Throughout this week, we at 32 Flags are recapping the past year as well as look toward 2015. We’ll take a look at the best and worst of 2014, best games and goals and predict what is going to happen in 2015. Today, we’re looking at the 10 best games of 2014. There were many classics but these are the ones where we’re going to remember for a while for better and for worse, depending on who you support.
10) United States 2-1 Ghana – World Cup Group Stage – June 16
I may be a little biased here because it probably wouldn’t be in the top 10 World Cup games much less the top 10 of the whole year but the game was huge for the United States.
Before this game, there was a lot of uncertainty with how the USMNT would compete in the World Cup. They had been drawn into the “Group of Death” and Jurgen Klinsmann took the controversial approach by keeping older stars like Landon Donovan off the roster in favor of young, inexperienced players like John Brooks and Julian Green.
The USA/Ghana game got off to a blazing start as Clint Dempsey scored within 30 seconds. After a Ghana equalizer late, a Klinsmann project John Brooks scored the go ahead goal in his first few minutes playing in the World Cup. The look on Klinsmann’s face after the game when the US won, said it all. The weight of all the doubt and criticism of what the man did or didn’t do before the World Cup went away for one day. It’s still debatable as to whether or not the USMNT’s World Cup was successful, but it was much better than what most had thought was going to happen before the World Cup.
9) QPR 1-0 Derby County – Championship Playoff Final – May 24
The Championship Playoff Final is one of the tensest games in soccer. While these are two lower league teams, the stakes here are just as high as a Champions League or World Cup Final.
In this game, QPR and Derby County played at Wembley Stadium to determine who would be the third team to promote to the English Premier League. While the top two teams, Leicester City and Burnley got automatic promotion, QPR and Derby County had to beat Wigan and Brighton to play for promotion. The twist is, the winner of the playoff gets rewarded with upwards of £100 mil to build their team and compete in the Premier League. The TV money and the chance for promotion make this game a must watch for any soccer fan, even if you don’t know the teams involved. This game went down to the wire as Bobby Zamora became the hero and gotten the team the money and EPL spot by scoring the game winner deep into stoppage time.
8) Netherlands (4) 0-0 (3) Costa Rica – World Cup Quarterfinals – July 5
If I may make a March Madness comparison, Costa Rica was the “Cinderella” of the World Cup. Costa Rica was the surprise hit of the World Cup. They won a group that consisted of Uruguay, Italy and England. Anyone who knows anything about soccer would’ve placed Costa Rica stone cold last. I did, and I was the most confident about that than anything else in the World Cup.
The great thing about soccer is that the results are what happens on the field and not in words or people debating back and forth. Costa Rica proved everyone wrong by winning one of the toughest groups in the World Cup. They did it again by beating Greece in the Round of 16. Their Quarterfinal test would be the toughest.
Costa Rica played the Netherlands and the Netherlands are way tougher than Greece. The game is remembered for two things. One, the fact that Costa Rica was able to withstand 120 minutes of attacking against one of the best teams in the world. Two, Netherlands Manager Louis van Gaal made the questionable move to take out Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for backup Tim Krul in the 121st minute in order to take the PK shootout. While Costa Rica did go down in PK’s, they put it all out on the line and did all they could in the World Cup.
7) Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid – Copa del Rey Final – April 16
The Copa del Rey Final was a classic this year. Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other once again and are fighting for another trophy. In this game, even without Cristiano Ronaldo (thigh injury), Real Madrid pulled out the victory and get their 19th Copa del Rey.
This game is remembered for Gareth Bale’s playmaking move going from the midline and getting shoved deep into the technical area to get the ball and score the game winning goal. It was a very memorable goal for a very memorable game.
6) Arsenal 3-2 Hull City AET – FA Cup Final – May 17
In the FA Cup Final, Arsenal was the clear favorites to beat Hull City. Hull City tried to go in the ways of Wimbledon and Wigan in order to become surprise FA Cup winners.
The game took a 180 when Hull took no prisoners and went up 2-0 after eight minutes. It took fans a while to react to that scoreline, it took Arsenal longer. After scoring in the 17th minute, Hull still kept the lead for the majority of the game. Once Arsenal equalized in the 71st minute, everyone kind of figured that the writing was on the wall and we pretty much knew Arsenal was going to win. Hull was getting tired and tired and it just wasn’t enough once it got into extra time. Arsenal wound up hoisting the FA Cup for a record tying 11th time and Hull City were commended for taking it to Arsenal and receiving a Europa League spot.
Click Page 2 for the Top 5