As is the case in every World Cup year, soccer gave fans a wide variety of intriguing story lines and interesting moments throughout 2014. None were, of course, more newsworthy than the biggest party of the summer, a World Cup that met and even exceeded expectations as it pertains to on-the-field action. What was believed to be the best country on the planet proved that it was just that by the end of the tournament, while the World Cup hosts shrunk and collapsed when under the pressure of winning the sport's biggest prize on its home soil.
Two individuals made worldwide headlines with their actions at the World Cup. One had a breakout performance that landed him a massive contract at a dream club, while the other lived up to his reputation for being one of the more vile and unlikable athletes in all of professional sports. In another proof that life is often unfair, that person also received a deal that provided him with a bump in pay and a transfer to one of the giants of world football. Karma is apparently uninterested in that person.
While the soccer year will be remembered largely for what occurred at the international level, club soccer was just as entertaining as was the World Cup. La Liga stopped being a two two affair, if only for a season. Manchester was once again turned blue, and what has been one of the most-successful clubs of the Premier League era devolved into that other team in its city. The man who was the most-expensive sale in world history earned his pay when he delivered a clutch goal during club soccer's biggest yearly match.
Worth every penny, right Real Madrid?
There were times when it felt as if every good soccer story was matched with a bad one. Highlight reel goals were coupled with far too many instances of concussions and other head injuries being taken as seriously as your run-of-the-mill head cold during matches. Everybody involved in the sport – coaches, players, medical staff and the like – must do better to protect footballers during games, because the unthinkable occurring during a live televised Premier League match all because an injured player was allowed to keep on playing isn't just a fear. It is in inevitability unless changes are made.
18 Flying Dutch
17 Gareth Bale Wins Copa del Rey
16 America Loves/Doesn't Care About Soccer
That the United States Men's National Team qualified past the Group Stages of the 2014 World Cup before they were eliminated wasn't nearly as big a story as was the fact that, for about three weeks, soccer was the country's top sport. Bars and restaurants aired matches involving countries that some viewers couldn't locate on a map. Sports talk radio shows that normally ignore the sport, began programs with USMNT player interviews and World Cup discussions. The growth of the popularity of soccer in the United States is real, and Major League Soccer getting what is financially an improved television deal will only add further exposure of the world's game to American sports fans.
15 Basel Stun The World
14 FIFA Corrupt, Edition 1.2 Million (Not Sure That's Sarcasm)
13 The Collapse of United
12 Bayern Munich Dominance
11 The Ballad of Balotelli
10 Farewell, Landon
9 Arsenal End Trophy Drought
7 Real Rule
6 Welcome Change
5 Brazil Disappoint
4 World Meets James
3 Luis Suarez is an Idiot
2 Gareth Bale Wins Champions League
1 German Dominance
Germany entered the World Cup as the best team in the world, and they returned home from Brazil with the trophy, gold medals and the right to be recognized as the No. 1 squad on the planet. They rolled through group play in impressive fashion. Germany trounced Brazil 7-1 in a beat-down that nobody saw coming. Extra time was required for the Germans to take care of Argentina in the Final, but that doesn't erase what was a brilliant World Cup run. The 2014 Germany team is one that will be talked about by fans and analysts for years to come.
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