What a year it's been for football - here are JOE's 2018 highlights
What a year it's been, in football if nothing else
Yes, global politics is still a shit storm, along with the increasing and more perilous warnings about the bleak future for our planet's climate, but there was also a brilliant World Cup. So, swings and roundabouts.
As with any year featuring a World Cup, as well as the customary domestic football and continental tournaments, 2018 had a plethora of stunning moments.
With the year coming to an end in the way that almost every year does, it seems like the appropriate time to look back at those moments, so here we go...
Liverpool's 2017/18 Champions League run
We're going to start with one of the most surprising stories from last season: Liverpool's run to the 2017/18 Champions League final. Jurgen Klopp's team were totally unfancied going into the competition, having waited ten years since their last semi-final appearance.
Nonetheless, they pulverised their opponents with a level of pressing and counter-attacking that few had expected. It saw them comfortably defeat Porto and utterly blow away eventual Premier League winners Manchester City, before beating AS Roma in the semis.
It was a thrilling run that even saw neutrals cheering for a team playing genuinely attacking football and succeeding as a result. Yes, they lost the final but even that was entertaining because...
The most soap opera Champions League final in ages
As good as Liverpool's run in the Champions League was, in terms of drama few things could top the manner in which they lost the final to Real Madrid. Coming into the game Liverpool were the plucky upstarts and Madrid the evil jocks - and the LaLiga side fulfilled their role of villain perfectly.
They did so early on, as shithouse-in-chief Sergio Ramos grabbed the bull by the horns. That bull was Mohamed Salah and the horns were the Egyptian's arm which Ramos hooked as the two collided only half an hour into the game - resulting in Salah dislocating his shoulder and departing the pitch.
What followed was as ludicrous as it was a thrill to watch. Madrid's opener came courtesy of a torturous/hilarious Loris Karius error as the German goalkeeper threw the ball against Karim Benzema's leg and in. Five minutes later Liverpool equalised through Sadio Mane and their hope was evident. They could do it, they could really do it.
And they might have if, less than 10 minutes later, Gareth Bale hadn't scored a fucking exquisite bicycle kick.
That took the wind out of Liverpool's sails, before Madrid decided to simply burn the sails altogether courtesy of another goal that came from another awful Karius error.
It had it all, and it will never be forgotten.
Kieran Trippier's free-kick against Croatia
Prior to the summer of 2018 there were two solid facts surrounding the England national team. Firstly, England teams don't do well at international tournaments. Secondly, England players don't do extraordinary things at international tournaments.
For decades these two statements were almost set in stone, but last summer that all changed and the moment that encapsulated this change more than any other was Kieran Trippier having the audacity to score a spectacular free-kick in a World Cup semi-final.
It was a brilliant strike. Always high, never close to wall or keeper, always going in. Stupendous. How, given the history that has preceded this team, he even let this consideration enter his mind, is beyond us all. But we're glad he did it, because it was great.
England winning a penalty fucking shoot-out
Go on, watch it again. You know you want to. You can't resist it.
Jordan Pickford's save vs Colombia
The resulting corner led to a goal, but this save remains one of the best of the year so far. It was so good that we wrote an entire article about it, and we remain fully behind that decision. Save of the tournament. Save of 2018.
Croatia's demolition of Argentina
Few results truly shook up the World Cup more than Croatia's 3-0 victory over Argentina in the second round of games in Group D. Everyone knew that Croatia were a good side, but not this good, and few of us truly realised how poor Argentina really were.
By the end of this game we were under no doubt about either.
Kylian Mbappe's arrival on the world stage
By now we are all well aware of the fact that Kylian Mbappe is a world-class talent and, quite honestly, the closest long-term challenger to Lionel Messi's throne.
His pace, positional awareness, technical skill and ruthless streak in front of goal were all on show during France's World Cup second round when Les Bleus came from behind to destroy Argentina.
The goal of the game came from Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard, but the perfomance of the game came courtesy of Mbappe, who terrorised Argentina's defence in a display which confidently announced: "I have arrived and I am one of the best players in the world, at 19".
He won a penalty early on after a surging run from his own half, before scoring France's final two goals; one an almost one-two with himself inside of Argentina's box, and the other a swift and ruthless finish to a France breakaway. As World Cup introductions go it was one of the tournament's most impressive of all time.
Lionel Messi's ludicrous goal vs Nigeria
The pass, the look, the run, the awareness of everything around him, the otherworldly cushion of the ball on his thigh and the other-dimensional touch with his in-step. Then the goal. This was the best goal of the World Cup.
That Iranian throw-in
Some moments in the year were highlights for their brilliance, others - like this - have been chosen for their absurdity.
This moment came courtesy of the forever legendary Iran defender Milad Mohammadi, during Spain's 1-0 victory against Carlos Queiroz's side. With Iran chasing the game, Mohammadi felt the best way to find an all-important equaliser was to attempt a ludicrous front-flip throw-in. It didn't work, but it was still brilliant.
That Senegal warm up dance
Some warm-ups are good. Some dances are good. Some warm-ups combine with dances to be the best thing in the world. This was one of those. Senegal's warm up dance exemplified the joy of the World Cup and made us all joyful at the same time.
France's World Cup song
"Ramenez la coupe à la maison" is the song of the year, hands down. The fact that we still sing it in the office today is testament to that fact. As good as it is, it's added to by the above video, in which you will see all of the France players having the time of their lives singing and dancing to a song written about them. That's the dream right there.
Dog saving a goal-bound shot
We all love dogs and we all love football. The only thing better than both of those is the two combined. That's what happened in South America recently when one cunning canine stepped in and did what he thought best to claim this writer's moment of the year.
- Divock Origi's late, 'WTF' winner for Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby
- Ruben Neves' volley against Derby
- Spurs being hopeless in the Champions League then reaching the last 16 with five minutes to play against Barcelona
- Germany being dumped out of the World Cup by South Korea
- Julen Lopetegui giving us all perspective on what it means to have a truly terrible year
- Roma's comeback against Barcelona - and Peter Drury's commentary
- Phil Jones' own goal against Valencia