Over the next couple weeks, the staff of 32 Flags will be counting down some of the top achievements and moments of this calendar year. 2016 has seen many things in the soccer world from the good to the bad and the ordinary to the extraordinary. Today, we are counting down the top non-Premier League matches of 2016.
Disclaimer: Obviously there is a lot to choose from when the category is simply “non Premier League” matches so there is no doubt that plenty of good matches will be left off. This list will skew towards the competitions that I paid most attention to (sorry Copa America and La Liga) but 10 best games I watched just doesn’t sound as good.
10) MLS Eastern Conference Finals First leg – Montreal 3-2 Toronto
If you know me, it’s actually incredible that I’d even consider putting an MLS match on this list but that’s how good this game (and to be honest, both legs) were. This game had it all: an incredible atmosphere, Michael Bradley bitching that his team was playing with a back three, some really lax defending (see below), and a nice comeback from Toronto that proved that not all first legs have to be boring.
Was the actual soccer the greatest? Absolutely not, but this game certainly delivered on the entertainment scale.
9) Bundesliga – Schalke 2-2 Borussia Dortmund (April)
When these two teams met in October, it was a drab 0-0 draw. But when the Revierderby was contested in April it certainly delivered. After a goalless first half, things got dramatic awfully quick. Shinji Kagawa opened the scoring with a fantastic goal, only to immediately have it negated by Leroy Sane. Five minutes later, Mathias Ginter put Dortmund back in front, but ultimately this would end with both teams splitting the points.
8) Copa America Centenario – Mexico 3-1 Uruguay (Group stage)
7) Euro 2016 – Italy 2-0 Spain (Round of 16)
Coming into the tournament, no one thought much of Italy. They simply didn’t have the same fire power as the Italians of old. What the Italians did have was a great manager in Antonio Conte. They turned heads when they dominated the Belgians in their first game, but it was their managers tactical masterpiece to eliminate the two time holders that was truly great. And we wonder why Chelsea are doing so well this season?
6) Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Werder Bremen (May)
You may notice Dortmund making a bunch of appearances on this list. Well, when defense isn’t your strong suit and your managers solution isn’t play more defensively to help them out but rather he simply tries to outscore his opponents. That leads to a lot of really entertaining games and this one against Bremen was no different. A 1-0 lead became a 2-1 deficit only for Dortmund to turn it around to grab a 3-2 win. Oh and all of this happened in the second half.
5) Champions League – Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Real Madrid (September)
These two teams were a contrast in every way. Dortmund with their mix of World Cup veterans and the stars of tomorrow in Osumane Dembele, Julian Weigl, Emre Mor, and Christian Pulisic. Real Madrid with their high priced superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Gareth Bale. Los Blancos came to Germany looking to show the Black and Yellow’s who was boss, and they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. In the second half, Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel introduced some of his highly touted teams into the game, and suddenly Real Madrid didn’t look so great anymore as Dortmund fought back to get a big draw.
4) Euro 2016 – Hungary 3-3 Portugal (Group Stage)
Last summer’s Euros are not going to be remembered for their thrilling play. It could be because Portugal turned out to be one of the most uninspiring winners ever. The expanded format encouraged teams to simply not lose rather than try to win and no one did that more than Portugal. Six of their seven games were very drab affairs with the exception of this one. Facing a surprising Hungary team, Portugal needed a point to advance to the knockout round. No one expected the Hungarians to compete with Portugal but throughout the match they looked the better side. That was until Cristiano Ronaldo put his country on his back and refused to allow his team to be eliminated.
3) Champions League – Juventus 4-6 Bayern Munich (Round of 16, both legs)
Breaking this round of 16 tie up into two games would simply be unfair so we’re counting them as one big game. No one gave Juventus much of a chance after drawing the Bavarian giants in the round of 16, and it didn’t help when Bayern scored two quick away goals in the first leg. But in the second half things changed as Juventus fought back to earn a draw. The second leg featured the exact opposite. Juventus grabbed two early away goals and were just 20 minutes away from the quarterfinals. A Robert Lewandowski goal, and a Thomas Muller injury time equalizer sent the game to extra time, where Bayern grabbed another two goals to secure a thrilling 6-4 win on aggregate.
2) Euro 2016 – France 2-0 Germany (Semifinal)
There weren’t many great games at last summer’s Euros, with more teams focused on not losing rather than winner. But not the semifinal between Germany and France. Arguably the two best teams in the tournament both going all out for the win turned out to be just as good of a game as you’d expect. It’s too bad it couldn’t be the final.
1) Europa League – Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund (second leg – April)
There are a lot of Liverpool fans among the writers of this site that might have shown some bias and put this game as number one. I am certainly not one of them but great recognizes great. You always knew you were going to get a good one when you got Jurgen Klopp’s team against the team Jurgen Klopp built but who could have imagined this one? In the first half, Liverpool didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field as Dortmund. The second half was a different story that saw the field get flipped completely in the other direction. Dortmund looked set to advance on away goals until Dejan Lovern completed the comeback and struck a winner in injury time. Despite the late goal, Liverpool couldn’t exhale as Dortmund nearly found their equalizer at the death. What a game.