi and Gigi Buffon , winning the award for a record third time.
The glory continued as he won UEFA Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup with his team which strengthened his chances of becoming the FIFA Player of the Year and Ballon D’or.
It was 23 October 2017, when Cristiano Ronaldo was announced as the Best Fifa Men’s Award winner beating Lionel Messi and Neymar with a clear majority of 43.16% of the votes. The fate had saved the best for the last, the most prestigious Ballon D’or was yet to be announced and Messi casting his spell in the new season, everyone was waiting for the big announcement. It was the seventh evening of December when a man holding the Ballon D’or on the mighty Eiffel Tower turned back and it was Cristiano Ronaldo holding his fifth Ballon D’or equalling Messi’s record.
It was never an easy task for the Portugese who had only 1 Ballon D’or and clapped for Messi when he raised his fourth but with determination and hard work, Ronaldo came from the back and leveled with Messi on the big stage. Ronaldo made history this year and the rivalry just got more fierce as the year ended.
Kane Kills Everyone
It’s been a decade that we have been listening to the Ronaldo-Messi dominance across all competitions, and rightly so. The most talented footballers never miss a chance to make the headlines. They have been smashing records and carrying their teams to glory every season giving jaw dropping performances week in week out.
This year as well they were tied at 53 goals each in a calendar year with a game to go, that also the famous El-classico on 23 December. Barcelona thrashed Madrid with Messi feeding the net from the penalty spot and ending the year with just a goal more than Ronaldo.
The very same day in England, Harry Kane scored a hat-trick against Burnley to drag his tally to 53 from 50. Tottenham striker was the dark horse and no one would have predicted him to be on that level but he didn’t stop there and just 3 days later on 26 December, fired another Hat-trick against Southampton to beat Lionel Messi’s tally of 53 goals. The English striker is criminally underrated when it comes to scoring goals as he shattered Alan Shearer’s Premier League record.
For years it has been believed that Messi and Ronaldo are untouchables, but with age certainly catching them, looks like their downfall is near and a young lad like Harry Kane is gearing up for the next best. Only time will prove how great he can be, for this we all need to wait and watch.