As every year I make my personal top ten list of my favourite football teams of 2016. It is not a list with objective criteria, but a subjective list of teams that for some reason or other have caused impression on me during 2016. It is of course not so subjective that I just post about my favourite teams (It has been a dreadful year for Valencia, a hugely disappointing year for Argentina and Denmark, while Brøndby has been doing well, although still dwarfed in the Danish one-team league by FC Copenhagen).
So my list is as follows:
10) Atletico Madrid: Although they did not win anything this year, they continue to be one of the most difficult teams to defeat in Europe, and must always be considered a candidate. Most memorable was their victories against FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich on the way to the Champions League final, where they were only penalty kicks away from a victory over Real Madrid.
9) Brazil Olympic side: For the first time ever Brazil took Olympic Gold in a penalty kicks final victory over Germany. While this was a historic achievement it also presaged a return of the Brazilian national team in World Cup qualifiers. And we all hope 2017 will be great for Brazil!
8) Chile: In a special Copa America Anniversary tournament Chile won their second Copa America in a row after penalty kicks in the final against Argentina. I was personally very disappointed alongside the rest of Argentina (and notably Lionel Messi), but that does not take anything away from Chile's great achievement.
7) Portugal: Portugal were the victors of the European Championship, and for that they deserve to be on the list, although grudgingly, since they were poor champions of a hugely disappointing tournament with hugely disappointing matches. These types of tournaments, with 24 teams, are the early swan-song on national team football.
6) Iceland: While Portugal won, Iceland were the real champions of Euro 2016. Once in a while a small underestimated team makes people dream, and that is what Iceland did, not only against the later champions of Portugal, but notably in their incredible victory against overrated England. And their fans were truly fantastic!
5) Real Madrid: In January Zinedine Zidane became new Real Madrid manager, and under him the team seems to have found a stability they have been missing for years, as well as a good balance between the expatriate superstars and the local youths. While not taking the Liga title, they are leading at the end of the year, and most memorably was their Champions League final victory against Atletico Madrid on penalty kicks.
4) Sevilla: Sevilla has become the new team to challenge the duopoly of Spanish football. They made it to a memorable Copa del Rey final (which they lost to FC Barcelona) but most memorably took their third Europa League title in a row, completely outshining Liverpool in the final.
3) Chapecoense: Had it not been for the tragic plane crash that made them headlines all over, Chapecoense would still have made this list, since the small Brazilian team had made a stunning achievement in making it to the Copa Sudamericana. Chapecoense are forever champions.
2) Atletico Nacional de Medellin: Playing offensive and entertaining football Nacional de Medellin won the Copa Libertadores, and were on the way to another title when their final against Chapecoense was cancelled due to the tragic plane crash. In the face of the tragedy the club and its fans gave Chapecoense a fantastic farewell, and showed that what makes a team great is not just its titles but its dignity! They had a bad (and strange) Club World Cup, but that does not take anything from a great year.
1) Leicester: At the end of last year Leicester were first in the Premier League, but nobody actually believed that the little English side could get away with taking the title. Lo and behold, by May the impossible had happened, when Leicester were proclaimed Premier League Champions. This was surely one of the greatest football upsets of all time. Although they have been struggling to defend the title, they won their group in their first Champions League ever, and no matter what, 2016 will always be Leicesters' year!