2010 has been a bumper year for Association Football: an African World Cup, a historic Treble for Inter Milan, Chelsea's first ever domestic Double and the greatest performance from a club side ever. So here at Get the Mott and Buckett, we have decided to have a peek over our metaphorical shoulders at the year past and look at the best and worst, on and off the pitch, over the past 12 months.
Alex Mott and Sam Buckett
AM: Best game of the year - There have been plenty of magnificent games over the past year. Honourable mentions have to go to Germany vs Argentina at the World Cup: the best young side in the tournament vs the best attacking quintet of any Argentina side, possibly ever. But Messrs Higuain, Tevez, Di Maria and Messi couldn't stop the wonder of Germany's counter-attacks. And two quick-fire goals in the second half from Miroslav Klose propped the final score up to 4-0. It would be absurd to not also mention last month's El Clasico. A truly wondrous display of attacking football, and already regarded as one of the best performances from any club side. The fact that the team they beat was the most expensive team ever assembled made the 5-0 defeat even more superfluous. On the domestic front: any of Fulham's games in the Europa League, especially their 4-1 win over Juventus. The League Cup final between Manchester United and Aston Villa, with Wayne Rooney's ridiculously sublime winning header. And Manchester City's 4-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge were all magnificent. But, my game of the year, has to be Ghana vs Uruguay in the quarter-final at this summer's World Cup. It was a match that truly did have everything. A stunning 40-yard goal from Sulley Muntari. A wonderful free kick from Diego Forlan. A 'Hand of God' moment from Luis Suarez, and a resultant missed penalty (in the last minute of extra-time) from Asamoah Gyan. Uruguay went on to win the match 4-2 on penalties, and deny Ghana the chance to become the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final.
SB: Best game of the year - As has already been mentioned, 2010 has been stuffed with great games of football. Barcelona’s destruction of Real in La Liga was a highlight of a club’s history, let alone a footballing year. The aforementioned annihilation of Argentina by the Germans was good, but more enjoyable was another 4-0 win earlier in the tournament. Their emergence against Australia signalled the arrival of a new, youthful generation, including players such as Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, and Sami Khedira. A new golden generation for Deutsch fussball. Domestically, Chelsea won the league via an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan at Stamford Bridge; the biggest victory in the clubs history and perhaps the classiest. A club based only a few miles down the road, Tottenham Hotspur, played a role in providing the most exciting game in Europe in 2010. 4-0 down at half time to the European Champions, with only 10 players returning for the second half, luckily one of these was Gareth Bale. The Welshman couldn’t do enough to save his club, but his 3 goals did more than enough to get him noticed. However, away from the bright lights of top-flight domestic, European, and international football, a fairy tale had come true. A tangerine dream. My game of the year is Blackpool vs Cardiff in the 09/10 Championship Play-Off Final. If there was an award for ‘Best half of football’ this would be it: 3-2 at half time, this remained the case until the final whistle. The scoring was opened by Cardiff’s Michael Chopra in the first ten minutes, which set the tone for the following thirty five. Charlie Adam equalised almost instantly with a free-kick to match his very best. The “we’ll score one more than you” attitude was continued when Cardiff once again taking the lead through Joe Ledley, only for Gary Taylor-Fletcher to draw Blackpool level once again. A breath taking half was then drawn to a close as Brett Ormerod, a focal point of Holloway’s attacking 4-3-3 formation, gave Blackpool the lead for the first time in the game. Into the second half and The Tangerines, rather refreshingly, continued to attack, creating chances, leaving Taylor-Fletcher wondering how he didn’t increase his tally. Cardiff battled bravely, and if Chopra had thrown the sink at Blackpool, his team mates had thrown the rest of the kitchen too. Eventually, a nervy final 10 minutes ended with Blackpool, a team tipped for relegation from the Championship, promoted to the English top flight for the first time since 1971. A real dream come true.
AM: Worst game of the year - Such is the beauty of football, as many great games as there were this year, in equal amounts were the number of truly awful games. The negativity of the World Cup's group stage made this summer's tournament (apart from the odd exception) one to forget. England's 0-0 against minnows Algeria really sticks in the mind as the moment the whole country knew this wouldn't be our year. Another host of goalless draws - France vs Uruguay; Ivory Coast vs Portugal - proved teams were scared to lose their opening group game. And Spain's 1-0 loss to Switzerland was the breaking point of an abject opening week for the tournament. But my worst game of the year isn't an international, but one closer to home: this season's Manchester derby. Hyped by the Sky machine as 'the biggest game of the season so far', it turned out to be the dullest, most awful game of football seen on these shores for some time. Only three shots on goal were seen throughout the entire 90 minutes, and the game trudged into a midfield battle which neither side won.
