08 Dec Best football moments of the decade
With 2020 on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to reflect back on the best football moments of the decade just passed.
We have compiled a list of the greatest moments in football from 2010-19, including wondergoals, impossible comebacks, dominant title triumphs and everything in between. To vote for your favourite moment, head over to our Twitter or Instagram page to cast your vote and crown an overall winner. Each moment is explained with a video and summary of what happened by Ajay Rose (AR) or Ben Petrou (BP).
So let’s get to it. Here is our list of the best football moments of the decade:
Andres Iniesta wins Spain their first-ever World Cup (2010)
At the start of the decade, Spain was the dominant force in world football. Two European Championships (2008, 2012) were sandwiched in-between their first-ever World Cup win in 2010, edging a narrow final against Holland courtesy of an extra-time winner from Andres Iniesta. That final between Spain and Holland produced a record 12 yellow cards, including a red for Nigel de Jong after his kung-fu kick on Xabi Alonso, but it was Barcelona legend Iniesta who struck to ensure it was Spain who went on to win their first-ever World Cup.
Condolences to Ghana, who were cruelly denied the chance to become the first-ever African side to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals by a deliberate 120th-minute handball from Luis Suarez. Suarez handballed, Asamoah Gyan, who had scored two spot-kicks earlier in the tournament, missed the late penalty and then Uruguay won the penalty shootout to book a place in the semi-final. -- AR
Man City score two stoppage-time goals to win their first Premier League title (2011-12)
With 91 minutes on the clock, Man City needed not one but two goals to prevent Manchester United from taking the title. They couldn’t, could they?
Someone clearly forgot to send that memo to Sergio Aguero, who etched his name in the club’s record books forever after scoring the goal to put City 3-2 up against QPR in 2012 to give them their first league title in 44 years. United have only won one more league title since Balotelli teed up Aguero, whereas City went on to win three more titles this decade. Looking back, Aguero’s strike marks the start of the power balance shifting in Manchester, as City went from noisy neighbours to owners of the entire street. -- AR
Chelsea win the Champions League against all odds (2012)
When Chelsea lost the 2008 Champions League final, prior to the match, I had made a lighthearted bet that the Blues would win. John Terry slipped and soon after the final whistle, I had a knock on my door. Someone wanted to know where their 50p winnings were… For most Chelsea fans, this was as good as it got. Losing out after betting ‘big’ in Europe while standing on the pinnacle of glory, unable to take the final step. That all changed in 2012.
The manager-less Blues were going nowhere fast domestically, having sacked Andre Villas-Boas after a poor run of form, allowing club legend Roberto di Matteo to oversee the team as interim manager. For a club that’s spent millions paying compensation fees to managers they sacked early into their contracts for ‘underperforming’, it’s fitting that the club’s maiden Champions League victory came under a temporary manager. Under Di Matteo, it’s fair to say that Chelsea’s run to the semi-finals wasn’t all that difficult (Napoli -- last 16, Benfica -- quarter-finals), but beating a Pep Guardiola-managed Barcelona side and then Bayern Munich at home in the final? The stuff dreams are made of. -- AR
Lionel Messi scores the most goals ever in a calendar year (2012)
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an advocate of Messi being the ‘GOAT’ or believe Ronaldo should occupy that tag. Some moments deserve the respect of putting aside rivalries in the appreciation of greatness.
In 2012, Lionel Messi broke the most ‘goals in a calendar year’ record set by Germany and Bayern’s Gerd Müller, who scored 85 goals way back in 1972. Messi smashed this record by six goals, scoring a staggering 91 times, with 79 for Barca and 12 for Argentina. This equates to a goal every 66 minutes he was on the pitch and by comparison, Messi’s total alone was more than 13 different La Liga teams goal tallies from 2011-2012 season. -- BP
Sir Alex Ferguson retires as manager of Manchester United (2013)
There are few words which can do Fergie’s dominant reign at Old Trafford the justice it deserves, but the following stat helps to contextualise his brilliance. Fergie’s win percentage of 65.22% across 808 games is the best record of any manager in Premier League history.
