- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

With the new year upon us, it’s time to look back at the best and the worst from the world of soccer in 2004.

Cheers to Greece, which stunned the soccer world by winning Euro 2004 in Portugal. Forget the Miracle on Ice; this was the biggest upset in sports history, period. The 100-1 underdog Greeks never had won a game in a major tournament before. And Greece dispatched mighty France and the hosts on the way to victory.

Jeers to the Los Angeles Galaxy for giving 2004 All-Star coach Sigi Schmid the pink slip when the team was sitting atop the Western Conference.

Cheers to D.C. United’s loyal fans, the noisiest and most colorful in Major League Soccer.

Jeers to Premier League club Southampton for giving coach Paul Sturrock the boot just two games into the new season — and one of those games was a win!

Cheers to Iraq’s Olympic team for reaching the bronze medal game at the Athens Olympics before losing 1-0 to Italy.

Jeers to Iraqi midfielder Ahmed Manajid, who accused President Bush of slaughtering men and women in Iraq. Does Manajid remember when Saddam Hussein’s son Uday used to torture Olympic athletes?

Cheers to Mia Hamm’s fellow Olympians, who elected Hamm to carry the flag at the closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympics. A little respect for soccer, or were they trying to get free Chicago Cubs tickets from hubby Nomar?

Jeers to Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand who failed to turn up for a drug test and was banned for eight months.

Cheers to Bolton’s Jay-Jay Okocha for having the best throw-in the game. The Nigerian can throw a ball into the 6-yard box every time.

Cheers to Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, who led the Gunners to the English title, going unbeaten in the season and running the club’s winning streak to 49 games.

Jeers to the officials at Brazilian club Sao Caetano, who may be partly to blame for the death of midfielder Serginho. The 30-year-old suffered a heart attack and died during the second half of a Brazilian Championship match against Sao Paulo on Oct. 27. Doctors at Incor Heart Institute reportedly told both the player and club Serginho had a potentially fatal heart condition.

Cheers to Portsmouth’s Lomana LuaLua, who performs the best goal celebration. The Congolese star does a nice double back-flip routine followed by a sideways somersault with the aplomb of Paul Hamm.

Jeers to Tottenham Hotspur’s Roy Keane, whose goal celebration is a tacky cartwheel followed by a simple forward roll.

Cheers to the best soccer analyst in the business — Fox Sports World’s Bobby McMahon.

Jeers to China for failing to make it to the 2006 World Cup. After reaching the World Cup in 2002 for the first time, it was believed the sleeping giant finally had awoken. But a 1-0 loss to Kuwait early in qualifying sealed China’s fate.

Cheers to MLS for adding two teams — Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake — to the league.

Jeers to Scottish soccer. With almost no hope of the national team qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, Scotland’s three big clubs crashed out of European competitions in recent months. Where’s Dennis Law when you need him?

Cheers to one of the greatest MLS games ever, when D.C. United and the New England Revolution played to a 3-3 tie in the Eastern Conference final. United won on penalty kicks.

Jeers to Manchester City forward Nicolas Anelka for saying his team was not “ambitious” or “big” enough. Anelka has played for ambitious and big teams — Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool and the French national team — and has rocked the boat every time.

Cheers to U.S. team striker Abby Wambach, who scored an amazing 31 goals in 30 games in 2004, taking her career total to 45.

Jeers to those Spanish fans who participated in racist chants when England played Spain in an exhibition game in Madrid in November.

Cheers to the 20 English Premier League clubs that are donating $96,000 each to the relief efforts in South Asia. Many of the clubs have large followings in that area of the world, especially Manchester United, which sells more than 200,000 copies of its monthly magazine in Thailand and Malaysia.

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