SB: Worst game of the year – Undoubtedly, Bayern Munich deserved to reach the final of the Champions League in 2010. They saw off many of their opponents in dramatic style; see Fiorentina and Manchester United. But their final performance, led to an ultimately boring climax. As ever, Inter allowed their opponents to dominate the possession, the only problem being Bayern couldn’t do much at all with it. A couple of chances fell to both Robben and Müller, but the outcome, as the pattern of the game, was predictable from the outset. Perhaps not the worst game of the year, but the biggest anti-climax. However, as an Englishman, I am used to disappointment, something which continued throughout this summer’s World Cup, rounded off by my worst game of the year; Germany vs England. As a fan of “the game” this was in no way the worst game of the year, Germany showed some wonderful tactical nous, but more so, ability. However, once again, as an Englishman, this is the game that I consider both the worst and the most telling. Outclassed, outplayed and embarrassed. Note also the worst piece of defending in 2010 from John Terry and Matthew Upson for Germany’s opening goal. A goal described by Mark Lawrenson as “a goal scored in every pub game up and down the country this morning”.
AM: Best player of the year - The Ballon D'or will tell you that the best three players over the past 12 months are Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. But the France Football award fails to mention a host of other players who, over the course of this year, have lit up world football. Diego Milito was instrumental in helping Inter Milan win their first ever domestic and European treble; scoring the goals to help them win Serie A (including a 1-0 win on the last day of the season against Siena), the Coppa Italia (a 1-0 win over Roma) and the Champions League (both goals in a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich). Wesley Sneijder was much in the same vein, but also helped his country to the World Cup final; scoring five goals throughout the tournament. Honourable mentions also have to go to Cristiano Ronaldo for another fantastic year, Gareth Bale for lighting up not just the Premier League but the Champions League with his pace and refreshing naivety, Thomas Muller for helping Bayern to a Champions League final and Germany to a World Cup semi-final, and Keisuke Honda for an excellent World Cup with Japan and a second-place finish with CSKA Moscow. But the best player of the year has to be: Diego Forlan. Although Athletico Madrid finished a lowly 9th last season, Forlan still managed to finish with 18 goals: the 4th highest in the league. He bagged six goals in the Europa League, including two in the final, as Athletico beat Fulham 2-1 to win their first ever European trophy. And was instrumental in helping Uruguay reach the semi-final of the World cup, winning the Golden Ball trophy for Player of the Tournament, in the process. He was also second-top goalscorer, finishing behind Thomas Muller on assists. He used to play for Man. United, you know?
SB: Best player of the year – Simple really, Xavi Hernandez. The same probably goes for the five or six years prior too. That lad called Messi isn’t bad either. Wesley Sneijder wins most improved.
AM: Worst player of the year - Any one of England's World Cup squad could have won this award - count yourself lucky John Terry. But having a bad four weeks is not the same as having a bad nine months. And that's exactly what's happened to Wayne Rooney. An obvious choice it may seem, but it's hard to look past his complete fall from grace since the beginning of the year. The first few months of the year brought a barrage of goals: four against Hull, his 100th Premier League goal against Arsenal, four over two legs against AC Milan, and the winner in the League Cup final against Aston Villa. But an injury at the end of March against Bayern Munich put a definitive full stop to his goal-scoring exploits. Although he quickly recovered from his injured ankle, the goals just weren't forthcoming. As the domestic season ended with Manchester United finishing second, the upcoming World Cup was seen as a chance for Wayne Rooney to claim his rightful place as one of the best players in the world. But unbeknownest to the public, a string of affairs with prostitutes had been caught on by the press, and a gagging order was hanging round Rooney's neck. This personal misdemeanour and public expectation was too much for Wayne, and culminated in a rant-to-camera straight after England's draw with Algeria. Since the embarrassment that was the World Cup ended, Rooney has failed to score any goals from open-play this season, and continues to struggle to regain the form that won him PFA Player of the Year back in May.