Usually, a manager’s win percentage will decrease as they manage more games. Sir Alex Ferguson was so dominant he completely reversed that trend. For every 10 games played, Man United won at least six or seven for 26 years on the bounce. The level of consistency and dominance achieved during this time is second to none. Fergie ended his unrivalled career having won 38 trophies, including 13 league titles, 5 FA Cup’s, 4 League Cup’s and two Champions League medals. Man United are still yet to replace his impact, some six years after his original departure. -- AR
Atletico win La Liga (2013-14)
After a sustained period of dominance by both Barcelona and Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid did the unthinkable in 2014. The nearest any other side had got to winning the title in the previous five seasons had been 17 points. By winning their first La Liga title in 18 years, the less decorated side in Madrid disturbed the natural order under coach Diego Simeone, securing the title after a 1-1 draw away at Barcelona. Losing both Diego Costa and Arda Turan during the game at the Camp Nou, Atleti equalised through their leader Godin after going one-nil down to an Alexis Sanchez thunderbolt. They then withstood a typical Barcelona onslaught to bring the hammer down on the previous reign of dominance and put themselves amongst the Spanish elite.
Playing a dogged and determined brand of football, Atleti’s heart to win the title was exemplified by a team full of passionate leaders such as Diego Costa and Diego Godin. The team also went on to contest the Champions League final in the same year, just falling short to their Madrid rivals after a 93rd minute Ramos equaliser sent the game into injury time, where Real Madrid ran out 4-1 winners.- BP
Germany destroy Brazil in their own back yard in the 2014 World Cup semi-final (2014)
Brazil was playing on home soil as hosts of the 2014 World Cup and had not lost a competitive fixture at home in 39 years before this. Yes, they were without star man Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, but even a Sunday League side would struggle to present a valid case for why they shipped five goals in less than 30 minutes.
The manner in which Brazil capitulated in this 7-1 drubbing makes this one of the most humiliating defeats ever. The Selecao were one game away from a dream final at the Maracana and could’ve played their arch-rivals Argentina. Instead, their tournament ended with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Holland, which means that Brazil essentially lost by a combined score of 10-1 in two biggest games the country had faced in years. -- AR
Leicester win the Premier League despite having 5000/1 odds (2015-16)
The Foxes were given betting odds of 5000/1 to win the Premier League back in 2016. To give you an idea of what those numbers mean, William Hill once offered 5000/1 odds that Barack Obama, former president of the United States, would play for England’s cricket team. There more chance of someone being struck by lightning (3000/1) than there was of Leicester winning the title in 2016.
Jamie Vardy scored in 11 consecutive games to set a new record which still stands to this day, N’Golo Kante covered every single blade of grass, Riyad Mahrez was the talisman and a bunch of journeyman cast aside by other clubs elevated their performances to legend status when it mattered most. This is arguably the most improbable title triumph in the history of professional sports. -- AR
Barcelona thump PSG 6-1 in the biggest-ever Champions League comeback (2017)
Trailing 4-0 from the first leg in Paris, even with a front three of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi, it was seen as a foregone conclusion that PSG would close out the victory.
Known affectionately as ‘La Remontada’ (the comeback), Barcelona turned the tie on its head, even allowing Cavani to give PSG an away goal before dumping them out of the competition with a Sergi Roberto winner in the 94th minute. Winning the game at the Camp Nou by a whopping six goals to one (6-5 on aggregate), this is now officially the largest-ever comeback in UCL history. -- BP
Man City win Premier League with a record number of points (2017/18)
Love or loathe Man City, there is no denying that they are now a footballing powerhouse. Having transitioned effectively from the shadows of their Manchester rivals, City ran riot in the 2017/18 Premier League season under the guidance of their long-coveted manager Pep Guardiola. City went on to break an astonishing 11 Premier League records on their way to the title, including being the first side to reach 100 points.
Some of the Citizens’ other incredible record-breaking feats include: biggest title-winning margin (18 points), most goals (106 at a rate of 2.8 per match), most wins (32 wins), most consecutive wins (18 matches), most away wins (16 wins). -- BP
Cristiano Ronaldo scores picture-perfect overhead kick against Juventus (2018)
When you see the home crowd get to their feet to applaud an opponent’s goal or performance, you know something very special has happened in a football match. When you see a footballing legend like Zinedine Zidane put his hands to his head in disbelief, you know something very special has happened in a football match.
