The five greatest football matches of the decade

It’s hard to believe that we are swinging into a new decade, and yet the 2020s are just around the corner. The 2010s in football were characterised by many things: the dominance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi; Real Madrid’s relentless pursuit of Champions League trophies; the decline of Manchester United after Alex Ferguson’s retirement. And, of course, some really memorable matches.

But which games will be remembered decades from now? It’s difficult to quantify something so subjective as the “best” or the “greatest”, so we are sure there will be some disagreement with our selections below. Yet, we believe these iconic games will live long in the memory for various reasons.

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

  1. Manchester City 3 QPR 2 – 13th May 2012

If there was ever a moment made for watching live football, it was the 95th minute of this game in the Etihad Stadium. Manchester United had just won at Sunderland, securing the title unless City could find a goal in the dying seconds. They did, of course, thanks to Sergio Aguero, and the rest was history. Watching back the game now, it was a pretty cagey affair, more about City bottling it over 90 minutes. But the last few minutes are among the most iconic in Premier League history. A title race going down literally to the last few seconds of the season – it will never be as close again.

  • Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0 – 29th November 2010

 El Clásico is watched by around 650 million people worldwide according to Forbes, and possibly even more as there are many ways to watch your sports events from anywhere thanks to streaming sites and VPNs. Anyway, why does this drubbing of Madrid handed out by Barcelona warrant inclusion? Because it was Guardiola’s Barcelona team in their absolute pomp, and thus we witnessed arguably the greatest club side in history at its very best. You have to remember how good Madrid were here too, with a team containing Casillas, Ramos, Alonso and Ronaldo. They were simply blown away as Barcelona marched inexorably towards a Treble.

  • Iceland 2 England 1 – 28th June 2016

We said this was subjective, and while your humble narrator here is not Icelandic, nobody outside of England could fail to cheer on Iceland in the biggest giant killing of the 21st century. Look, the game very poor, and Iceland’s win was more about the failures of Roy Hodgson, who resigned right after the game. But it was one of those moments that show how powerful football can be at times. Get this for a statistic: 27,000 Icelanders are said to have been in the crowd at Stade de Nice, meaning about 8% of the country’s population were in the stadium. Moreover, the viewing figures showed that 99.8% of the population watched the match. Incredible.

  • Germany 7 Brazil 1 – 8th July 2014

Nobody expected this. Did Brazil bottle it? Or were Germany magnificent? It’s arguably somewhere in between. But from the moment Tomas Muller opened the scoring in the 11th minute, the Estádio Mineirão fell into a kind of state of surreal disbelief for the next 80. Germany had a decent World Cup up to this point, but not great. Yet, everything seemed to click here. Brazil were famously without the talismanic Neymar, but still had enough to warrant making a game of it. Perhaps what underlines the ‘greatness’ of this game more than anything is that it is still remembered much better than the subsequent World Cup Final, when Germany squeaked out a scrappy win against Argentina.

  • Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 – 7th May 2019

One of the reasons this was such a shock was that Liverpool reversing a 3-0 first leg deficit is exactly the type of thing Barcelona had been doing in recent years. Indeed, we considered putting in Barcelona’s 6-1 defeat of PSG (2017), which reversed a 4-0 deficit, but decided to stick with Liverpool as they went on to win the Champions League. Like other games on this list, the match over the 90 minutes is probably venerated a little bit too much, as there were long periods of the teams going through the motions. However, when Georginio Wijnaldum got Liverpool’s second after 54 minutes, things picked up. Two minutes later, the whole stadium was rocking. And, when Divock Origi got the 4th, the whole of Anfield went nearly went into orbit.  

The five greatest football matches of the decade

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