1. Riley McGree out-Zlatans Zlatan
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s very serious LA Galaxy debut and 500th career goal added to the big Swede’s legacy this year. Yet the best Ibra-style goal of 2018 might well have been scored by Australian midfielder Riley McGree for Newcastle Jets in the A-League semi-final.
His stunning, high-velocity scorpion kick even got a token nomination for FIFA’s Puskas Award. Yet it failed to place in the top three, as Mohamed Salah romped to victory for a goal against Everton. In unrelated news, Egyptian phone bills hit an all-time high.
2. Harry Kane: public enemy
Nothing malicious, but it was a bit odd when all-around good egg Kane revealed his goal-craven monster side and swore on his daughter’s life that he got a faint touch on a Christian Eriksen cross to claim a goal against Stoke in April 2018.
It brought surprisingly venomous backlash for the Tottenham striker. Yet by the time he’d scored six goals and captained the Three Lions to a World Cup semi-final, he’d probably done enough to win every English fan (non-Arsenal division) back around.
3. Bristol Rovers vs Crawley Town gets X-rated
Adult channel Babestation got an airing on TV screens during half-time of Bristol Rovers’ Carabao Cup tie with Crawley in August 2018. The lewd feed took the place of the usual midweek scores in the Memorial Ground clubhouse.
Rovers chairman Steve Hamer labelled the incident unacceptable, adding: “What was seen was pretty moderate and we will talk to our TV engineers and media teams to find out what happened.” Which, frankly, could be misinterpreted for an appeal for even racier content. Bristol Rovers host Burton on New Year’s Day if you’re interested, people.
4. Pep loved the Community Shield
The 2017/18 season began with Manchester City winning the lightly-regarded pre-season appetiser. Yet Pep Guardiola has won such a mind-boggling array of trophies throughout his career, he probably gets confused as to which truly matter – and he seemed absolutely made up to win this one.
The delighted Catalan had his family on the pitch as he mugged for photos with players and the big disc, which he probably assumed meant he’d won another Bundesliga or something. This story would reach a natural climax if City’s season ends with a Champions League win and a perplexed Guardiola walking past Old Big Ears trying to work out what exactly it all meant.
5. France were rubbish during the World Cup…
…group stage. It matters little after you score 11 goals in four knockout games, besting Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium and Croatia to deservedly win the World Cup. Yet France were the definition of a team that grew into a tournament.
In Group C, they were turgid. Les Bleus beat Australia 2-1 via a dodgy penalty and an Aziz Behich own goal, held on for a barely-deserved 1-0 over Peru, then drew 0-0 with Denmark in a dire stalemate. At the time of French qualification, the talk was all about how such a gifted group of players could look so ordinary. It was less of a talking point two weeks later.
6. A team exited the World Cup on fair play
Presumably this hasn’t been forgotten in Senegal, but history was made in 2018 as the Lions of Teranga became the first country to go out of a World Cup on fair play. It’s normally the kind of clause you encounter if you go deep into “…but what if they’re level on goals scored…” pre-tournament research.
Yet it came into play in the final games of Group F after Colombia took a 1-0 lead against Senegal. With the African side desperately trying to equalise, Japan held on for a 1-0 defeat to Poland (and no stupid red cards please) at the same time. Surreal.
7. Milad Mohammadi’s throw-in
Let us all never forget the time that, with seconds to go and Iran pressing for an equaliser against Spain in an actual World Cup game, Milad Mohammadi chose the perfect moment to break out his innovative forward-roll non-throw-in. You genius, Milad.
8. Germany fell apart
Remember when Toni Kroos hammered home that injury time free-kick to beat Sweden in the World Cup and we all thought: yep, this is the moment Germany kick into gear? Well, they didn’t.
Germany not only lost to South Korea to exit at the group stage, they got involved in some serious off-field disputes and stuck by a failing manager. On the pitch, Die Mannschaft then lost to France (2-1) and the Netherlands (3-0) to be relegated from their Nations League group.
Hang on, what do you mean you remember all of this and it made headline news around the world? You swines, just let us have our moment wallowing in this before Germany inevitably regroup and storm to World Cup glory in 2022.
9. Grant Mitchell nearly exploded
In other news, England won a shootout and a shirtless Ross Kemp almost combusted.