As 2013 winds to a close, TSN.ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. TSN.ca's writing staff reflects on the best soccer moments from the past 12 months including CR7 one-upping Messi, Fergie's farewell, the redemption of Robben and more!
Cristiano Ronaldo will score whenever he wants to
By: Ken Rodney
He scores in La Liga and in the Champions League for Real Madrid. He scores for his country Portugal. He scores when he wants.
That is the story of 2013 for the incredible Cristiano Ronaldo, who alongside Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Frank Ribery is a finalist for the Ballon d'Or, FIFA's player of the year award.
Fitting that he will face Messi for that award because there is always a place in a Ronaldo story where a comparison to Messi must be made, only this time it slants well in the favour of the Portuguese international.
His 68 goals for club and country during 2013 are more than Messi and Ribery combined.
During the current 2013-14 La Liga season he is joint top scorer with 17 goals, 9 more than his Argentinian rival, who to be fair is currently battling an injury.
In international play this year he has 10 goals in nine matches, including two three-goal performances.
While he will finish the year without getting his hands around a team trophy, it is impossible to not be impressed by the 2013 submitted by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Fergie Says Farewell
By: Mike Beauvais
When Sir Alex Ferguson called time on his legendary managerial career in early May, the math showed that Manchester United's season-ending match on May 20 at West Bromwich Albion would be the Scotsman's 1500th in charge of the club.
It would be an anti-climatic one. United locked up the BPL title weeks earlier, but the United-West Brom season finale ended up being a highly entertaining 5-5 draw.
United's May 12 match, though, saw "Fergie" manage Manchester United for the last time at his beloved Old Trafford.
As Ferguson made his way down to his familiar spot on the United bench, he greeted supporters and signed autographs, but there was no hiding the emotion in the Scotsman's face. It seemed as if it were just dawning on him that this would be the final time he took that walk.
In the 86th-minute, Rio Ferdinand made sure his gaffer would go out a winner when he volleyed home to give United the 2-1 victory.
After the match ended, United received its championship trophy presentation and Ferguson addressed the crowd for one last time.
"If you think about it, those last-minute goals, the comebacks, even the defeats, are all part of this great football club of ours," Ferguson told his rapt audience. "It's been an unbelievable experience for all of us, so thank you for that."
He closed his remarks with a stark reminder to the Old Trafford faithful, one that seems almost prescient now.
"I'd also like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me," said Ferguson. "Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important."
Nobody expects David Moyes to be the new Alex Ferguson, but then again, nobody expected Alex Ferguson to be Alex Ferguson.
Arjen Robben finds Champions redemption
By Shane McNeil
After the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final I had begun to believe that something was permanently broken in Arjen Robben.
One of the world's premier footballers, the Dutchman had Bayern Munich's 2012 European title on his foot when he drove an extra-time penalty into Petr Cech. Then, when the game went to penalty kicks, he was nowhere to be seen. His summer would get even worse when the Dutch team was bounced from Euro 2012 without a win, scoring just two goals.
Yet, he was offered a second chance with Bayern taking on Borussia Dortmund in the first ever all-German Champions Final.
In the 60th minute, Robben sent out a prayer from the left side of the goal and a ball that seemd destined for a goal kick suddenly found its way to Mario Mandzukic's boot across the face of the goal and into the back of the net. A fluke, I told myselfâ€¦ A lucky bounce.
Then in the 89th, the real Robben returned. Thundering into the box, he split two defencemen, forced Roman Weidenfeller wide and slipped a dribbler the other way, into the goal. Robben exorcised his Champions demons, claiming Man of the Match along the way.
Iceland misses World Cup; FIFA misses out
By Shane McNeil
Seemingly every major international brings some flavor from the fans when it comes to soccer.
Euro 2012 had the Irish fans' serenading their team with "The Fields of Athenry" as they bowed out, winless.
The 2010 World Cup had its ever-present vuvzelas, so loud that broadcasters tried to find a way to phase them out for live broadcasts.
There will likely be a story for Brazil 2014, but it will not - sadly - be the fans of the Icelandic national team.
Iceland was in a balanced qualifying group that featured top-10-ranked Switzerland and Slovenia, which had qualified for both Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.
On the last day of qualifying, Iceland held on to a 1-1 draw with Norway, while Switzerland did them a huge service by eliminating Slovenia with a 1-0 victory.
Iceland headed to the play-off round with a chance to become the smallest nation to ever qualify for soccer's biggest tournament, bringing their boisterous and colourful fans with them - in spirit at least.
Sadly, Iceland would fail to score against Croatia, dropping the play-off 2-0 on aggregate, keeping one of the best stories of the qualification round out of the big finale.