Liverpool, Iraq and Benatia honoured in our three 2013 awards
Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Gareth Bale moved to Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee, Luis Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic. 2013 was full of memorable moments in football.
With no more Premier League football now until 2014, it is time to have a look back down the last 12 months and hand out three accolades for those moments that deserve another mention.
Let’s see if you agree with our selections?
Best Premier League game – Everton 3-3 Liverpool
There are a few contenders here. The Premier League can boast West Brom’s efforts in scoring five at Old Trafford on the final day of last season, while Manchester City putting six past Tottenham and then league leaders Arsenal were breath-taking performances.
Robin van Persie ended last season as the Premier League’s top scorer and his hat-trick in sealing the title for Man Utd against Aston Villa was also memorable.
However, in terms of an actual match, the 3-3 draw in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park this season had a bit of everything.
Both sides were positive and attacking in their set-ups, leading to a wonderfully open game and the defending for the most part was dreadful at best, especially from set pieces, which ensured goals.
There was entertainment from beginning to end and it created a different type of Merseyside derby to those widely seen with David Moyes in charge of Everton and Rafa Benitez for the most part at Liverpool.
Biggest football achievement – Iraq reaching the FIFA under-20 World Cup semi finals
Iraq as a nation is not known for its football prowess, with a highest ever world ranking of 39 in 2004, a current world ranking of 109 and just a single qualification to the World Cup in 1986, where they went out in the group stages.
The unknown Hussein Saeed, who never played outside of Iraq, is both their most capped player and top scorer, although Swindon’s Yaser Kasim is perhaps slightly better known, who was recently called up to the full squad for the first time.
Knowing this, it came as a great shock when Iraq finished top of the group where England finished bottom at the under-20 World Cup in Turkey.
The run continued passed Paraguay and South Korea and into a semi final with Uruguay, who had knocked out tournament favourites Spain in the last eight.
However, Iraq led Uruguay until three minutes from time and were then undone 7-6 in a penalty shoot-out, with Uruguay then losing the final on penalties to France, who won the tournament for the first time.
Unsung hero of 2013 – Mehdi Benatia
It is easy to wax lyrical about the performances of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, but there are plenty of other players and managers that have had a 12 months to remember.
Aaron Ramsey’s improvement has been nothing short of magical and he is a big reason why Arsenal are top of the Premier League, Safet Susic has guided Bosnia and Herzegovina to a first ever World Cup finals and Diego Simeone has turned La Liga into a three-team battle with his development of Atletico Madrid.
Atletico end 2013 joint top of La Liga with Barcelona and comfortable qualifiers to the knockout stages of the Champions League, despite losing star striker Radamel Falcao to PSG in the summer.
However, it is the performances and results of defender Mehdi Benatia that are arguably most impressive in 2013.
Benatia has played 31 games in the calendar year at the African Cup of Nations for Morocco, for Udinese last season in Serie A and now Roma after a summer move.
Of these, he has suffered just two defeats and from April onwards, Benatia has won 19 of his 23 matches, including a phenomenal run of 17 in succession.
Roma have developed into credible Serie A title challengers since his arrival and it is no surprise to hear that the likes of Man Utd are considering a January bid.