November 22, 2012
Spain’s outstanding football team seem certain to be one of the favourites for Nomination for the 2013 Laureus World Team of the Year Award, after their victory in the 2012 UEFA European Championship.
Under coach Vicente del Bosque, Spain became the first national team to win three major championships consecutively – Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and now Euro 2012. They already hold the 2011 Laureus World Team of the Year Award after their World Cup victory in South Africa in 2010.
Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports more than 100 community sports projects around the world that have helped to improve the lives of over one-and-a-half million young people.
Such was the power and skill of their 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final that experts are asking the question: is Spain the greatest international football team in history? Spain conceded only one goal in Euro 2012, such was their supremacy, and no fewer than ten of their players were named in the 23-strong Team of the Tournament, chosen by UEFA’s technical group – Alba, Alonso, Busquets, Casillas, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pique, Ramos, Silva and Xavi. Andres Iniesta was named Best Player of Euro 2012 and striker Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot as leading scorer with three goals.
Football provides several other strong contenders. Mexico Men’s Olympic Football Team, under coach Luis Fernando Tena, beat hot favourites Brazil 2-1 in the final at Wembley to win their first ever Olympic gold medal. It was arguably the most famous victory in the country’s football history.
The United States Women’s Olympic Football Team won its third straight Olympic gold medal, beating Japan 2-1 in a rematch of last year's World Cup Final and avenging the most painful loss in the history of American women’s football. Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves to secure the gold medal. The game was watched by 80,203, an Olympic record for a women’s soccer match.
English Premier League club Chelsea produced a remarkable European Champions League victory. Under caretaker-manager Roberto di Matteo, they beat two of Europe’s top clubs in the final stages. First they beat Barcelona in the semi-final, despite having captain John Terry sent off after 37 minutes in the second leg match. Then in the final they beat Bayern Munich, at Bayern’s own ground, 4-3 on penalties, after Didier Drogba had levelled the scores in normal time at 1-1 with just two minutes left.
The Olympic Games in London produced some excellent team performances. Once again the China Olympic Table Tennis Team were the dominant force in table tennis, winning all the medals they possibly could - four gold and two silver. It means since 1988 when table tennis was added to the Olympics, China has won 23 out of a possible 27 gold medals.
Two American teams who have shown consistent success were gold medal winners again. The United States Olympic Beach Volleyball Team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their third consecutive Olympic beach volleyball title. While the United States Men’s Basketball Team won their 14th Olympic basketball gold medal as they beat Spain 107-100 in the final to defend the title they won in Beijing. Led by inspiring plays from LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and newcomer Kevin Durant, the US team scored over 100 points in five of their seven matches, including a record 158 against Nigeria.
Britain’s cycling Team Sky, under general manager Dave Brailsford and sporting director Sean Yates, won both the Olympic Time Trial through Bradley Wiggins and had both first and second riders home in the Tour de France with Wiggins and runner-up Chris Froome.
Led by Jaqueline Carvalho, Brazil Women’s Volleyball Team triumphantly secured their second straight Olympic title in London with a 3-1 victory over the United States, who were top seeds and had beaten Brazil in a preliminary match. Brazil had come close to elimination in the group stages, losing also to South Korea, so to fight back to win the gold medal was even more satisfying.
The France Men’s Handball Team won their second straight Olympic handball gold medal, having also won in Beijing. Their success followed on from last year when they became the first team in 37 years to retain the world championship. They have now won five major titles in a row. In the final, France beat Sweden in a 22-21 thriller, with Luc Abalo scoring the crucial goal with just 60 seconds remaining.
Jan Philipp Rabente scored both goals as the Germany Men’s Olympic Hockey Team beat the Netherlands 2-1 at the London Olympics to win their second straight field hockey gold medal. As defending champions from Beijing, Germany only lost one match throughout the entire tournament. They also knocked out world champions Australia in the semi-final.
Away from the Olympics, there were many inspirational team successes. Under the captaincy of Jose Maria Olazabal, the European Ryder Cup Team produced a stunning final-day fightback to win the Ryder Cup in Chicago. The United States needed only 4½ points from 12 singles matches to win, but it was the Europeans who won eight matches and halved another to secure a historic 14½-13½ win. Top performers were Ian Poulter, who won all four matches he played, and Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, who each won three matches.
Red Bull won its third straight Formula One World Constructors Championship with a strong run at the end of the year. Powered by a Renault engine and created by top designer Adrian Newey, the car was upgraded at the end of September which resulted in four straight Grand Prix wins for Sebastian Vettel in Singapore, Japan, Korea and India. Vettel also won the Bahrain Grand Prix in April, while his team-mate Mark Webber won the Monaco Grand Prix in May and the British Grand Prix in July.
Miami Heat beat Oklahoma Thunder 4-1 in the NBA Play-offs to win their second NBA title. LeBron James was named MVP in the finals after averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. Under head coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have been driven by the ‘big three’ - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – for two years now. In the play-offs they beat New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics to reach the final.
Also in the United States, New York Giants beat New England Patriots 21-17 to win their fourth Super Bowl at the end of the 2011/12 season. Eli Manning, who completed 30 of 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown, was named Super Bowl MVP for the second time in his career. The winning touchdown was preceded by a spectacular 38 yard reception by receiver Mario Manningham. The team now ranks third for championship wins with eight, only Green Bay Packers (13) and Chicago Bears (9) have more. And in college football, Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Louisiana State University 21-0 in the first shutout in the history of the college football national championship game. Alabama qualified for the match after an 11-1 winning campaign.
The South Africa Cricket Team beat England 2-0 in the Northern Hemisphere summer to take over as the No 1 Test cricket team in the world. By leading South Africa to the top of the rankings, coach Gary Kirsten became the first man to take two teams to the No 1 position. First it was with India and now his home country. Led by experienced captain Graeme Smith, as of October 2012, South Africa have four batsmen in the top seven of the averages – Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and A.B de Villiers. And the top two bowlers, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and football legend Bobby Charlton said: “The Olympic Games were wonderful and there were so many great team performances to enjoy, but I thought some of the achievements away from London were just as impressive. What can you say about the Spanish football team? To win two European Championships and the World Cup in a four year period is just breath-taking. A lot of football experts were saying this might be the year when they started to lose some of their dominance, but they showed us all that they are still an amazing group playing marvellous football. As a golfer, I was also thrilled by the last day’s play in the Ryder Cup, when the European Team came back from the dead to win. It was an unforgettable day of sporting drama. And with some of the other great teams in the mix, like Miami Heat and the Sky Cycle Team, it is going to be a really difficult decision this year which way to vote.”