SB: Worst player of the year – One player that not many of you will have heard of is Mauro Boselli, the Argentine forward became Wigan Athletic’s record signing back in June. The 25 year old has since made 6 starts in the league for the Latics, scoring 0 goals. Not bad going in the worst player stakes considering he’d been scoring one in every other for his previous club Estudiantes. A player that you will know better is Jonathon George Terry, in 2010 he not only seemingly lost the ability to defend properly, but was very publicly caught impregnating team-mate Wayne Bridge’s partner. Once forgiven and taken along for the ride in South Africa, minus the armband, Terry then decided to take it upon himself to spark a one man revolt against the manager. If not the worst player, then at least the ‘Worst team-mate’, closely followed by badge-kissing Rooney. However, for being nearly always injured or uninspired in 2010, my worst player of the year is Fernando Torres. Very strange, considering he’s a favourite of mine. But, as the saying goes, ‘the bigger they come, the harder they fall’, and they don’t come much bigger than El Nino. Let down by a club in melt down, frequently crocked and stuttering when fit, still, he did manage to pick up a World Cup Winners medal.
AM: Premier League team of the year - (4-4-3), Reina; Ivanovic, Hangeland, Kompany, Cole; Modric, Nasri, Gerrard; Malouda, Drogba, Bale.
SB: Premier League team of the year - (4-5-1), Reina; Ivanovic, Cahill, Vidic, Cole; Nasri, Gerrard, Parker, Lampard, Bale; Drogba.
AM: Unsung hero - So Unsung, I had to actually google his name to make sure it was correct. It's Bolton's mercurial Korean Lee Chung-Yong. Signed in the summer of 2009 for £2.2million, he has been truly wonderful over the past 12 months. Although not a great scorer of goals - 2 in 18 games this season - he has become instrumental in Bolton's push for Europe. Six assists already this season have seen him win Bolton's Player of the Year, Players' Player of the Year, Best Newcomer, and Northwest Player of the Year awards. And this current run of form has seen the 22-year-old win his first five national caps for South Korea.
SB: Unsung hero – At 23 years old Gerard Pique or “Piquenbauer” has become a rock in the two best teams in the world in 2010. With Barcelona he picked up his new nickname, carrying and passing the ball out of defence, helping the club towards another La Liga title. With Spain in South Africa, he was ever-present in a defence that conceded only 2 in 7. Yet it was elder statesman Carles Puyol who made it into FIFA’s ‘Team of the Tournament’. I shouldn’t worry Gerard, rumour is you’re the new Puyol.
AM: Reasons to be fearful for 2011 - After Panorama's damning exposure of FIFA, and the farcical scenes of the 2018/2022 World Cup host nation announcements, it now seems that everyone, not just ardent football fans, are aware of how disgustingly awful Sepp Blatter's Boys Club really is. And yet, after all the press-hatred towards football's governing body, nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. Whilst a game's ruling body can order an entire country to change its tax and immigration laws over the four week period of a World Cup, I will always be fearful of where the game's going.
SB: Reasons to be fearful for 2011 – FIFA, enough said. Paul the octopus is no longer with us. Chairmen of clubs such as Newcastle, continue to disregard what is best for the club. Little is being done to stop clubs like Chelsea, pinch 14 year olds. England continue to be 20 years behind the rest of the world in developing young players. And most worrying of all, there are murmurs of Joey Barton returning to the England squad. I refer to my previous point.
AM: Reasons to be cheerful for 2011 - England's supposed 'Golden Generation' failed miserably. The time for Gerrard, Lampard et al is unquestionably over. But, by the looks of things, the next batch of English players look more than up for the international challenge. Exciting, young Englishman have taken the Premier League by storm this year. Players such as Jack Wilshere, who only last week came second in Tuttosport's (Italy's biggest selling sports daily) 'Golden Boy' competition. Much to the bewilderment of Mario Balotelli. Other talents that have come to the fore this year are: Jordan Henderson, Kieran Gibbs, Danny Welbeck, Jack Rodwell and Andy Carroll. At this rate, Brazil in four years time could become very interesting.
SB: Reasons to be cheerful for 2011 – It looks like we’re going to have another year of Ian Holloway consistently on television, so things can’t be all that bad. And although ‘the system’ doesn’t appear to be helping much, England will always produce world-class players, many of whom are set to shine next year. But most promising for the game is hopefully the continued pressure from the media for football’s governing body to be properly investigated. Much more than Panorama is needed in 2011.