25 Most Incredible World Football Photos of 2011
Soccer can be a chess match, a slow-moving battle where well considered game-planning and managerial tactics play out over the course of 90 minutes.
But it can also be a fast-moving, action-packed, summer-blockbuster sort of thriller, where remarkable skill and astonishing plays can make the difference between an enormous victory and a crushing defeat.
While football is really a game of action, its greatest moments can be captured almost as wonderfully by terrific photography.
Here are the 25 best photos from world football in 2011.
25. Messi Ballet
Let's start with the Argentine wonder. Lionel Messi of Barcelona beats Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos to score the opening goal during their Champions League semifinal first leg on April 27.
24. Getting Kicked in the Yaya
Jermaine Jones and David Dunn of Blackburn Rovers vie for the ball with Manchester City's dangerously challenging Yaya Toure (left) during their Premiership match on April 25.
23. Dutch Duel
AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado goes after a fan who invaded the pitch during his Dutch Cup tilt against Ajax. Alvarado shockingly received a red card for kicking at the fan, even though he was simply retaliating after being kicked himself by the fan.
22. Looking Sexy in Sheffield
Some well-dressed (and seemingly well-lubricated) fans celebrate a Sheffield Wednesday goal against Sheffield United on Oct. 16.
21. United in Frustration
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney comforts teammate Javier Hernandez following the Red Devils' Champions League final loss to Barcelona on May 28
Eric Brunner of the Portland Timbers gets horizontal following a tackle from Zak Boggs of the New England Revolution on April 2.
19. Neymar Strikes a Pose
Brazilian starlet Neymar celebrates after scoring a ridiculous goal against Kashiwa Reysol during the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal on Dec. 14
18. Peeved Keeper
U.S. national team netminder Tim Howard expresses his frustration with his defense.
17. Celebrating in Style
Hard AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso clearly answers the "Boxers or briefs?" question as he enjoys his side's clinching of the Serie A championship on May 7.
16. Ordering Up a Goal
Denmark's Michael Krohn-Dehli celebrates with the crowd after scoring during his country's Euro 2012 qualifier against Portugal on Oct. 11.
15. Obstruction, Anyone?
No, Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United aren't practicing their pairs figure-skating routine. The two clash during their sides' Premier League matchup at Villa Park on Dec. 3.
14. 'Why Always Me?'
Kooky Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli shows off his now infamous T-shirt after scoring against Manchester United, just a day after shooting fireworks out of the bathroom window in his house. Not surprisingly, he was booked for the celebration...the T-shirt, not the fireworks.
13. The Best of Best
Newcastle's Leon Best scores past Robert Green of West Ham during their Premiership match at St James' Park on Jan. 5.
12. Tossed Swansea
Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers is thrown in the air by his players after earning promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship playoff final against Reading on May 30.
11. Checkered Pass
Croatia's Josip Simunic looks positively freezing, especially against this smoky background during his nation's Euro 2012 qualifier on Nov. 15 against Turkey in Zagreb.
10. Game of Shadows
Marc Albrighton of Aston Villa and Wolves' George Elokobi battle for the ball at Villa Park on March 19.
9. Saving Face
Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech gets his helmet and mask straight prior to his country's Euro 2012 playoff match against Montenegro on Nov. 15. Cech and the Czechs stopped the home side to earn a spot in this coming summer's European championships.
8. Battling in the Box
Players from Brazil and Norway eye an incoming corner kick during the FIFA Women's World Cup match on July 3 in Wolfsburg, Germany.
7. Froggy Footy
A bullfrog hops around on the pitch as Carlos Costly of Honduras carries the ball against the USA during their Oct. 8 match at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
6. Sun and the Beach
El Salvador's Agustin Ruiz is challenged by Francesco Corosinitti of Italy during the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup quarterfinal at Stadium del Mare in Ravenna, Italy, on Sept. 8.
5. Dangerous Clearance
Phil Bardsley of Scotland clears the ball under serious pressure from Denmark's Simon Kjaer during the nations' friendly at Hampden Park in Glasgow on Aug. 10.
4 (tie). Soccer on the Sand
A pickup soccer game is played on Ipanema Beach just prior to the preliminary draw for the 2014 World Cup on July 28 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
4 (tie). Flare for the Dramatic
Croatian fans enjoy their country's Euro 2012 qualifier against Turkey.
3. Tilt-Shift Tally
Yaya Toure of Manchester City scores the winning goal in the FA Cup final against Stoke City.
2. Rooney Revelry
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores an incredible game-winning, bicycle-kick goal in the Feb. 12 Premiership derby match against Manchester City at Old Trafford.
1. Last-Moment Wonder From Wambach
American striker Abby Wambach celebrates her last-second, injury-time equalizer against Brazil during the FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal on July 10 in Dresden, Germany. The U.S. went on to win the game in penalty kicks.
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