The Teams that Became Global Superpowers in 2021 compete for the Laureus World Team of the Year Awar

They sparked wild street celebrations; they met with presidents; they inspired towering murals and one of the year’s most memorable sporting memes. The Nominees for the Laureus World Team of the Year Award proved that even for the modern sports team – vast organisations that combine athletic excellence with scientific and technical innovation – the most important connection is the one they share with their fans.
Sometimes, however, there are fans and there are fans. The 2021 NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, restarted a long-standing tradition by becoming the first winners to visit the White House since Barack Obama left office. President Joe Biden was determined to focus on his fellow Delaware native, Donte DiVincenzo, but for most observers the star of the team was Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was named league MVP, NBA Finals MVP and defensive player of the year after a 4-2 series victory over the Phoenix Suns ended a 50-year championship drought for the Bucks. The Greek forward, however, recognised the importance of the unit.
“It takes more than one person to win 60 games,” Antetokounmpo said. “Every time I walked into the locker room I saw my teammates, they were ready to go, to fight.”
President Biden also praised the Bucks for their activism. In 2020, they refused to play Game Five of their first round match against the Orlando Magic in the wake of the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, of Jacob Blake.

In football, Argentina had waited almost three decades to win the Copa America. A lack of group harmony partly explained previous failures but under the exuberant Lionel Scaloni there was a new-found stability and it provided the platform for Lionel Messi – often hamstrung by that uncertainty – to flourish. At the age of 34, Messi was joint top-scorer and player of the tournament as Argentina cruised to the final, where they defeated Brazil 1-0 to end 28 years of misery. In Buenos Aires, a 200-feet tall mural depicting the victorious captain adorned the side of a tower block to remind the city of a famous victory.

We are Argentina. Who the Opponent is doesn't matter.

Lionel messi
Scaloni's troops were not the only side to end a long sequence without a trophy. Italy last lifted the European Championship crown in 1968, an achievement they replicated on a balmy night in London last July when they beat England on penalties. This was a victory for attentive planning every bit as much as sophisticated Italian style. Roberto Mancini and his team of powder-blue suited coaches timed Italy's build up to the finals perfectly. Carrying a three-year unbeaten streak into the tournament they rode that momentum all the way to a nail-biting shootout victory at Wembley and beyond, to set a new record for the longest sequence of international games without defeat. Their dominance in the competition was reflected by the presence of five players – Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Jorginho and Leonardo Spinazzola – in the team of the tournament. Bonucci provided the defining moment of their post-match celebrations, grabbing a television camera and yelling his own version of the song that had carried England all the way to the final: ‘It’s Coming To Rome!’
The Barcelona women's team made history of their own when they won their first Champions League by beating Chelsea 4-0, the biggest winning margin in a women's final. Barca had their own stellar performer in Alexia Putellas, who scored one goal and set up another against the London club and was named UEFA Women's Player of the Year and awarded the Ballon d'Or, personal prizes that also spoke to her club's collective dominance at domestic level, where they lost just once in La Liga on their way to a 99-point title-winning campaign.

We do not set limits.

Alexia Putellas
There were few more complete teams in the pool at the Tokyo Olympics than China's divers, led by Xie Siyi, who won gold in the three metre springboard individual and synchronised events, and 14-year-old Quan Hongchan. China took gold in seven of the eight events. So dominant were they that even their one failure – a mere silver medal – would have been considered a success for any other team. It equalled the greatest diving performance in Olympic history.
The Formula One season was bittersweet for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team, whose ace, Lewis Hamilton, lost the Drivers’ Championship on the last lap of the final race in controversial circumstances. When the smoke cleared, however, the German juggernaut held on to its Constructors’ Championship, extending a record that now stands at eight consecutive titles. Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas – in their final season together after five incredible years – were backed up by an organisation the likes of which the sport has never seen.
In an era when the power of the individual is greater than ever, the unique power of a winning team to ignite the passion and pride of its supporters remained undimmed in 2021.


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