25 Most Incredible World Football Photos of 2012

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

25 Most Incredible World Football Photos of 2012

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    They say a picture speaks a thousand words. 

    That saying applies to the 25 most incredible photos from world football in 2012. 

    From complete ecstasy to absolute disappointment, these photos display the numerous emotions that people across the footballing world felt during the past 12 months. 

Euro 2012 Opening Ceremony

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    Before the 16 best national teams across Europe took to the pitches across Poland and Ukraine, there was an opening ceremony on June 8 in Warsaw. 

    The pre-match display was quite the spectacle, and this photo with the tournament logo in full bloom is the best shot from the opening ceremony.

    In the opening match of Euro 2012, Poland drew with Greece, 1-1, in a Group A match. 

Team GB Finally Takes to the Pitch

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    After years of debate on whether Great Britain should field a team in the Olympic football tournament, Team GB took to the pitch on July 26 in their first Olympic match against Senegal.

    The team consisted of 13 English players and five Welsh players. 

    Of the Welsh contingent playing for Team GB was Manchester United's Ryan Giggs, who captained the side throughout the tournament. 

    Team GB were eliminated on penalties by South Korea in the quarterfinal round of the tournament

England Lose on Penalties...Again

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    Continuing with the theme of national teams knocked out of major tournaments on penalties this summer, we turn to the English national team. 

    At Euro 2012, the Three Lions played Italy in the quarterfinals at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. 

    Neither team scored a goal through 90 minutes of regular time and 30 added minutes. 

    The game went to a penalty shootout, which was eventually won by Italy, 4-2. 

Pirlo's Panenka

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    In that same penalty shootout, Italy's Andrea Pirlo delivered one of the best goals of 2012. 

    With the Azzurri down by one in the penalty shootout, Pirlo stepped up to the penalty spot, and the rest became history.

    The whole world stopped in amazement to watch one of the world's best players take one of the gutsiest penalty kicks in history. 

Steven and Anthony Gerrard Embrace After Carling Cup Final

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    Another match that was decided by penalties in 2012 was the Carling Cup Final. 

    Liverpool and Cardiff City played a memorable match that ended in Cardiff's Anthony Gerrard penalty miss. 

    Before he went to go celebrate with his Liverpool teammates, Anthony's cousin, Steven, walked over to him and consoled him after his historic miss. 

USMNT Earns First Win at Azteca

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    The United States' men's national team won their first match at Estadio Azteca on August 15. 

    The historic win over their CONCACAF rivals, Mexico, was earned in the 80th minute by Michael Orozco Fiscal. 

    It was the defender's first goal for the United States in his first appearance since October 2011 for the national team. 

The Clint Dempsey Face

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    One of the biggest memes to come out of world football in 2012 came from Clint Dempsey. 

    The Clint Dempsey face began making its rounds after the United States' World Cup qualifier against Jamaica in September. 

    One month later in Kansas City, the United States clinched qualification to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

    In the clinching match against Guatemala, Dempsey scored twice and celebrated after the match with the picture of the player that was brought to the match by some American fans. 

Bradford City Pulls off an Upset for the Ages

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    Bradford City pulled off one of the most unexpected upsets of 2012, when they defeated Arsenal on penalty kicks during their quarterfinal match in the Capital One Cup.

    In the penalty shootout, Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen missed the fifth and final penalty to clinch the Bantams' place in the semifinals. 

    The win on December 11 was the ninth-straight penalty shootout win for the Bantams, two of which have come in the Capital One Cup this season. 

Rod Stewart Cries After Celtic's Historic Upset of Barcelona

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    On November 7, Celtic pulled off one of the biggest victories in club history by taking down Barcelona at Hampden Park. 

    No Celtic fan enjoyed the win more than music legend Rod Stewart.

    Stewart wept after the final whistle was blown and Celtic's 2-1 win was confirmed. 

    Stewart was also in the stands on December 5, when the Scottish champions clinched a spot in the knockout round with a win over Spartak Moscow. 

Manchester City Eliminated from Europe

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    One of the biggest disappointments in 2012 has to be Manchester City. 

    After winning the EPL on the final day of the season, the Citizens qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. 

    In the so-called Group of Death, City fell flat and earned just three points in six matches. 

    All that three points earned Roberto Mancini's club was a last-place group finish and plenty of mockery from the rest of the world. 

Fabrice Muamba Collapses on the Pitch

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    On March 17, Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch at White Hart Lane during his club's FA Cup quarterfinal match with Tottenham. 

    The match was abandoned after 41 minutes and replayed 10 days later. 

    More importantly, Muamba has recovered from his on-pitch collapse, but for the minutes after his collapse things were not looking good for the 23-year-old. 

    In August, Muamba retired from professional football because of his health. 

Violence Before Poland vs. Russia Match at Euro 2012

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    Before the match between Poland and Russia in Warsaw on June 12 , there were plenty of demonstrations throughout the streets of the Polish capital. 

    The hostilities between the two nations are well known, and there was no doubt that clashes between fans of each team were going to happen. 

    On the pitch, the two teams ended their Group A match in a 1-1 draw after Jakob Blaszczykowski scored a 57th minute equalizer for the Euro 2012 co-hosts. 

David Beckham's MLS Farewell

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    David Beckham announced a week before the MLS Cup final that he would be leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy and pursue his career elsewhere. 

