Alex Mott·30 December 2022
Alex Mott·30 December 2022
It’s been quite the 12 months in football. Surprises off the pitch, shocks on it.
We’ve been tasked with whittling down the past year in shocks to give our top five …
Cristiano Ronaldo had endured a difficult start to the season under new manager Erik ten Hag.
The Dutchman hadn’t been convinced by the Ballon d’Or winner’s qualities since coming in and Ronaldo increasingly found himself on the bench for Manchester United’s biggest games.
And then the Portuguese decided to be interviewed by Piers Morgan.
The furore the tell-all conversation caused was seismic and, during Portugal’s World Cup campaign, Ronaldo was eventually pushed out of the door by United.
It was a lesson in how not to do public relations and time will tell whether it has stained his legacy as one of the greats. At least at Old Trafford.
Home tournaments can go one of two ways.
You either rise to the occasion of having a public that’s on your side or you wilt under the pressure of expectation. The Lionesses, previously trophyless and with a nationwide 56 years of hurt hanging over them, did the former.
Sarina Wiegman’s side produced three weeks of utterly joyous football during Euro 2022.
There were two astonishing wins over Norway and Sweden that saw England score eight and four respectively, and then there was the win over Germany in the final.
Not so long ago, England would have demurred in an occasion like that but this time Chloe Kelly bagged a winner and sent the country into raptures.
All the indications were that Kylian Mbappé was leaving Paris Saint-Germain and heading to becoming the latest Galáctico at Real Madrid.
Reports in both the French and Spanish press were convinced that the France sensation was leaving his hometown club and joining Los Blancos to become the biggest name in the game.
And then it was off.
Mbappé had decided to do what no other player in the game has the temerity to do – reject Real Madrid.
It sent their famously demure fanbase into a tailspin.
The final hurdle may have been too much for Morocco but that hasn’t stopped us including their remarkable World Cup campaign in this year’s list.
The Atlas Lions became the first African nation to make it to the semi-finals and showed astonishing levels of quality and determination along the way.
Morocco got out of a group that included Croatia, Belgium and Canada before beating Spain and Portugal in the knockout rounds.
There were plenty of heroes all over the pitch but Sofyan Amrabat was arguably the stand-out player across the entire tournament as he anchored the midfield.
The Fiorentina midfielder set a new record of winning possession 51 times in his fix games, more than any player since World Cup records began in 1966.
We tune into the Champions League group stage year after year waiting for shocks that rarely come.
The two richest clubs in any group are usually the ones that will make it through to the last 16.
But this year, like London buses, two came along at once.
Barcelona crashed out of Group C as they struggled to show their domestic form against Bayern Munich and Inter.
Juventus, meanwhile, were humbled against Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain as they finished level on three points with Maccaba Haifa.