2016ís memorable moments in football
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 25, 2016 09:03 AM
The Philippine Azkals started the year strong with an epic come from behind win against North Korea
2016 was yet another memorable year, if you’re a Filipino football fan. From the Philippine Azkals closing out the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in style to the very same team failing to make the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals for the first time since 2008 and everything in between. We’ve put together a short list of memorable football moments for 2016, in no particular order.
Here we go!
With their FIFA World Cup qualification dreams dashed, the Philippine Azkals played the final match in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers group stage with one thing in mind: finish strong. Late in the match however, it looked like the visitors were about to hand the Azkals yet another heartbreaking loss, leading 2-1 with just ten minutes left in regulation. In the 84th minute however, Manny Ott found the equalizer, and with one minute remaining in the match, Iain Ramsay gave the Azkals the lead and ultimately the big win.
The Azkals managed to clinch a third-place finish in Group H, securing a spot in the third round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.
(Photos courtesy of Ceres-La Salle FC and KAYA FC on Facebook)
The opening months of 2016 was a great time for Philippine football, with the Azkals ending their World Cup Qualifiers campaign strong, and with a couple of Pinoy football clubs making their mark in the 2016 AFC Cup. UFL champions Ceres-La Salle FC and KAYA FC made history by becoming the first two Philippine football clubs to advance into the knockout stages of the AFC Cup, and Ceres was the first Philippine club to finish at the top of the group.
Unfortunately, the two clubs didn't make it past the knockout stage, but still, it was a really fun ride while it lasted, and more than anything, it showed that Pinoy clubs can compete with the best of the best in Asia.
From start to finish, the University of The Philippines men's and women's football teams had one battlecry: "For Rogie." Through the course of the season, the Maroons and Lady Maroons played, won, and lost, and they did it all in the memory of their fallen brother, Rogie Maglinas, who passed away after a battler with cancer in February. As fate would have it, both UP football teams would fight their way into the UAAP Season 78 football finals, with the men's team taking on Ateneo, and the women's team facing a heavily favored De La Salle team that went unbeaten all season.
In the women's finals, Angeliza Sta. Clara converted on a crazy reverse-header to put the Lady Maroons ahead and eventually seal the win and their first ever UAAP football crown. In the men's Finals, rookie King Miyagi scored a hattrick to help the Maroons dismantle the Blue Eagles, 4-1.
The championships were the perfect end to an emotionally-charged season for the Diliman-based teams, and they'll be the first to tell you that they did it all #ForRogie
After a 1-1 draw in regulation, the battle for European club football's biggest prize came down to a penalty shootout between rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, and like in the movies, it was the biggest star that had the biggest role.
Arguably the best football player alive today (and I say arguably because people will argue that the best football player alive to day is Lionel Messi), Cristiano Ronaldo connected on the deciding penalty kick to give Real Madrid the crown, their record 11th in club history.
Boy, 2016 was quite the year for Cristiano Ronaldo. Just six weeks after helping Real Madrid to the Champions League, he was at it again, this time captaining his home squad of Portugal against France in the UEFA Euro 2016 finals.
With Ronaldo needing to exit the match early due to injury, his teammates battled on, and in extra time, it was substitute Eder who found the back of the net for the game-clinching goal.
If you're a 5000-1 underdog to win the championship, that says a lot, but if you're able to overcome those immense odds, and basically win the title while watching two other teams play on TV, well that says even more. That's basically what happened as Jamie Vardy and the rest of Leicester clinched their first ever English Premier League title while watching Tottenham and Chelsea battle to a draw - and they were watching at Vardy's house.
The new champs were seven points ahead of Tottenham, and with just two games left, there was no way to catch up, and the boys in blue were champs for the first time in the club's 132-year history.
How's that for odds?
With a team composed of kids and a superstar in Neymar Jr. the Brazilian men's national football team took home gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
After ending regulation and extra time with a 1-1 draw against Germany (of all teams), the gold medal match went into penalties, and hitting the deciding conversion was none other than Neymar, who kissed the ball and sent it sailing through the net as the Brazilian crowd erupted in celebration.
The Brazilian team's first ever gold medal came after a rough couple of years, starting with their dismal World Cup showing, and through all the controversies that the Rio Olympics had endured.
From being questioned and ridiculed, Neymar became a hero.
Like AP writer Tales Azzoni said, "All the troubles were forgotten when Neymar's kick sailed into the net."
While this year was indeed filled with ups in the football world, there were also a number of heartbreaks, but none bigger than the one felt by the entire football world following the fatal crash of a chartered plane carrying members or Brazilian division one football club Chapecoense.
The team was flying into Medellin, Colombia for the finals of the Cop Sudamericana when the plane crashed, killing 71 passengers, including 19 players.
Chapecoense were a match away from realizing their Cinderella story. Now, their story will live forever in the hearts of football fans the world over.
A number of teams, including the one they were supposed to face in the final, Atletico Nacional, have all given heartfelt tributes to Chapecoense, including awarding the 2016 Copa Sudamericana to the tragedy-struck club, and naming them as 'eternal champions.'
After the Philippine Azkals' strong finish to the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, many expected them to be strong contenders for the 2016 edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup, and to add even more motivation, the group stages would be played on home soil. Even after being drawn into the so-called 'Group of Death" along with Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia, the expectations were still quite high.
And then the tournament began, and the Azkals opened with a draw against Singapore, a match that many thought the Philippines should have won, easily.
Then came another disappointing draw against Indonesia.
With entry to the semifinals at stake, the Azkals closed out the group stages against heavy favorites Thailand, and lost on a late goal. Coupled with a win by Indonesia on the other end of the group, and suddenly, for the first time after three straight semifinals appearances, the Azkals were out of the Suzuki cup in the group stages.
Many called the campaign a disaster, considering that they had shown so much promise at the start of the year. With Asian Cup qualifiers coming up in the first quarter of 2017, it's interesting to see what steps the PFF and the Philippine Azkals take next.
Founded in 2009, the United Football League or UFL was the Philippines' premiere football league, and in it's seven years of existence, it produced a number of great clubs such as Global FC (the league's winningest club), Ceres-La Salle FC, and KAYA FC, all have represented the Philippines in international club football tournaments thanks to their success in the UFL.
In 2016 however, it was announced that the UFL will be having their last season to give way to the new Philippine Football League, or PFL, which is expected to set up shop in 2017. The PFL is set to feature a location-based club tournament format, with clubs representing cities and adopting home pitches of their own.
So there you have it! Just some of most memorable moments in football from the year that was. With all these taking place in 2016, it's interesting to see how the football world develops in the coming years!
Think we missed out on anything? Let us know in the comments!
Happy Holidays, everyone!