It has been such an eventful year and the footballing world has seen it all. 2014 was the dream year for everyone as football finally returned to its magisterial home. The streets of Rio filled with football fervour were such an amazing sight as the FIFA World Cup took place in the true home of the ‘Beautiful Game’. It was the ecstasy of experiencing the greatest footballing spectacle that drove us through the year. But then, it wasn’t just that. There were so many other moments that made 2014 special.
There were also a few greats who left us such as the Legendary Eusebio, Sir Tom Finney, Luis Aragones, and Alfredo di Stefano while living legends such as Thierry Henry and Ryan Giggs chose to bid adieu to their playing days. In what was an amazing year, we must get to see those that peaked at the top. Let’s take a look at the moments that defined football in 2014:
Arjen Robben’s Coup de grace to Ramos
Everything that Spain ever performed during their Golden era was a work of art. The magic they conjured by weaving up extraordinary passing manoeuvres were a sight to behold and one of the most intrinsically beautiful aspects of watching football in this era.
However, good things must come to an end and we sure do know that. The 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the Confederations Cup was the early sign of Spain’s innate passing philosophy reaching its saturation and rightly, they should have sensed the need for a change.
But, Vincente del Bosque continued with his tactics. The 2014 World Cup provided the stage for Netherlands to wreck completely everything that Spain had built up over the last six years. Their opening match, only the third in the World Cup showed us what had become of Spain and it was Arjen Robben who spearheaded the decimation of Spain more than anyone else.
Feeding of a clever Sneijder pass on the break, Robben laid Ramos to waste as he took on an amazing sprint before scoring the goal and elevating the score line to 5-1. This goal signified the end of Tiki-taka and everything that was wrong with it. The problems of facing a counter attack was best shown as Arjen Robben delivered the deathblow to Spain’s long-cherished brand of football.
From there, it was downfall for them as they exited in the group stages. This moment was more significant than what most people think and will surely be the one that delivered the final blow to ‘Tiki-Taka’.
Klose emulates El Phenomenon, becomes top-scorer in World Cup History
When you overtake Luis Ronaldo who was arguably the most complete striker in the history of football, there’s got to be a special moment to account for it. Much like the Dutch mauling of Spain, this was in another of the great shocks of this World Cup. As Miroslav Klose slotted in the rebound of Julio Cesar’s save in the semi-final of the World Cup, he ensured that he would become the all-time highest scorer in World Cup.
Sixteen goals to account for across four World Cups and finally, he lifted the trophy before descending into the horizon one last time. Thomas Muller is hot on his heels and if he reaches the milestone in Russia 2018, then so be it.
For till then, we would celebrate Klose’s record and cherish his moments on the biggest stage of them all. A goal followed by the trademark somersault shall be one of the lasting images in World Cup history as its most celebrated goal scorer called curtains on his World Cup career.
Manuel Neuer dominates the year
It wasn’t just one moment to evoke Manuel Neuer through 2014 as he was dominating the whole time around. It was the famous Sweeper-Keeper as he displayed his discerning ability to play that position that made him the most debated footballer across the year as he broke the traditions by getting into the Ballon D’or Top Three. Whether he wins it or not, he deserved to be in the shortlist for redefining the role of the goalkeeper completely and bringing into mainstream popularity ideas that had surfaced in the distant past during the days of Johan Cryuff.
It was on the big stage where the world took note of Neuer’s and the ‘Golden Glove’ award was testament to his performances throughout the tournament. The match against Algeria was perhaps one of the best nights of his career as he made several advanced tackles and clearances while potentially saving the World Cup for his country. 2014 was remembered for a lot of things regarding Germany but perhaps individually, Neuer’s exploits were the foremost.
Leo Messi breaks the record books
Back in 2012 when he scored a goal against Real Madrid after going past four of their players, the commentator famously marked the occasion saying, “How good is he?”
Indeed, how good is he? In what was considered his worst year, he was directly involved in 79 goals, just four less than his nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo. But that, I should say are criticisms due to the ridiculously high standards he’s set for himself. However, all wasn’t for bad this year as he broke the record of Telmo Zarra and became the highest goal scorer in the history of the La Liga.
He crossed the magical 251-mark with a trademark goal from a Neymar assist against Sevilla. He perhaps etched his name as the most dominant goal scorer in the La Liga and few would differ from that opinion. Cristiano Ronaldo is fast catching upon him but that shouldn’t be much of a concern to Messi, who has seemingly found his scoring touch again.
The brilliance of Messi is hard to describe and 2014 was no different as he showed in the World Cup with some sublime goals and exquisite pieces of play. At the end of the day, we just have one question to answer “How good is he?” And hopefully, 2015 will only augment the answer to that.
The Dream of La Decima is finally a reality
It was 12 years of madness and obsession as Real Madrid border-lined on insanity to get to the captivating mark of 10 Champions League titles. And finally, a master class from Cristiano Ronaldo over the 2013-14 season ensured they had reached the milestone. But, it wasn’t that easy after all. They had to wiggle their way out of death with a Ramos goal minutes away from Full-time.
However, once they did that, it was all theirs. Finishing off the night rightfully with a Cristiano Ronaldo goal, we could see the satisfaction as Iker Casillas lifted the trophy after 12 years and ended the dream. It took a Zidane volley back then to do it and Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance now as he hit the highpoint of his Bernabeu days after having an excellent 2013-14 season. The Los Blancos will remember this moment for years to come and speak of it just as they did that night in Lisbon.
Germany are the Champions of the World
2014 being a World Cup year, it was obvious that this moment had to top the list. It was 10 years in the making as the Germans finally won the World Cup. Back in 2004, there were a host of changes in the Bundesliga including revamps of the youth system and administrative measures to ensure that it was a sizeable breeding ground for German talent. That ensured it wouldn’t become the financial monster that is the Premier League and lose its ability to cultivate home-grown talent.
The 7-1 demolition of Brazil was the highlight of their campaign as they thrashed and brought reality upon those who had placed extraordinary expectations of what was quite an overrated team. Mario Gotze’s extra time won them the World Cup but it was much more than just his strike. Throughout the tournament, they consistently had been performing very well with excellent performances from their players on various days.
Manuel Neuer was brilliant on most, Schweinstiger the usual beast he is while Philipp Lahm was their captain constant like the North Star, giving in 100% every other day. But I’d say their best player throughout the tournament was Toni Kroos who was nominated for the Golden Ball and even topped the Castrol Index Player’s List for the World Cup. The central midfielder put in brilliant performances while his calm presence on the ball was the neutralizing factor in their extremely bustling attack. Thomas Muller extended his goal tally while Miroslav Klose had a historic moment against Brazil. It was all in their favour as we finally got to see Joachim Loew display some emotions. It was the fourth time Germany had won the World Cup and they are fast tracking in an attempt equal Brazil’s record of five wins.