Eurosport’s games of the year

From the African Cup of Nations to Euro 2008 via the Champions League and a wealth of domestic delights, 2008 has been a year to remember for the football world.

FOOTBALL 2008 Champions League final Manchester United with the trophy - 0

Eurosport-Yahoo!’s team of football reporters take time to pick out their own personal favourites from the past 12 months.

Egypt 1-0 Cameroon – African Cup of Nations final, February 10

Egypt won successive African Cup of Nations titles in style with a 4-1 semi-final win over favourites Ivory Coast and a double over Cameroon, including a 4-2 group win and tense 1-0 final victory. Egyptians initially felt their side might struggle outside of North Africa after 2006’s home win. Amr Zaki spurned an early chance, while Emad Metab and Hosni Abd Rabou forced saves from Carlos Kameni. The Pharaohs had to wait until the 77th minute for Mohamed Aboutrika to convert Mohamed Zidan’s square pass. They shut the game out and held on for a record sixth all-time win. Can Egypt continue their slick dominance into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? A continent waits. (Reda Maher)

Barnsley 1-0 Chelsea – FA Cup quarter-final, March 8

Anyone inside Oakwell when Barnsley beat Chelsea will never forget the experience. Hairs stood on end in the encroaching South Yorkshire darkness and the growing excitement of the home fans as they realised they had a chance of repeating their success over Liverpool at Anfield was delicious to savour. Everything built towards that crucial moment when the run of Marciano van Homoet took Wayne Bridge away from Martin Devaney; the winger’s cross hung for an age before Kayode Odejayi rose majestically above Carlo Cudicini to nod home and send the supporters wild. After a nerve-destroying final 25 minutes, Barnsley were in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. (Jonathan Symcox)

Tottenham Hotspur 4-4 Chelsea – Premier League, March 19

Chelsea arrived at White Hart Lane chasing leaders Manchester United and – inspired by a magnificent Joe Cole – led three times before a buoyant Spurs pegged them back. The final equaliser was a sublime Robbie Keane strike, before Carlo Cudicini pulled off a dramatic last-minute save from Dimitar Berbatov. But the match is best remembered for Ashley Cole‘s reaction to his booking for lunging dangerously at Alan Hutton. The footage of Cole turning his back on referee Mike Riley (“Ashley, turn around and face me. Ashley, you’ll get sent off in a minute, show some respect”) sparked the FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign. (Tony Mabert)

Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal (5-3 on agg) – Champions League quarter-final second leg, April 8

Not since Maradona at the 1986 World Cup has a player simply flown through a defence in the way that Theo Walcott did to set up the Emmanuel Adebayor goal that made it 2-2 at Anfield and put Arsenal ahead on away goals. Then there was Kolo Toure‘s contentious foul in the box moments later that put Liverpool in front and Ryan Babel‘s late clincher. All that happened in the last six minutes, but what came before was pure excitement too. A dramatic finish to an exhilarating game played in a red-hot atmosphere. Football heaven. (Sean Fay)

Ebbsfleet United 1-0 Torquay United – FA Trophy final, May 10

A crowd of over 40,000 at Wembley saw Ebbsfleet United – probably the first club in the world to be re-branded after a new train station – run out 1-0 victors in the FA Trophy final against Torquay United. Shortly before half-time, Fleet’s growing dominance was rewarded with a penalty when Chris McPhee was brought down. The midfielder took the kick himself but saw it saved; however, just minutes later, he made amends. John Akinde, who led the line so well that Bristol City bought him, laid the ball superbly across goal into McPhee’s path for the only goal of the game – agony, redemption and elation within five minutes for Fleet. (Lee Walker)

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 on pens) – Champions League final, May 21

The first all-English final arrived in Moscow amid unprecedented hype and much fanfare; yet somehow the game didn’t disappoint. A goal apiece, a reverberating post and a wobbling crossbar in normal time; deadlock, incredible tension and a red card in extra-time. All played out on a sodden pitch in the cold, driving Russian rain. And then of course there was the drama of the penalty shoot-out, when John Terry’s unfortunate slip and Cristiano Ronaldo‘s exhausted, yet relieved, flop to the turf soon after provided two of the most enduring memories of the sporting year. Joy, tears, one raised trophy and two discarded medals followed – this game really did have everything. (Mike Hytner)

Hull 1-0 Bristol City – Championship play-off final, May 24

Not for the 90 minutes of football – play-off finals mean too much to be great displays of the beautiful game – but for the fact that it means romance in football is not dead after all. People have been saying for years that no modern team could ever ‘do a Wimbledon’ by going through the divisions in the space of just a few years, but the fact that Hull have done exactly that, and done so with three of the original players still in the squad, gives a little fragment of hope to every fan of every downtrodden, miserable team in the league. Supporting lower league clubs had begun to feel like a lottery that nobody ever wins; Hull have proven that it really can happen. (Toby Keel)

Netherlands 3-0 Italy – Euro 2008 group stage, June 9

England‘s failure to reach Euro 2008 was a great thing because we could all stop worrying about Steve McClaren’s headless chickens and watch some great football instead. Exhibit A: Holland’s destruction of the World Cup holders. The second Dutch goal was a thing of rare beauty as Giovanni van Bronckhorst, having just cleared off the line, galloped forward on the break and pinged a diagonal ball for Dirk Kuyt, who headed down to Wesley Sneijder and the little man volleyed in. Thrilling stuff. The Dutch being the Dutch, it proved to be another false dawn, but it was nice while it lasted. (Alex Chick)

Turkey 3-2 Czech Republic, Euro 2008 group stage, June 15

Petr Cech may be regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but the Chelsea man’s horrendous gaffe played its part in a pulsating Turkey comeback victory. The Czechs were cruising at 2-0 up with 15 minutes to play thanks to early goals from Jan Koller and Jaroslav Plasil, although Arda Turan slid in to set up a tense finale. And Cech’s 87th-minute clanger proved the turning point as Nihat Kahveci equalised when the keeper dropped a routine cross before beating the offside trap and brilliantly curling in a shot off the underside of the crossbar. The Turks were into the quarter-finals. (Alex Sharratt)

Villarreal 4-4 Atletico Madrid – La Liga, October 26

This one was an absolute humdinger. Atletico were ahead within a minute when Simao crashed a shot in off the bar. Forlan doubled their lead on 22 minutes, before Ever Banega got himself sent off for a ridiculous lunge. Goals from Marcus Senna and Joseba Llorente drew Villarreal level early in the second half, before Javier Gonzalo completed a remarkable comeback to put the home side 3-2 up. Giuseppe Rossi then compounded Atletico’s woes with an impudent finish to make it 4-2. The visitors looked a broken side, but Simao finished with aplomb in the 83rd minute to give them hope. Three minutes later, Simao crossed for Raul Garcia to head home and bring Atletico level. Rip-roaring stuff. (Will Tidey)

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