2014 was a huge year for soccer. The playing of the 20th FIFA World Cup was the most anticipated event during the 365 days of 2014 but there were huge moments before and after Brazil 2014 that caught the eye and imagination of soccer and sports fans around the world.
365.WSS takes a look back at the 2014 game and highlight some of the events that stood out in the first and second half of the year but want to hear what you thought were the memorable events that you will remember for years to come.
The First Half
Despite all the excitement heading into 2014 the year got off to a sad start with the death of Eusebio. The Portugal international went by many nicknames – Black Panther, Black Pearl, O Rei (the King) – but it was his play on the field that made players scared. He scored 790 goals and helped Portugal to a 3rd place finish at the 1966 World Cup in England. After a 20-year run with Nike, Arsenal made headlines when they announced they were making a 5-year $255 million move to Puma. Nike made their own headlines with the release of the Magista. 365.WSS’s predecessor, Soccer365, was in Barcelona to see first-hand the revolutionary cleat be unveiled. Major League Soccer got their wish for a 2nd team in New York City when they announced the formation of New York FC. David Villa was the team’s first signing and eager to get started in 2015. Bayern Munich added a 24 top flight title to their collection of silverware easily claiming the Bundesliga title while Real Madrid beat Barcelona to claim the Copa del Rey. Nike was staying busy with the unveiling of the latest Nike Mercurial Superfly with Cristiano Ronaldo on hand at the announcement. The Copa America is considered by some the most competitive regional international competition and it will be hosted in the United States for the first time in 2016. This is a huge honor as it will be the tournament’s centennial. Manchester City claimed their 2nd Premier League title in 3 years when they completed the 2013/14 campaign on top of the table. After adding a 20th team earlier in the year, MLS announced that Orlando City would become the league’s 21st team and would begin play in 2015. Arsenal fans expect the Gunners to win silverware and the club ended a 9-year trophy drought with a 3-2 win over Hull City to hoist the FA Cup. The first to follow a legend has a tough life and with Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor, David Moyes, out of the way the Red Devils names Louis van Gaal the new manager shortly after the EPL season was completed. Long-time midfielder Ryan Giggs decided it was the right time to hang up his boots and eventually was named to help the Dutchman as an assistant. Atletico Madrid won the La Liga title, their first domestic league title in 18 years. The final act before the FIFA World Cup was played out in the Champions League final with Real Madrid winning an unprecedented 10th title, aptly called La Decima.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup took center stage during the early summer. Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte were the headliners at the opening ceremony…with a lineup like this how could this tournament fall flat? OK it almost did flop when the riser intended to lift J-Lo onto the stage stalled but with Pitbull on stage to help her out of her hole…game on.
Brazil 2014 was a huge success on and off the field. The 32 teams played a total of 64 matches with 121 players knocking home 171 goals. The Group Stage was the most entertaining when it comes to goals with 136 of the total goals coming in the opening 48 matches. This was the most goals in group stage since the tournament expanded to 32 teams for France 1998 and the highest average since the 1958 World Cup. James Rodríguez was awarded the Golden Boot hitting 6 goals. Germany won their 4th World Cup title by defeating Argentina 1-0 in the final at the Maracana. The result continued the away jersey jinx at World Cups between the 2 sides.
The Second half
With the World Cup winding down, Real Madrid was the busiest club team in the world. Los Merengues made key signings with the addition of Toni Kroos of Germany and Jamie Rodriguez of Colombia. Prior to the signings it was hard to think the Champions League winning side could do much to strength a side that included Ronaldo and Gareth Bale but we were wrong. Frank Lampard said goodbye to Chelsea and announced he was headed stateside to play with MLS debutants NYCFC but as recent news reports have surfaced this may not have been completely truthful. The Blues did not have long to cry in the beer about the departure of Lampard as fan favorite Didier Drogba, remember the Ivory Coast international scored the deciding penalty to seal the Champions League title for Chelsea, returned to Stamford Bridge. Move between clubs were the norm during the crazy transfer period but one player making headlines was Landon Donovan who decided to head in a new direction and hang up his boots. Mario Balotelli was brought in as a replacement for Luis Suarez, who had left for Barca, at Liverpool and Angel Di Maria was headed to England as well with Manchester and Old Trafford as his destination. The UEFA Champions League draw with teams from around Europe holding their breath for a good draw which would enable them to advance to the elimination round in 2015. Nike and adidas both had cleat launches around the World Cup but one of the most anticipated launches was for the 20 year celebration of the adidas Predator. The 3-stripes made limited editions of some of the most popular cleats from the 20 years of the silo. The Seattle Sounders won the Supporters’ Shield with the best regular season record in MLS. Lionel Messi had a record breaking 3-day stretch when he set the all-time La Liga scoring record follow up a few days later by breaking the all-time Champions League scoring record. Santa Claus is coming to town! And if you have been good and want official gear of FC Santa Claus, World Soccer Shop was the place to be as the U.S. based merchandiser signed on as the official partner of the Arctic Circle team. With the year winding down the focus turned to 2015 and the next big tournament, the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, and the draw was held to determine the groups. The Los Angeles Galaxy won their 5th MLS Cup, and fans and critics say there is too much parity in MLS. And the year closed out with Real Madrid taking another piece of hardware by winning the FIFA Club World Cup.
What a year. What big moments are we forgetting? What big moments are you awaiting in 2015? Leave your comments below.