It's that magical time of year again. Snow is covering the ground (at least in places substantially far enough from the Equator); sleigh bells can be heard in the distance; crazed shoppers are pepper spraying each other.
It's the holiday season, and because we're feeling a little festive, here is the "12 Days of Christmas," done world-football style.
So, let's get started.
On the 12th day of Christmas, world football gave to meeeeee....
The Netherlands' goal-hunter Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is having an equally commanding season with Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga, was an unlikely hero of the Euro 2012 qualifiers. He led the first round of the tournament in goals with a whopping dozen, including a brace in the Netherlands' headline-making 11-0 destruction of San Marino.
They'll have a long road to face in the Group of Death with Portugal, Germany and Denmark, but if Huntelaar can maintain his form, they'll be able to finish on top.
Manchester City has brought us many things over the past year—the longest unbeaten streak in the Premier League (broken just this week with a loss to Chelsea), Mario Balotelli's shenanigans, the explosive year of Sergio Agüero. But City have also been responsible for the rise of one surprising football fashion trend—the snood.
The snood, a supposedly chic scarf-hood-neck-wrap-thing, made plenty of appearances on City's starting XI, until Sepp Blatter took a courageous stand against these dangerous sartorial choices, which he proceeded to compare to a noose. Alright then.
Our next Euro 2012-related entry in the World Football 12 Days of Christmas focuses on the absolutely unstoppable German national team in the qualifiers. Die Mannschaft emerged from the qualifiers as the team to beat, winning all 10 of their preliminary matches.
From their impenetrable goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to the impressive strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez up front, to new talent like Borussia Dortmund's Mario Götze and Mats Hummels, the Germans wowed with some seriously stunning play.
...who were accused of corrupt activity over the course of seven months.
FIFA came under a rash of criticism following the shocking choices of the next World Cup destinations, primarily the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
As the board elections approached, FIFA's Executive Committee, or ExCo, was put under scrutiny, and fans got a look at all of the shady dealings that were reportedly going on. The last to join this fraternity was Mohamed bin Hammam, set to be Sepp Blatter's only challenger for the FIFA presidency, who was found to be offering bribes in return for votes.
Sepp Blatter's response? "Crisis? What is a crisis?"
Diego Pérez, the tough-tackling defensive midfielder of Bologna in Serie A, is having a bit of trouble with the officials. So far, he's been cautioned eight times this season at time of writing, although he has not been sent off.
Tied with him in disciplinary action are three players in La Liga—Rayo Vallecano's Arribas, Mallorca's Pina and Sevilla's Emir Spahic. Florian Dick and Sergio Pinto lead the Bundesliga with seven each, Alaixys Romao of Lorient leads Ligue 1 with seven, and Gary Caldwell, Steven Nzonzi and John Terry lead the Premiership with six each.
L.A. Galaxy star and royal wedding attendee (apparently that's one way to define yourself in 2011) David Beckham and O.G. WAG Victoria welcomed their first daughter, Harper Seven, in July. Her middle name comes from Becks' kit number at Manchester United, the same number also worn by Eric Cantona, George Best, Cristiano Ronaldo and other United icons.
Suppose at least his kit number wasn't "Thirteen." No one would want that as a middle name.
The Argentine genius has already netted four hat tricks in all competitions in the 2011-2012 season, including two in back-to-back appearances against Mallorca and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.
Add that to two more from the calendar year, and you've got some seriously jaw-dropping goal totals. That's 18 goals right there. Dang.
I know I already made a "12 Days of Cantona" reference in the Man United Christmas wish-list story, but here it actually fit with the assignment. Plus, no other fan chant gets you quite in the holiday mood like the Red Devils tribute to their kung-fu-kicking, sage-advice-giving, thoroughly entertaining French legend.
Everyone's favorite Brazilian teen superstar has been the talk of world football this year: his skills, his meteoric rise, that time Real Madrid were going to sign him and then didn't...
But no Neymar moment best exemplifies the hype around him—and why it is warranted—quite like the match where he scored all four goals for his team in their victory over Atlético. Watch the magic for yourself.
Two years after their legendary sextuple, Barcelona found themselves with a three-title haul in 2011. In addition to their third consecutive season at the top of La Liga, they returned to the Champions League final and defeated the same opponents as '09—Manchester United, at Wembley, to take home the European Cup (lifted triumphantly by Éric Abidal in his first appearance after undergoing treatment for liver cancer), as well as the Supercopa de España in an incredibly heated match with rivals Real Madrid.
The main title that eluded them was the Copa del Rey, which went to Real Madrid for the first time since 1993 on a Ronaldo stoppage-time goal.
This year, the La Liga race will be even more contentious, and although Barça took home the first Clásico win, a formidable Real Madrid is just a point behind.
We could have put any number of great pairs of footballing siblings in this spot.
The Toure brothers at Manchester City made headlines for reasons good (Yaya being nominated to UEFA's Team of the Season) and not-so-good (Kolo gets fined for a failed drug test). Rafinha Alcântara is working his way up the ranks at Barcelona alongside big brother Thiago. Hamit Altintop's identical twin brother Halil spent some time in the Champions League after joining Trabzonspor. And there's always the great-but-at-least-one-is-retired options: the Laudrups, the Nevilles, the Cannavaros.
And then there are the Da Silva twins, signed by Sir Alex Ferguson as buzzy teenagers, both full-backs, with the potential, shown in flashes every so often when they're given playing time, to become football's next great sibling duo.
Sadly, both are on the sidelines with injuries on United's ever-increasing list of the wounded, so this holiday season, we wish them a speedy recovery.
The enigmatic Manchester City striker has given us so many brilliant moments over the course of the past year, it would be tough to fit them all in one post. There was that time he set his house on fire by setting off fireworks in his bathroom, for example. But nothing compares to his brilliant goal in the Manchester derby that opened the scoring in the 6-1 win for City, a sign of his return to form in which he celebrated by asking us all a very important question.