As 2010 nears its end and 2011 draws ever closer, there’s no better time to reflect on the world of football during the last 12 months.
The main event of the year was of course the football World Cup in South Africa, the first to be staged on African soil which brought us plenty of goals, red cards, new World Champions and those ‘atmospheric’ Vuvuzelas. England’s optimism soon turned to gloom amidst squad unrest, abject performances and Uruguayan officials and in the space of 12 months Fabio Capello has become a somewhat unfair target for press criticism.
Nearer to home the second half of the 2009/10 Premier League season offered up close fought races for survival, European qualification and the title itself. The FA Cup sprung a few surprises and Manchester United won the year’s first silverware, lifting the Carling Cup with victory over Aston Villa at Wembley.
On the continent a familiar face once again claimed the most coveted trophy in European club football, whilst plucky underdogs from the banks of the Thames went agonisingly close to winning the Europa League.
Not all the memorable moments took place on the pitch, with off-field spats, press conferences and contract wrangles making 2010 an eventful year for the beautiful game. This week’s Toppo’s Top Ten takes a look at ten of the best moments from the year, with skill, goals, silverware and rants aplenty.
10: Newcastle United 5 Sunderland 1
After securing promotion back into the top-flight at the first attempt in 2010, Newcastle have gone from strength to strength with some good results that currently see them comfortably in mid-table. Only the fiasco surrounding their managerial post has been the blot on what’s been a great year for the club.
A highlight of Chris Hughton’s reign was the 5-1 thrashing of local rivals Sunderland in October. The game at St. James’ Park was the first between the two since Newcastle returned to the Premier League and they marked the occasion in style. Kevin Nolan scored a hat-trick, Shola Ameobi a brace whilst Titus Bramble was sent off for Steve Bruce’s side in what was an unhappy return to his former club. Darren Bent added a late consolation for the Wearsiders but the result didn’t please all in black and white, as Magpies chairman Mike Ashley sacked boss Hughton weeks later.
9: Luis Suarez ‘saves’ Uruguay from elimination
An infamous moment from World Cup 2010 came during the quarter-final match between Ghana and Uruguay. The Ghanaians were aiming to become the first ever African team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament and on African soil, while Uruguay were bidding to reach the last four for the first time in 40 years.
Ghana took the lead two minutes into first half injury time as Sulley Muntari scored with a long-range drive but Uruguay pegged them back after the break, as ‘Master of the Jabulani’ Diego Forlan blasted a free-kick high into Richard Kingson’s net from 25 yards out.
Both teams had chances to score again but the match remained 1-1 as it went deep into extra time. In the 119th minute a Ghanaian set piece caused havoc in the Uruguayan penalty area, the Africans trying to scramble home a winner. John Mensah’s header was beyond the reach of the goalie and heading in, before Uruguay striker Luis Suarez became goalkeeper, parrying the ball away with his hands and denying the Africans glory.
The Ghanaians were incensed. Suarez received his marching orders and Ghana were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Asamoah Gyan but he blasted his spot-kick off the bar and missed. The Uruguayans celebrated wildly, none more so than the villain Suarez on the touch-line, and thanks to their goalkeeper Fernando Muslera won the following penalty shootout and were into the last four. An incredible end to any World Cup match.
8: Ian Holloway on the Wayne Rooney saga
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway has provided many great soundbites during 2010 but my favourite is his rant about Wayne Rooney’s stand-off with Manchester United. In a brilliant few minutes, Holloway gives his own unique views on the situation referring to someone as ‘some complete person’ in his West Country accent and berates the Bosman Ruling, FIFA and UEFA – telling them to ‘sort your life out!’ Add to that his comparison between Rooney and walking houses and it’s comedy gold.
7: Barcelona spank Real Madrid
In the close season of 2010, Real Madrid appointed Jose Mourinho and gave ‘The Special One’ the task of knocking Barcelona off their perch having dominated domestically and on the continent for the past five years. The acid test of Mourinho’s start at the Bernabeu came in November as he took his star-studded team to the home of their greatest rivals – the team playing some of the best club football you’ll see anywhere in the world.
Barcelona it was an unhappy return to the Nou Camp for Mourinho – his Inter Milan team knocking Barca out of the Champions League there in April. Playing some sparkling football, the Catalans ran riot with goals from Xavi, Pedro, Jeffren and two from David Villa making the final score Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0. There’s been few so one-sided El Classicos.
6: The World Cup 2018 & 2022 hosting fiasco
In December FIFA decided which countries would stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups with a ceremony in Zurich. England were hoping to secure the 2018 tournament and put forward a strong bid despite damaging stories published in the media and problems throughout the bidding process. David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron travelled over to Switzerland to sweet talk the FIFA delegates who would decide the host nations.
It seemed as if England’s bid would be successful, until FIFA President Sepp Blatter pulled Russia out of the envelope. It later transpired that England received a measly 2 votes from 22 – an embarrassing outcome. Minutes later Qatar were awarded the right to stage the 2022 tournament despite strong bids from Australia, USA and South Korea.
This sparked much debate amongst the football community with Blatter and his FIFA cronies on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse and accusations of corruption. Both bids were considered the highest risk ones for both tournaments but Blatter’s explanation was that he wanted to take football to new territories. Thanks for telling us Sepp before we spent £15 million bidding for it.
5: ‘The Special One’ does it again
Jose Mourinho made history in 2010 as he guided Inter Milan to Champions League glory, becoming only the third man to win Europe’s premier competition with two different teams – having done so before with Porto in 2004.
