In Part 2 of 4 pieces, we put the spotlight on Real Madrid’s record-breaking La Liga season. There is also space for Chelsea’s stunning UEFA Champions League triumph, Montpellier’s surprising French Ligue 1 success, Holland’s shocking Euro 2012 campaign and Spain’s ultimate victory as Europe’s best.
May 13, 2012 – It had not been done before in the history of La Liga. Not even Barcelona, during Pep Guardiola’s marvellous four-year spell as coach, reached a century of points.
Three of Real Madrid’s 100 points came at the Camp Nou in front of 99,252 spectators. The April 21 Clasico is the particular encounter that sealed Los Blancos’ edge over Barcelona in the 2011/12 Spanish La Liga season. It also represented Madrid’s first El Clasico victory at the Camp Nou in La Liga since 2007.
Club top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who netted a whopping 46 goals on the road to glory, eventually describe his team’s 32nd league triumph as phenomenal, stating:
“I think the best moment so far was winning La Liga. Because I think the Spanish league is the hardest in the world. It has great teams like Barcelona and to finish nine points ahead of them... that says a lot.”
May 19, 2012 – Against all the odds, Chelsea rose above 31 other UEFA Champions League contenders to win the glittering trophy in Munich. The Blues never imposed themselves as the team to watch in the group stages even though they won their section ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia and Genk.
The turning point in their season was certainly the dismissal of 2011 UEFA Europa League winning coach Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese manager had left Chelsea in an awkward position following a 3-1 loss away in Napoli in the Round of 16.
Proving pundits wrong, the Blues made a spectacular comeback at Stamford Bridge by exhibiting team play through goals from Drogba, Terry, Lampard and Ivanovic.
Inspired by this feat, they cruised past Benfica in the Last 8 and fearlessly affronted Barcelona in the semis. Didier Drogba again rose to the occasion in both legs while three-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi failed – for the sixth and seventh time in his career – to beat Chelsea’s goal line.
In the final in Munich, the Blues denied Thomas Mueller from handing a late victory for Bayern. An equalizer by man-of-the-match Didier Drogba sent the game into extra-time.
The Ivoirian nearly turned into a villain when he conceded a spot kick which Arjen Robben took only to see Petr Cech saving it. In the penalty shoot-outs, Chelsea prevailed 4-3 to take home the trophy owner Roman Abramovich had always been craving.
May 20, 2012 – Nobody had predicted that Montpellier would clinch the French crown last season. Lyon, Marseille, PSG and Lille all fell by the wayside as the underdogs dashed to the title.
Montpellier’s secret recipe was a really good defence. They conceded the least number of goals in the French Ligue 1 alongside Toulouse, 34. They scored the third highest number of goals in the league, 68.
Montpellier’s defenders including Vitorino Hilton and Henri Bedimo were excellent. Olivier Giroud amazed the fans with 21 goals and nine assists before moving to Arsenal. Younes Belhanda played his part too with 12 goals to his name.
Overall, the victory was an amazing one considering that Montpellier was only promoted back to Ligue 1 recently. There were arguably no champions more worthy than Montpellier in Europe last season considering their struggles and size on paper.
June 17, 2012 – From club football, the focus turned to the 2012 European Championship and the Oranje were among the three favourites to win it. Alongside Germany and Spain, the Netherlands were widely considered as invincible. They were placed in the group of death with the Danes, the Portuguese and the DFB Eleven.
Pre-tournament predictions favoured the Dutch to win the group and cruise to the very final stage. However, divisions in the dressing room and poor performances on the pitch saw the 2010 FIFA World Cup runners-up exit Euro 2012 in the group stage.
Adding to their sorrows is the fact that they crashed out with zero point. Their 2-1 loss to semi-finalists Portugal in Kharkiv on June 17 closed a dark period in the history of Dutch football.
July 1, 2012 – For La Furia Roja, the adventure in Poland and Ukraine was completely different from the Oranje’s.
The best way for Vicente Del Bosque to put his critics to bed was to guide his side to success. Spain met Croatia, the Republic of Ireland, France and Portugal before facing the Italians in the final against whom they started the defence of their European crown.
The Spaniards brought ‘Super Mario’ Balotelli back to planet Earth as the scoreboard red 4-0 against the Azzurri at the end of proceedings.
Juan Mata, who played no more than five minutes during the tournament, rounded up Spain’s triumph and a certain £50M signing – namely Fernando Torres – grabbed the Euro 2012 Golden Boot.