World gets to know Colombia's James Rodriguez first hand
Breakdown: Before star striker Radamel Falcao was injured, a fair few people had pointed to Colombia as an outsider for the World Cup. When he went down, all of that pretty much went out the window. Up stepped Rodriguez, who emerged as a true star and took his team to within a goal of the semifinal anyway, while leading the tournament with six goals.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Tim Howard is finally beaten vs. Belgium
Breakdown: It was the kind of truly heroic feat in soccer that only the World Cup can produce. Badly outplayed and outshot by Belgium in the Round of 16, the USA was kept alive by goalkeeper Tim Howard, having the game of his life (And anybody else’s life, as evidenced by his World Cup record 16 saves in a single game). In the end, he was beaten by Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in extra-time and America’s World Cup dream was over.
Getty ImagesRobert Cianflone
Hope Solo is arrested on assault charges
Breakdown: The USA goalie made news for all the wrong reasons again when she was accused of physically assaulting her sister and nephew in her native Washington state over the summer. With the 2015 Women’s World Cup on the horizon, she awaits trial.
Getty ImagesSuzi Pratt
D.C. United is finally awarded an adequate stadium
Breakdown: After all those years of effort, Major League Soccer’s first dynasty was finally given the green light to build a stadium in the District of Columbia. It will pay for its own venue while the city delivers the land and the infrastructure in a suitable spot not far from downtown. At last, a dizzying and often dispiriting saga is over.
Getty ImagesDavid Ramos
Thierry Henry retires from the beautiful game
Breakdown: The former Arsenal legend had hoped to go out on top. But Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls stranded in the Eastern Conference finals, where they were beaten by the New England Revolution. It certainly was no fault of Henry’s, who bookended an all-time great career, which included just about every prize you can imagine -- except for an MLS trophy.
Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesDavid Price
Costa Rica goes on a dream World Cup run
Breakdown: You never quite know who that ugly duckling will be that surprises everybody and goes on a Cinderella run in the World Cup. This time, it was Costa Rica, which not only survived but won the other group of death -- which pitted them against Uruguay, Italy and England -- and didn’t stumble until the Dutch were somewhat fortuitous to beat them on penalties in the quarterfinals.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
Cristiano Ronaldo picks up FIFA Ballon d'Or, silences critics
Breakdown: The Portuguese superstar enjoyed a prolific 2013-14 season to help Real Madrid capture its 10th Champions League title, and has started the current campaign in blistering form. Ronaldo is up for the award again in January and while detractors like Sepp Blatter will continute to talk, there's no denying that 2014 was Ronaldo's year despite a lackluster World Cup due to injury.
AFP/Getty ImagesOLIVIER MORIN
USA's John Brooks scores winner vs. Ghana
Breakdown: The Americans knew they had to win their first game if they were going to stand any kind of chance of surviving the group of death at the World Cup. And late on against Ghana, it wasn’t looking like they would. That’s when a substitute defender, who didn’t even look like he was going to make the team, smashed home a header. It would eventually help the Americans advance to the Round of 16.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
FIFA dismisses Michael Garcia's ethics report
Breakdown: After years of detractors and regular fans crying foul over FIFA’s dubious awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia -- which spent the year warmongering -- and Qatar -- where thousands are dying building World Cup venues -- it seemed at last like FIFA was serious about investigating its own wrongdoing. But after the former U.S. Attorney’s report was heavily redacted and sealed from publication, all hope of transparency was lost.
Real Madrid capture La Decima in extra-time thriller
Breakdown: It had taken so many years and so many millions spent on players, but at last, the continent’s most successful club won its tenth UEFA Champions League title. Certainly, the 4-1 outcome of the final flattered Madristas against cross-town rivals Atletico. After all, a 93rd minute goal by Sergio Ramos had spared them the loss before extra-time. But it was a deserved win nonetheless.
Real Madrid via Getty ImagesAngel Martinez
Steven Gerrard slips up during Liverpool's Premier League title run
Breakdown: “It doesn’t slip now!” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had barked at his teammates in a postgame huddle following another cathartic win, positioning Liverpool to finally end their Premier League title drought. And then, at home against Chelsea, he slipped on the ball in his own half and gave the winning goal away. Talk about hearbreak.
Liverpool FC via Getty ImagesAndrew Powell
USA, MLS legend Landon Donovan goes out on a high note
Breakdown: Announced a while before the playoffs, we knew the Los Angeles Galaxy’s umpteenth playoff run would be Landon Donovan’s last. They were tested at many turns, and he didn’t always play his best, but he prevailed once again in the end. The most accomplished player in the history of American soccer retired with a record six MLS Cups.
Getty ImagesVictor Decolongon
Netherlands help end Spain's dominant grip
Breakdown: In a direct rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, a gritty affair wherein the Spaniards outlasted the Dutch in extra-time, the Netherlands got their revenge. And then some. Even though Spain went ahead on a dubious penalty, they banged in five unanswered goals through their scintillating attacking play, ending Spain’s Euro-World Cup-Euro dynasty.
AFP/Getty ImagesEMMANUEL DUNAND
Atletico Madrid win La Liga in final matchday
Breakdown: For years, it seemed that anybody but Real Madrid or Barcelona winning La Liga had become impossible. Their economic chokehold on their peers simply prohibited it. But Diego Simeone’s men begged to differ, and never let up, as so many predicted them to after a thrilling win over Barcelona at the Camp Nou in May.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Neymar's career is almost ended
Breakdown: That Brazil wouldn’t win the World Cup seemed predestined in the quarterfinal, when Colombia was beaten 2-1 but Neymar had to leave the tournament after he was savagely kneed in the back by Juan Camilo Zuniga. As doctors put it a while later, Neymar was lucky not to be paralyzed. Lucky for us, that wasn't the case.
Mowa Press via Getty ImagesHandout
Germany win the 2014 World Cup over Argentina
Breakdown: It had been 24 years since Die Mannschaft had won the World Cup, and with yet another golden generation rounding into its prime, it was high time. They delivered, deservedly winning a fourth title for (West) Germany by dispatching Argentina 1-0 in extra-time of the final on a Mario Goetze goal.
Getty ImagesLaurence Griffiths
Lionel Messi makes history and more
Breakdown: The one knock on the little Argentine, who is perhaps already the greatest player the world has ever seen, was that he had never shown it at the World Cup. By taking Argentina into the final and claiming the player of the tournament award -- even if he seemed reluctant to accept it -- he answered those critics. And oh yeah, he shattered two records by breaking Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga record and Raul's Champions League mark. What a year
Getty ImagesDavid Ramos
Uruguay's Luis Suarez bites Italy's Giorgio Chiellini for the world to see
Breakdown: For the second straight World Cup, the most infamous moment belonged to the tempestuous Uruguayan. After purposely punching a Ghanaian shot over the bar in extra-time in 2010 -- saving his country’s run to the semifinals -- he sunk his buckteeth into an Italian defender this time around, in the "Chomp Heard ‘Round the World."
AFP/Getty ImagesDANIEL GARCIA
Remembering the football figures that we lost in 2014
Breakdown: Football legend Eusebio, former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, world great Alfredo Di Stefano and South Africa's Senzo Meyiwa were just a few of many figures that passed away this past year. These gentlemen provided many thrills and contributions to the spots and will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
Brazil suffer humiliating defeat on home soil
Breakdown: Going into the semifinals, it was fairly plain to see that Germany was the better side. It was not clear that they were six goals better. Within half an hour, the proud home country was down 5-0 to the ruthless German machine. This Brazilian side was never considered a true contender for this tournament. But their unraveling was disheveling.