Having reached the final in the Bernabeu, Inter faced Bayern Munich, whose manager Louis Van Gaal mentored a young Mourinho when he was at Barcelona in the 1990’s. The match was dominated in spells by Bayern but Inter demonstrated their quality, with striker Diego Milito grabbing both goals in a 2-0 win – giving Inter Milan their first European Cup since 1965. The game signalled the end of Mourinho’s spell in Italy, as he left that summer to try to repeat the feat with Real Madrid.
4: Fulham reach the Europa League final
Roy Hodgson has come under-fire since taking over at Liverpool during the summer following inconsistent form, but let’s not forget that just six months ago his stock was at an all-time high having taken Fulham all the way to the Europa League final – two seasons after saving them from what seemed a probable relegation to the Championship.
Their run to the final began in July 2009 as they played in the qualifying rounds of the tournament. Having made it through their European campaign consisted of over 25 matches, with wins over the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Basel, a brilliant comeback victory against Juventus and semi-final triumph over Hamburg on the way to the final where they faced Spanish side Atletico Madrid.
Having fallen a goal behind in the first half, Simon Davies equalised and the match entered extra-time. However five minutes from the end Diego Forlan put Atletico in front and Fulham couldn’t pull another great comeback out of the bag and they lost 2-1. A disappointing end but nevertheless it was an amazing achievement for Roy Hodgson and Fulham to reach a European final. ‘Woy’ won the LMA Manager of The Year award by a record margin. Have patience Liverpool fans!
3: Tottenham defeat the champions of Europe
In May 2010 Tottenham Hotspur qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history with a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League. Having beaten Young Boys Bern in the qualifying round, they found themselves in Europe’s top competition for the first time since 1962. Drawn against FC Twente, Werder Bremen and reigning champions Inter Milan in a tough group, they’ve been great entertainment.
Playing some adventurous football, Harry Redknapp’s men have scored plenty of goals and topped their group, thanks to a crucial win over Inter Milan at White Hart Lane. In October they lost 4-3 in the San Siro having been 4-0 down after a disastrous first half – nearly salvaging something with a brilliant Gareth Bale treble.
In the return game two weeks later, Spurs took the game to their opponents and ran out 3-1 winners with goals from Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavulychenko, securing a famous victory which will be remembered for many years by Spurs followers. It definitely won’t be dull watching them in the knockout stages.
2: The rise of Blackpool
Written off as relegation fodder in the Championship at the start of the 2009/2010 season, Blackpool found themselves amongst the country’s elite clubs less than 12 months later. Ian Holloway took over the Seasiders in 2009 and with astute signings such as Charlie Adam and loan moves for DJ Campbell and Seamus Coleman, upset all the odds by creeping into the Play-off places on the final day of the season on goal difference.
Their momentum continued throughout the end of season lottery, as they defeated Nottingham Forest 6-4 on aggregate after an epic two-legged semi-final and reached the Wembley final where they were to face Dave Jones’s Cardiff team in what’s been called ‘the most expensive game in football,’ thanks to the riches that come from promotion to the Premier League.
Goals from Charlie Adam, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Brett Ormerod gave Blackpool a 3-2 win and completed the most unlikely of promotions. Ahead of their first top-flight season in 39 years, Ian Holloway’s men were tipped for instant relegation but got off to the perfect start with a 4-1 thrashing of Wigan away at the DW Stadium on the first day of the season.
Impressive victories away to Newcastle and Liverpool followed and by Christmas Blackpool were 11th in the league, comfortably away from the relegation zone. The ever charismatic Holloway has galvanised his small squad to compete at the highest level playing some great football in the process and their achievements in 2010 must give hope to any team in the Football League hoping to one day reach the Premiership themselves.
1: Andres Iniesta wins the World Cup for Spain
Spain went into the 2010 World Cup as favourites, having won the European Championships in 2008 and been one of the world’s most consistent sides for years before the tournament. The Spanish keep the ball better than any team in world football at the moment and play a passing game so easy on the eye, casting off their tag as major underachievers on the World stage.
The tournament started badly for the Spanish however with a shock 1-0 defeat against stubborn Switzerland but they recovered with wins over Chile and Honduras to top their group. Beating Portugal, Paraguay then Germany in the semi-finals, the Spanish reached their first World Cup Final, coming up against the pragmatic Netherlands who’d beaten Brazil on their way to the final.
In the face of some tough tackling from the Dutch, including Nigel De Jong’s best Jackie Chan impression on Xabi Alonso, the Spanish struggled to play at their fluid best and a tight, tense final finished 0-0 after 90 minutes. In the second period of extra-time Spain finally made the breakthrough. Influential midfielder Andres Iniesta latched onto a ball from Cesc Fabregas and fired low beyond Maarten Stekelenburg to give his team the lead with just four minutes left amid emotional scenes. Those were to continue as the game remained 1-0 and Spain won their first World Cup with their triumph hailed as a victory for the beautiful game. They became the first nation to win the trophy having lost their first game in the tournament and firmly established themselves as the team to beat in world football.
So that was 2010 – an eventful year for football with some shocks, some great matches, some odd moments but overall plenty for fans to enjoy. In 2011 we will all be hoping our respective clubs will be successful whether it’s aiming for promotion, league championships, domestic cups or European glory. If it’s anything like the last 12 months then we can’t wait.