The year 2014 included many major soccer stories, talking points and controversies. Here’s a list of 10 of the biggest stories to come out of the beautiful game during the past 12 months.
1. Germany Wins Fourth World Cup
The Germans triumph during this summer’s World Cup came down to defense. The now four-time champions only allowed four goals in seven total matches during the competition. While they squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final, there were two matches that stood out for the Germans: the 4-0 victory over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side in the opening match of Group G, and the astounding 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semi-final. Now only Brazil (5) has more World Cups than Germany.
2. Brazil Humiliated On Their Own Turf
Speaking of that massive victory for Germany over Brazil, the loss not only meant that Brazil was sent packing in the tournament (although they didn’t have far to travel), but it was also the first home defeat for the South American country in 39 years. If the loss wasn’t bad enough, the Brazilians were absolutely humiliated by the Germans, as the European squad went up 5-0 inside of 30 minutes and went on to record the 7-1 victory. Many have suggested that the loss was Brazil’s worst moment in World Cup history.
3. Real Madrid Wins 10th European Title
The Spanish giants finally achieved “La Decima” back in May, 12 years after winning their ninth European title in 2002. Although Real Madrid failed to win the La Liga crown this past season, Los Blancos achieved the historic accomplishment of 10 European titles in dramatic fashion. After nearly losing the Champions League final to fellow Spanish club Atletico Madrid, Real went on to score four goals after the 90th minute (three in extra time) to claim the cup.
4. Luis Suarez Attacks Yet Again
While surely ultra-talented, Luis Suarez once again made headlines for all of the wrong reasons during the 2014 World Cup. During Uruguay’s final group stage match against Italy, a game in which the South Americans won and advanced to the knockout phase, Suarez was seen taking a bite out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder in the 79th minute of the game.
Although the match referee did not see the incident, Suarez was banned for the rest of the World Cup and the Uruguayans were bounced out of the tournament in their next match. This was the third occasion that Suarez was caught biting a player during a match in the last four years.
5. Messi Sets Champions League Goals Record
In nearly 60 years of the European competition’s existence, no one has scored more Champions League goals than Barcelona’s Leo Messi. The Argentine recently took over the crown of all-time top scorer in the tournament with his 75th goal, edging out Real Madrid legend Raul, who scored 71 Champions League goals in his career.
Messi’s accomplishment is even more impressive considering how quickly he overtook Raul. Messi needed just 92 matches to score his 75 goals, while Raul took 144 games to reach 71 goals scored. Although Messi has the record, he must continue to add to his tally, as Cristiano Ronaldo is right on his heels with 73 goals as well.
6. FIFA Controversy
Between protests ahead of this year’s World Cup and allegations of corruption in the bidding process of both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, 2014 was not the greatest year for FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter.
Protests and booing during speeches made by Blatter became so habitual that FIFA decided to cut all speeches in the opening ceremony of this summer’s World Cup. Blatter and FIFA also came under fire following Russia receiving the 2018 World Cup. England was heavy favorites to hold the competition, but only received two out of the 22 votes in the bidding process. After England complained about the ordeal, Blatter would call England “bad losers.”
The 2022 World Cup being awarded to Qatar has also been met with controversy, for two different reasons. Firstly, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Blatter’s comments that “gay fans should refrain from any sexual activities” didn’t go over well with many people around the world. Secondly, corruption in the bidding process was once again enthralled in Qatar winning the 2022 World Cup as well. There’s also the subject of weather concerns looking ahead. With the World Cup normally being played in the summer, Qatar’s average July daily high temperature is a steamy 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Landon Donovan Left Out of World Cup
Despite leading the United States to a 2-0 victory over Mexico to secure qualification to the 2014 World Cup (scoring one goal and providing an assist in the match), manager Jurgen Klinsmann chose not to take Donovan to the tournament in Brazil. The move not to select Donovan was initially met with criticism and surprise, as the 32-year-old had been an immense figure in American soccer since his first team debut in 2000. Donovan holds the record for most goals scored in a World Cup by an American and most total goals scored by a USMNT member. The California native went on to retire from his international team later in the year.
8. Spain Crashed Out of World Cup
Heading into the 2014 World Cup, Spain was seen as one of the favorites to bring home the trophy. The superstar-filled Spanish team entered the summer tournament as the defending champions and had also won the last two European Championships as well. Nonetheless, many World Cup brackets were busted when Spain failed to qualify for the knockout round of the competition.
The Spaniards only recorded one victory in their three group stage matches, a 3-0 win over Australia. Entering the Australia match, Spain lost 5-1 to the Netherlands and 2-0 to Chile. The early exit was the first time that Spain could not reach the knockout round since 1998.
9. Manchester City Wins Second Title in Three Seasons
After decades of being seen as the little brothers to crosstown rival Manchester United, the Citizens picked up their second Premier League championship in the last three seasons back in May. City bounced back after finishing runners-up after the 2012-13 season, and won the 2013-14 title by just two points over Suarez-led Liverpool.
Although much of City’s recent success has to do with new ownership pumping cash into the team, the high-profile players still have to perform on the pitch, and perform they did. The accomplishment of the two titles looks even more impressive as Manchester City was playing in the second-tiered division just 12 years ago.
10. Big Player Retirements
The year 2014 was one in which many soccer stars hung up their cleats for good. Players such as Thierry Henry, Eric Abidal, Mauro Camoranesi, Landon Donovan, Ryan Giggs, Gabriel Heinze, Juninho, Carlos Puyol, Rivaldo, Clarence Seedorf, and Javier Zanetti all retired during the year.
Philip Lahm, Miroslov Klose, Per Mertesacker, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Villa, Didier Drogba, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Joseph Yobo, Franck Ribery, and Giorgos Karagounis also announced their retirement from international soccer, but will continue to play at the club level.