In the Champions League quarter-final the first leg with Real Madrid leading 1-0, Cristiano added yet another highlight-reel moment to the existing 872 hours of footage that already exists. After Carvajal’s lofted cross found its way into the box, Ronaldo soared through the air, legs aloft; planting a bicycle kick into the bottom corner of Buffon’s goal. Queue applause from every section of the Allianz Stadium and acclaim from all areas of the sporting world, with fellow GOAT Lebron James commenting: ‘Are You Not Entertained!?!?! That’s just not even fair. Nasty!!’. -- BP
Gareth Bale scores a goal dreams are made of in the Champions League final (2018)
In the very same year of the Champions League as Ronaldo’s overhead kick, Gareth Bale submitted his entry on the biggest stage of them all: the Champions League final, one of Real Madrid’s most favoured occasions.
With the score at 1-1 in Kiev, Gareth Bale had only been on the pitch for three minutes before doing the unthinkable. After a season troubled by a rocky relationship with coach Zinedine Zidane and the Madridistas, Bale showed something that can clearly only be learnt on the golf courses of Madrid, converting a stunning overhead kick from near the edge of the penalty area to send Madrid on their way to a third consecutive Champions League title. -- BP
Kieran Trippier’s free-kick allows everyone to think it’s actually ‘coming home’ (2018)
The year is 2018. England is experiencing one of the best summers’ of my lifetime. We are watching a minimum of three games of World Cup football a day, followed by an episode of Love Island to unwind after a stressful day of trying to minimise BBC iPlayer every time the boss walked past. Then there is the icing on the cake. England are playing (and winning). Maybe, just maybe this could be the year it all comes together.
We start off shaky, with a last-minute Harry Kane winner seeing off the might of Tunisia. We then hammer a Panama, before losing to Belgium in our final group game. We win a penalty shootout, YES A PENALTY SHOOTOUT against Colombia and suddenly the nation believes. Sweden are no match for us and we brush them aside and move into the uncharted territory of a World Cup semi-final. The English Cafu, Kieran Trippier curls a beautiful free-kick into the top right-hand corner after just 4 minutes and the surface of England from space is a sea of watered-down lager and bodies bundled on top of one another. This is where my memories of the 2018 World Cup end. Let’s not spoil the romance. -- BP
Arsene Wenger finally leaves Arsenal (2018)
Three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups in 22 years in charge averages out to around one trophy every two seasons, with their last league triumph coming back in 2004 during the ‘Invincibles’ season. That record proved too stale for a large section of Arsenal fans and the #WengerOut brigade finally got their wish in the summer of 2018.
The final years of Wenger’s tenure are largely categorised by FA Cup victories that did little to appease a desire to ‘win big’ and two successive seasons in the Europa League following 19-straight in the Champions League. But since he’s departed, Arsenal looks to spend another two seasons playing European on Thursday nights and haven’t improved much since he left. Wenger is without a doubt a Premier League legend. -- AR
Spurs complete unlikely comeback against Ajax to reach Champions League (2019)
After trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Spurs went into the second leg in Amsterdam knowing that they had a mountain to climb. However, having seen Liverpool’s remarkable turnaround against Barcelona in the first semi-final just one day before, overcoming a 1-0 deficit seemed more than possible.
This is Spurs, however, and they quickly found themselves 2-0 down inside 35 mins. Spurs fans prepared themselves for yet another semi-final exit and continued heartbreak. Enter Lucas Moura. After pulling back two goals in five mins, spurs threw the kitchen sink at a young Ajax side who could easily have killed the tie off at the other end. Then, in the 5th minute of injury time, Moura dragged the ball past Onana to send Spurs fans into ecstasy, winning the tie on away goals. As previously mentioned, however, this is Spurs and the fans were quickly brought back down to earth when they failed to show up for the final and were comfortably brushed aside by Liverpool. -- BP
Wijnaldum & Origi help Liverpool destroy Barcelona (2019)
Having lost the Champions League final the year prior and eventually losing out to Man City in the title race that year, Liverpool were under pressure to finally win a trophy under Jurgen Klopp, who was heading into a fifth season with no silverware before this. Facing a three-nil deficit with zero margins for error, the Reds needed to score at least three and hope Messi and co draw a blank at Anfield, which is exactly what happened.
What made this moment even more special was the unlikeliness of the goalscorers. If you said to a Liverpool fan that Gini Wijnaldum and Divock Origi would both grab a double against Barca in a Champions League semi-final, few would’ve believed you. But after two goals in two minutes from Wijnaldum, Origi grabbed his second of the night and scored one of the most famous goals in the competition’s history to send Liverpool into the final. The rest is history. -- AR