Football has provided countless breathtaking and unforgettable moments over the course of 2013. Here, FIFA.com singles out 13 occasions that helped make this a year to remember in the beautiful game.
Messi eclipses icons *7 January
*Having scored 91 goals in 69 appearances during 2012, Lionel Messi’s reward came at the start of this year with a record-breaking fourth successive FIFA Ballon d’Or. The little Argentinian duly superseded Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff and achieved a feat he described as “just too great for words”.
Mba sends Eagles soaring *10 February
*It was a goal worthy of winning any match, and Sunday Mba’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations-winning strike brought joy and relief to an entire nation. Nigeria had not won a major trophy in 17 years going into the continental showpiece, but despite the best efforts of debutant finalists Burkina Faso, Mba’s precise volley – after flicking the ball over his opponent’s head – proved sufficient to secure the African crown.
Barça pass the baton *1 May
*The trophies would come later, but arguably the defining match of Bayern Munich’s remarkable year came in the UEFA Champions League semi-final at the Camp Nou, where – already four goals up from the first leg – they cruised to a stunning 3-0 victory. It was Barcelona’s record defeat in continental competition, and symbolised in spectacular fashion the Catalans’ replacement by Bayern as Europe’s supreme footballing force.
Fergie’s farewell *8 May
*Seventeen days after securing the 13th league championship of his tenure as Manchester United manager, and 27 years after first taking the job, Sir Alex Ferguson stunned everyone by announcing his retirement. He bid a fond farewell to the club’s fans four days later in his 1500th and final match in charge, admitting that he had fulfilled his ambition of “going out a winner”.
Robben’s redemption *25 May
*Having been the villain in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, when he missed an extra-time penalty against Chelsea, Arjen Robben made spectacular amends in the 2013 decider. The Dutchman emerged as the key player in the all-German Wembley showpiece, setting up the first and then scoring an 89th-minute winner as Borussia Dortmund were beaten 2-1.
Wambach surpasses Hamm *21 June *
Like every women’s footballer of her generation, Abby Wambach grew up idolising Mia Hamm, and was in awe of the iconic forward when the two played together. In June, however, the current USA talisman eclipsed her legendary predecessor by moving beyond Hamm’s world-record goal tally of 158 by striking four times in a 5-0 victory over Korea Republic.
Brazil’s Maracana marvels *30 June
*A FIFA Confederations Cup final between hosts Brazil and Spain, reigning European and world champions, promised to be a veritable battle of the titans. In fact, it was something of a mismatch, with A Seleção laying down a marker for 2014 with a resounding and thoroughly merited 3-0 triumph in front of raucous and delirious Maracana crowd.
Turkish delight for France 13 July
*The emergence of an exciting new generation of French players, led by player of the tournament Paul Pogba, was capped by victory in the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. This *Bleuets team proved that they had the mental steel to match their technical skills by emerging triumphant from a decisive penalty shootout against Uruguay, in which goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was the hero with two crucial saves.
Galo’s comeback kids crowned 24 July
*Atletico Mineiro maintained Brazil’s recent stranglehold on the Copa Libertadores, but they did it the hard way. In both the semi-final and final against Newell’s Old Boys and Olimpia respectively, they recovered from 2-0 first-leg defeats by winning the second legs by an identical margin – and triumphing in the resultant penalty shootouts. In the decider, Matias Gimenez’s decisive miss from the spot handed *O Galo the first South American crown of their 105-year history.
Angerer to the rescue *28 July
*Germany’s latest UEFA Women’s EURO title might have been their sixth in succession, but it was heavily indebted to one player. Veteran goalkeeper Nadine Angerer maintained her nation’s grip on the trophy by saving from the penalty spot not once, but twice, in a tight 1-0 final win over Norway.
Bale breaks the bank *1 September
*The longest-running transfer saga of the European summer was finally concluded on deadline day, when Gareth Bale moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid on a six-year deal. The fee was never made public and remains the subject of conjecture, with Spurs claiming a record-breaking €100m and Real suggesting the price was €91m – short of the record set by Bale’s team-mate, Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Beyond doubt is the fact that it was, by some distance, 2013’s biggest transfer.
Lippi, Evergrande make history *9 November
*No Chinese team had ever won the AFC Champions League before Guangzhou Evergrande rewrote the records last month with a nervy 1-1 draw with FC Seoul that secured the title on away goals. The tense triumph also saw Evergrande’s coach, Marcello Lippi, become the first man to win the Asian club title, the European equivalent and the FIFA World Cup™.
Ronaldo caps qualifiers 19 November
*While there was drama across the various play-offs that brought an end to qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, there was no debate over the star performer. Cristiano Ronaldo, having struck the only goal of the first leg against Sweden, settled his all-star duel with Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a stunning hat-trick in Stockholm and reaffirmed his status as one of this generation’s truly great players.
* Have Your Say **These are just a few of the moments that have helped shape 2013. What has been your footballing highlight of the year? Click ‘Add your comment’ to let us know...