2017 was a great year for soccer (well some fans may not agree) with the excitement of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying, Real Madrid repeating as UEFA Champions League winners, legends retiring, and much more. Soccer365 takes a look at some of the high points.
FIFA World Cup Qualifying
2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying had its share of ups-and-downs. Probably more than any previous WCQ’ing campaign. 32 teams book their place in Russia this summer but 2 probably celebrated a little more than the others. Panama and Iceland both qualified for the first time and will proudly represent their countries on the field.
Panama, who held strong when it counted in a surprising edition of the CONCACAF Hex, narrowly missed out on qualifying for 2014 and should be applaud for rebounding to reward a talented group of Panamanian players.
Iceland booked their place as UEFA Group I winners and in doing so became nation with the lowest population to qualify. With a population of approximately 333,000 citizens, Iceland has proven that a solid development program can produce a quality side.
Other qualifiers have been away for many fans’ entire lifetimes, with Egypt making its first appearance in 28 years and Peru surviving an intercontinental playoff to make its first World Cup in 36 years.
Related: 2018 World Cup Jersey Sponsors.
Equally surprising is who didn’t make it. Italy (who got as far as a two-leg play-in series it lost to Sweden), Ghana, the Netherlands, Chile, and the United States all will be missed in Russia.
The biggest surprise, however, may come at the end of the tournament. Germany is positioned to win their 5th World Cup title. If they accomplish that goal, Germany will become the first team to repeat as champions since Brazil did in 1962 and will also equal Brazil’s total World Cup trophy haul with 5.
A strong field will try and side-track Die Mannschaft with France, Argentina, and Brazil some of the other contenders.
Real Madrid Repeat
Real Madrid is the most feared team in Europe with their talented, high-priced, and deep roster. The conquered Europe again claiming the 2017 UEFA Champions League title and in doing so became the first team since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990. The title also earned Los Merengues and unprecedented 12th UEFA Chamnpions League/UEFA European Cup title.
In addition to continental silverware, Real Madrid won La Liga in style. They set a new mark as the only team to score in every La Liga fixture on the way to the title.
Real Madrid also won the FIFA Club World Cup.
The club’s talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, led the way with his play on the field and his trophy haul off the field. The 32-year-old won the Best FIFA Men’s Player and the Ballon d’Or. It marked back-to-back wins for both awards for the Portugal international.
Domestic League Champions
Chelsea restored normalcy to the Premier League when they hoisted their 2nd Premier League title in 3 years. The winning run for Antonio Conte’s men ended the reign of Leicester City and returned the league to normalcy with a ‘big 4’ team at the top of the table. The 2016/17 season is old news now, however, as Manchester City are off to a great start to the new campaign and with the calendar about to change the big question is not whether City will take the title but if they can remain unbeaten.
Bayern Munich, as has been the case the past few seasons, ran away with the Bundesliga title.
Juventus ended at the top of the Serie A table for the 6th season on the trot.
Real Madrid edged out Barcelona to take the La Liga title.
A number of European lions announced their retirement in 2017. England’s Frank Lampard and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo both stepped down after finishing their careers in Yankee Stadium with NYCFC; while Lampard announced prior to the start of the 2017 MLS season, Pirlo played on and off through the ’17 season and made his final appearance in his team’s final playoff match.
Two Bayern Munich players and World Cup champions made the season-ending May 2017 their final game: Phillip Lahm, the stalwart captain who’d been with the club since the mid-90s with its youth team, and Xabi Alonso, whose storied career included chapters at Liverpool and Real Madrid as well as his 2010 World Cup triumph with Spain.
And a man some thought might never retire—Roma’s seemingly-timeless Francesco Totti—put on the I Giallorossi’s uniform on for the last time in July.
More recently, Kaka also announced the end of his professional career, with Orlando City serving as his last club ever. The Brazilian wonder was the only player to win the Ballon d’Or in the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Two of the most promising young players in the world, featuring in the Champions League last year with Barcelona and Monaco, joined forces to make PSG a formidable Champions League challenger to two-time winners Real Madrid.
Neymar — who finished third in this year’s FIFA top player balloting — opted for a different shade of red and blue in becoming the most expensive transfer ever in world soccer.
Kylian Mbappe, a rising young French star, had interest from Premier League and La Liga teams but opted to join Neymar at PSG on a loan-with-purchase-option deal from Monaco.
Return of the adidas Predator
The revolutionary adidas shoe, first launched in 1994, received its first upgrade in over two years with the Predator 18 series. The collection — which includes cleats, an indoor shoe, and a “lifestyle” shoe — promises ‘savage control’ with its latest integration of materials and an evolution in how the shoe conforms to the foot.
Nike Swoops and Other Brand Swaps
Nike made the biggest moves ahead of the 2017/18 season swooping in to sign as the kit provider for Chelsea and Tottenham. The swoosh had been noticeable missing from the jerseys of Premier League clubs but with the move signed 2 clubs with a realistic shot at the title. The first look for both clubs was simple and classic but each had features that make them stand out.
One of the longest-standing kit maker-club relationships came to end. For nearly two decades, AC Milan’s classic red and black stripes have been made by the classic three stripes company, adidas. But AC Milan terminated the relationship, with Puma expected to take over one of Serie A’s most iconic brands.
Retro looks for the World Cup
Twelve of the 32 World Cup teams are outfitted by adidas, and its late 2017 release of the jersey designs revealed a delve into the rich history of the teams.
Germany’s unique graphic pattern across its jersey fronts, adding character to the requisite white home jersey, owes to the 1990 World Cup.
adidas borrowed the diamond pattern from Spain’s 1994 World Cup design as inspiration to highlight the three colors featured in Spanish kits.
Mexico’s kit, the first one previewed for the upcoming tournament, is another ’94-inspired design, adding a paler green design to the solid green that El Tri fans have come to know as the squad’s requisite home color.
And Russia, hosts to the world next year, have a red home jersey with white sleeve stripes that draw inspiration from the last USSR team to compete in the Euros in 1988.