Ranking the 25 Most Memorable Matches of 2012
The year 2012 has served up some unbelievable games of football for us to enjoy.
Bleacher Report takes a look back through the calendar and brings you the 25 most enjoyable, enticing, ridiculous and astounding matches that have occurred in the past year.
From women's football to the UEFA Champions League final, from England to Australia and from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Tony Watt, we've got you covered.
25. Central Coast Mariners 7-2 Sydney FC
Everyone turned up to see Alessandro Del Piero flaunt his talents, but a hamstring injury kept the Italian from gracing the turf.
The spectators were far from disappointed, though, as the Central Coast Mariners battled back from going down 1-0 early to fire seven past Sydney FC.
Tom Rogic scored two that day—that's a name you'll want to remember in the future.
24. Deportivo 4-5 Barcelona
Barcelona's defence may be suspect, but it's not everyday you see an average strike force hit four past them.
That's exactly what Deportivo managed, as Pizzi and Alex Bergantinos added to a Jordi Alba own goal to make Tito Vilanova sweat.
Obviously, Lionel Messi scored a hat trick to tip his team over the edge in a nine-goal thriller.
23. Benfica 2-3 FC Porto
In the game that had great influence in deciding where the title went in Portugal last season, Maicon rose to score an 87th-minute winner from a free kick as FC Porto topped Benfica, 3-2, on their own pitch.
The only problem was that Maicon, in addition to one other attacker, was offside when the ball was played in, and the Dragoes found enough confidence from this win to go on to win the title.
Such cruel margins.
22. Germany 4-4 Sweden
With Germany up 4-0 against Sweden, their 100-percent record in the World Cup-qualifying group stages seemed all but assured—cue unbelievable scenes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rasmus Elm, Johan Elmander and Mikael Lustig all scored second-half goals to pull it back to 4-4, with the last coming in the 93rd minute.
Joachim Loew appeared crestfallen after the game:
"I can find no explanation as to how we let a 4-0 lead slip out of our hands. It's deathly quiet in the changing room. Players are laid out on the benches and are totally speechless."
21. Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Atletico Madrid
This was supposed to be the coming of Athletic Bilbao, the night on which young stars Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain became men and led los Leones forward.
Unfortunately, the script panned out a little differently. Arda Turan, Diego and Radamel Falcao stole the show, while Mario Suarez and Gabi nullified some of the finest attacking threats in Spain.
Glory for Atleti.
Highlights of the game can be found here.
20. USWNT 4-3 Canada
What a day for women's soccer.
Despite Christine Sinclair of Canada scoring a hat trick, pushing her side into the lead three times, the United States Women's National Team kept fighting and took their counterparts to extra time.
It was poster-girl Alex Morgan who scored the winner—with just 30 seconds remaining—to launch the U.S. into the final against Japan.
19. Sweden 4-2 England
Step forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic—this game's going down in history for several reasons.
An attendance of 49,967 saw Sweden's new stadium's grand-opening ceremony, but in truth, most just expected a tame, preseason-esque friendly between two nations who really don't care.
Wrong. What they saw was a tame, preseason-esque friendly between 21 players who didn't care, and one man who was determined to prove he was more important than a new ground that cost more than he did.
Zlatan's unbelievable bicycle kick had the Internet in stitches for several days.
18. Denmark 2-3 Portugal
This game had absolutely everything.
An excellent header from Pepe opened the scoring, but Denmark simply refused to lay down and submit to the 2-0 scoreline.
It took a 95th-minute winner from Silvestre Varela to secure the all-important three-point haul for Paulo Bento's Portugal and send them clear into the knockout stages.
17. Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
One of the standout English Premier League games in 2012 occurred as recently as last week.
You can bet Sir Alex Ferguson learned from losing the title on goal difference, as his response in signing Robin van Persie has them scoring in emphatic fashion.
The Dutchman's last-minute winner, bending a sumptuous free kick around the wall and into the far corner, was a worthy winner of any game.
16. Manchester United 4-4 Everton
The match that won turned the title race in Manchester City's favour.
Manchester United recovered from an early header by Nikica Jelavic to lead, 3-1, in a crucial game in the race for the English Premier League title.
From that point, teams just don't recover at Old Trafford—except Everton didn't bother to read the script this year.
They pulled it back to 4-4 with some superb football by Marouane Fellaini and company, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson staring at two points dropped.
15. Reading 5-7 Arsenal
What an absolutely bizarre sequence of events.
With Reading up 3-0 just before halftime, I'm ashamed to say I turned the television off. Then, when I checked the news that night, my jaw hit the floor.
We are talking about 12 goals in one game, a Theo Walcott hat trick, a goal in each net for Laurent Koscielny and the most unlikely comeback in League Cup history.
The Gunners bagged two goals at the death to take it to extra time, then goals in the 120th minute to avoid penalties. Utterly ridiculous scenes.
14. Atletico Madrid 4-1 Chelsea
The European Supercup matchup between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea is remembered for different reasons.
For many, it was the coming of Radamel Falcao—a world-class Colombian poacher who knows where the back of the net is better than any other striker on the planet right now.
For others, however, it was the realisation that the Blues have a long way to go, and that perhaps trading strikers would be a decent strategy. The Chelsea-Falcao links were born here.
13. Borussia Dortmund 5-2 Bayern Munich
At the culmination of the Bundesliga season, the division's heavyweights went at it one final time in an attempt to secure the DFB Pokal.
Bayern Munich, who had lost to counterparts Borussia Dortmund, 1-0, both home and away in the league that year, were determined to prevent a hat trick of wins for Jurgen Klopp's side, but were unfortunately swept away by a rampant die Schwarzgelben side.
Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels and a Robert Lewandowski triple saw Dortmund claim the cup as 5-2 victors despite the best efforts of Franck Ribery and company, and die Bayern's miserable domestic season was officially compounded.
12. Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
We've been spoiled by Clasicos in recent years, haven't we?
Earlier this season, we saw Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo go head-to-head in front of a world with bated breath, scoring twice each in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
The sheer quality of the goals was absolutely outstanding—with Messi's free kick the pick of the bunch—but there were plenty of other stars on show.
Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira put on one of the best double-pivot midfield performances football has ever seen, limiting la Blaugrana and securing the point.
11. Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayern Munich
With five games till the end of the Bundesliga season, Borussia Dortmund sat three points clear of rivals Bayern Munich in the table.
A win for die Bayern would see them draw level on points with die Schwarzgelben, so you'd be forgiven for thinking an edgy, cautious match ensued.
Not a chance. Both teams attacked relentlessly, and Robert Lewandowski scored a back-heel to put the home side ahead.
What followed was utter chaos, as Arjen Robben missed a penalty, Neven Subotic hit his own bar and Lewandowski struck the woodwork with a late chance to bury Jupp Heynckes' side.
The ultimate loser from this match was Robben. His missed penalty, in addition to his glaring miss from the 6-yard line, destroyed his confidence. Chelsea would reap the benefits of this just a few weeks later.
10. Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen
March 7, 2012. Where were you on this day?
I was at the cinema, and as I walked out of the showing, I glanced at the screen they had on the wall displaying the Barcelona-Bayer Leverkusen game.
Lionel Messi had just scored his fifth goal of the night, shattering records and winning the hearts of everyone in football. The final score was 7-1, and it probably could have been more.
9. Internazionale 5-4 Genoa
Nine goals, four penalties, one hand ball, two golazos and two red cards.
We're a tough crowd to please, but this was just a little excessive. One of the most outrageous games ever recorded occurred at the San Siro when Internazionale beat Genoa, 5-4, this year.
The referee probably took a long holiday after this one. I'll leave you to watch the absorbing highlights.
8. Celtic 2-1 Barcelona
A real underdog victory, and one of the finest moments in Celtic's illustrious history.
Fraser Forster played the game of his life to stop all of Barcelona's attacking talent, while Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt did the damage at the other end in rare attacks.
With every statistic heavily in la Blaugrana's favour, this was a prototypical smash-and-grab.
7. Spain 1-1 Italy
Euro 2012 saw two eventual finalists go head-to-head in the Group Stage, but the match was a bizarre encounter from a tactical perspective.
Spain opted to field no strikers and play Cesc Fabregas as a false-nine, while Italy went with three centre-backs. It turned out to be a very absorbing match that housed two great goals, but for long periods, the Italian defensive line had absolutely no one to mark.
6. Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich
The battle to face Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League came down to two European footballing heavyweights in Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
The Santiago Bernabeu hosted a tense affair that eventually ended up going to penalties, and the Germans prevailed thanks to Sergio Ramos' shocking effort.
There's been speculation aplenty as to how high that kick went, but footage of it entering space has been proved doctored.
5. Germany 1-2 Italy
Germany 1-2 Italy, AKA the Mario Balotelli show, was one of the most absorbing semifinals in European Championship history.
As die Mannschaft pushed and pushed, they left themselves vulnerable to the counterattack. Italian maestro Balotelli punished them in emphatic fashion, with his second goal in particular an iconic summer moment. Just how hard did he hit that shot?
4. Spain 4-0 Italy
The Euro 2012 final rolled around with Spain inevitably laying in wait.
The challengers? Italy. Cesare Prandelli's side had made huge strides in the tournament and already held the reigning champions, 1-1, in the group stage, so could this be their year?
Unfortunately not. It was a sad sight to see, and things just got worse after going down to 10 men, but la Roja set a record for biggest victory in a final by scoring four unanswered goals.
3. Manchester City 3-2 QPR
It's been more than six months since this day—I'm not even a Manchester City fan—and this moment still sends shivers down my spine.
With City and archrivals Manchester United neck-and-neck going into the final day of the English Premier League-title race, it took a 93rd-minute goal from Sergio Aguero for the Citizens to swipe victory when it was seemingly impossible.
This is the iconic moment of 2012 as far as the EPL is concerned, and the day Martin Tyler ripped his vocal chords to shreds with excitement.
2. Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
This was an exhibition of fluid, attacking football from Barcelona and a 101 on how to defend by Chelsea.
It was marred by the red card for John Terry, who kneed Alexis Sanchez firmly in the gluteals in an off-the-ball challenge, but the Blues showed some incredible resilience by fighting back when all looked lost.
We saw some incredible goals, with Ramires' chip being the best, but the commentary on Fernando Torres' goal is somewhat questionable.
1. Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea (3-4 on Penalties)
To crown the list, we look back on one of the most incredible UEFA Champions League finals in the history of the game.
Chelsea entered the Allianz Arena as severe underdogs and Bayern Munich the obvious winners in many a pundit's pregame selections, but the Blues bucked the trend.
The German heavyweights pounded away all evening at a weakened Chelsea side and registered a staggering 34 shots on goal. Thomas Mueller looked to have secured a 1-0 victory in the 83rd minute, but it wasn't to be for Jupp Heynckes' men.
Rise Didier Drogba, his powerful header slamming into Manuel Neuer's net in the final few minutes, taking the game to extra time.
Arjen Robben missed from the spot during ET, then Roberto Di Matteo's side claimed victory in the shootout. Who else but their Ivorian saviour to confidently net the winning penalty?