    Beckham spent six seasons with Galaxy and brought the sport to the forefront of the American perspective. 

    The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder went out on top by winning two-straight MLS Cups to finish his career in America. 

    Beckham's final triumph in America came over the Houston Dynamo on December 1 at the Galaxy's home stadium, the Home Depot Center. 

Red Bull Arena Gets Covered in White

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    Residents of Harrison, New Jersey are not used to seeing snow fall in early November, but that is exactly what happened on November 7. 

    The second leg of the New York Red Bulls' Eastern Conference semifinal with DC United had to be postponed over an hour after the scheduled kickoff due to all of the snow on the pitch. 

    Every time the staff at Red Bull Arena tried to remove snow from the pitch, the area they had just shoveled would instantly be re-covered in snow. 

    The two clubs eventually postponed the match to the next day, which was won by DC United, 1-0. 

United States' Women Outlast Canada in Olympics Semifinal Match

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    The most memorable women's match of 2012 came to us on August 6 from the Theater of Dreams, Old Trafford.

    The United States and Canada battled to the bitter end, literally to the final second, in their Olympic semifinal match.

    Alex Morgan won the match for the United States with a goal in the third minute of stoppage time in extra time.

    The United States went on to win the gold medal three days later at Wembley Stadium against Japan. 

Mexico Claims Gold at Wembley

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    Mexico won the gold medal in the men's football tournament at the 2012 Olympics over Brazil at Wembley Stadium.

    The showdown between the two footballing powerhouses ended in a 2-1 win for El Tri. 

    Oribe Peralta scored twice to lead Mexico to their first gold medal in front of over 86,000 fans at the historic stadium in London. 

The Shirt Swap Seen Around the World

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    Going into the November 3 match between Manchester United and Arsenal, all the focus was on Robin van Persie's first match against his former club.

    After the match, all the attention was on Andre Santos, who asked van Persie for his shirt at halftime. 

    Santos was already under plenty of criticism from Gunners fans for his poor play, and this incident did not do anything to help his reputation. 

Joe Hart's Header Almost Sends Man City into Europa League Quarterfinals

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    Manchester City and Sporting Lisbon played in the best match of the Europa League knockout round on March 15 at the Etihad Stadium.

    With 60 minutes played in the match, City needed four goals to advance to the quarterfinal round.

    The impossible almost became a reality in stoppage time when City keeper Joe Hart came forward on a corner kick and sent a header towards the Sporting goal. 

    Hart's shot was saved by the fingertips of Rui Patricio and Sporting advanced to the quarterfinals on away goals. 

Falcao Makes a Grand Entrance onto the World Stage

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    Everyone knew about the talents of Radamel Falcao going into the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea, but no one knew exactly how good the Atletico Madrid forward was until that match ended.

    Falcao dominated the Chelsea back four and scored a hat-trick in the annual match held in Monaco between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League.

    Since his performance at the UEFA Super Cup, Falcao has been on the radar of the club he defeated that night. 

    Whether or not we see the Colombian in Chelsea blue in 2013 is still to be answered. But one thing is for sure, Falcao is one of the best players in the world at the moment. 

Spain Repeats as European Champions

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    Spain continued their dominance on the international level with a win over Italy on July 1 to claim their second straight European Championships title. 

    After beating Iberian rivals, Portugal, on penalties in the semifinals, Spain cruised to a 4-0 victory over Italy in the final. 

    Four different players scored for La Furia Roja in the championship game, including Fernando Torres

    Spain has now won the last three major international tournaments, the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup. 

Corinthians Clinch Club World Cup

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    This is the most recent of the photos on this list, and it comes from the final of the Club World Cup on Sunday.

    With a 1-0 win over Chelsea, Corinthians followed up their first Copa Libertadores title with their second Club World Cup title.

    The Brazilian club became the first non-European winners of the trophy since 2006, when fellow Brazilian club Internacional defeated Barcelona for the championship. 

Zlatan Being Zlatan

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a player who is truly one of a kind. 

    His performance against England on November 15 was just another masterpiece on the pitch created by the Swedish forward. 

    Ibrahimovic scored four goals in the match, with his final goal being one that fans will not stop talking about anytime soon. 

Chelsea's Conquering of Europe

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    Chelsea finished off their miraculous run through the knockout stage of the Champions League with a win over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich. 

    Didier Drogba starred in his final match for the club by scoring the equalizer towards the end of the second half and the winning penalty. 

    The victory gave owner Roman Abramovich the title he always wanted.

    However, winning the Champions League is not enough to keep your job at Stamford Bridge as Roberto di Matteo was sacked just six months later. 

The Manchester Miracle

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    On the final day of the EPL season, Manchester City clinched their first league title since 1968 in dramatic fashion.

    Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero scored goals in stoppage time to complete a comeback over Queens Park Rangers to win the match, 3-2. 

    This photo of the video board after the match was completed explains how much ending the 34-year title drought meant to the club. 

Lionel Messi Gives His Goal Record a Thumbs-Up

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    When Lionel Messi broke Gerd Muller's record of goals in a calendar year against Real Betis on December 9, he did not need an elaborate celebration.

    All Messi did was give a thumbs-up to the cameras, and then he went to celebrate with his Barcelona teammates. 

    Currently, Messi's record sits at 90 goals after he scored a double against Atletico Madrid on Sunday.