Best of 2012: looks back at the Year in Soccer

{eot} Staff
12/24/2012 10:21:15 AM
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As 2012 winds to a close, looks back at the stories that made the year memorable.'s writing staff reflects on the best soccer moments from the past 12 months including City's Manchester Miracle, Christine Sinclair's war face, the genius of Lionel Messi and the indomitable spirit of the Irish fans.

Ken Rodney on Manchester Madness

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero scored 23 Premier League goals in his first season at the English club, but none bigger or more dramatic than the last one which gave his team a final day victory over Queens Park Rangers and their first league title since 1968.

After trading the league lead with cross-town rivals Manchester United over the course of the season, City overturned an eight point deficit over the course of five weeks and entered the final day of the season level on points but ahead by virtue of a superior goal differential.

United took care of their business with a professional road victory against Sunderland and while they were scoreboard watching, drama started to unfold at City's Etihad Stadium.

QPR seized control of a game City led 1-0 by scoring two goals, including the second one after being reduced to 10-men and were ahead as the game entered the 90th minute.

With nothing left to lose, City threw their entire attacking formation forward and were rewarded when substitute striker Edin Dzeko headed home an equalizing marker.

The stage was then set, 93 minutes and 20 seconds after Mike Dean blew his whistle to start the game, Sergio Aguero collected a Mario Balotelli pass in the box and fired it home to clinch the title for Manchester City.

The enduring image of an incredible title campaign will be a shirtless Aguero running along the touchline swinging his shirt in celebration, the dramatic end to a dramatic season.

Shane McNeil on Christine Sinclair's big moment

One image from the now-legendary Olympic women's semifinal soccer match should never leave the minds of Canadians and that is Christine Sinclair's face after putting the Canadian team up 3-2 in the 73rd minute.

It had been a back-and-forth match and so often in the past the Americans had found a way to eventually outlast the Canadian side in international tests. This game smacked of that type of resurgence, especially after Megan Rapinoe's stunner in the 70th minute leveled the game at 2-2.

But Sinclair completed her hat-trick in the 73rd minute and ran immediately to the sidelines to fire up her coach and teammates.

That face is the image that will define the Olympics for so many Canadians. It said "I will not be denied."

Although fate was cruel in the end to the Canadian team, the pride they instilled in Canada has reverberated since that very moment and it is that image that will long define the icon that Sinclair has become in the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Rodney on the Magic of Messi

For 40 years, German soccer legend Gerd Muller held the record for most goals in a calendar year after he struck 85 times in 1972 for club and country.

However, as we've come to know and appreciate about the skills of Argentinian-born, Barcelona striker Lionel Messi, there are only two types of records, those he already owns and those he has yet to break.

After opening the year with a Jan. 4 brace against Osasuna in Copa Del Rey play, Messi went on to a month-by-month barrage of goal scoring mastery.

On his impressive 2012 ledger, the 25-year-old forward scored 12 goals in nine international matches for Argentina, a total that includes both World Cup qualifying competition and friendlies.

He has also accounted for 79 markers in only 59 games for Barcelona, scoring in La Liga, Copa Del Rey, Champions League and Spanish Super Cup action.

Messi's command performance was a five goal record breaking masterpiece against Bayer Leverkusen in the second leg of a 7-1 Champions League aggregate victory.

As if that wasn't enough, this year he also became Barcelona's all-time leading scorer in March and a father for the first time in November.

Simply put, he's the best.

McNeil on Ireland's Euro 2012 fans

The Irish fans really deserved better.

The Irish football team qualified for Euro 2012 on the strength of a 5-1 aggregate pasting of Montenegro, sending the squad to its first major international tournament since the 2002 World Cup. However, when the Irish team got to Poland, the wheels just came off.

They were competitive against Croatia until a late first-half goal put them back for good and then the team was simply overpowered by eventual finalists Spain and Italy.

The Irish fans, however, showed staunch faith in their side. Down 4-0 in the final minutes against the defending European and World Champions, the entirety of the Irish team's support – an estimated 25,000 – break out into song as they watched their team get eliminated.

The thousands-strong version of the Irish traditional "The Fields of Athenry" endeared the Irish fans to supporters of just about every nation participating in the tournament and prompted UEFA to give the Irish supporters a special award recognizing their passion throughout the tournament.


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