December 01, 2009
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Yahoo! Sports' "Best of Decade" review looks at the stories that got soccer buzzing over the last 10 years.
From tragedy to lunacy to cold, hard cash, these were the topics that generated headlines aplenty and ceaseless discussion among soccer junkies of the 2000s.
Vote for your story of the decade in the poll below. Also, share your thoughts and comments.
5. Hope goes Solo with angry World Cup rant
It is not often that soccer, or indeed women's sports, becomes big news in the United States. But Hope Solo's furious comments after being left out of the women's national team's 4-0 World Cup semifinal defeat to Brazil in 2007 became a hot topic across the nation.
Solo lashed out after being ditched from the starting lineup in favor of veteran Briana Scurry, who went on to give an unconvincing performance as the U.S. was dumped out of the tournament.
Solo insisted she would have prevented the goals that Scurry let in and accused head coach Greg Ryan of living in the past by selecting her goalkeeping rival.
Her actions led to her being sent home from China in disgrace and left out of three subsequent matches.
4. The Italian match-fixing scandal
Italian soccer was plunged into crisis in 2005 and 2006, with the nation rocked by a deep-rooted scandal involving several of its biggest clubs.
AC Milan, Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio were all implicated in a web of deceit that included rigging games by arranging for the use of favorable match referees.
Juventus was demoted to Serie B in the wake of the incident, and even victory for the national side in the 2006 World Cup could not fully restore pride to Italian soccer.
3. Billion-dollar babies
It was soccer's decade of decadence as money flowed throughout the sport like never before.
Monstrous television deals enticed heavyweight investors such as Roman Abramovich and Malcolm Glazer and meant the biggest clubs could splash cash on countless star players.
Real Madrid's Galacticos led the way in the wealth stakes at the beginning and end of the 2000s, regularly targeting the world's best in blockbuster transfers including a world-record $131 million for Cristiano Ronaldo last summer. At Chelsea, Abramovich turned a club that was teetering on the brink of financial disaster into one of the richest in Europe with one flick of his fountain pen in 2003.
2. David Beckham joins Major League Soccer
When the news first popped up on the news bulletins, many in Europe refused to believe it. David Beckham, the most famous soccer player on the planet, leaving Real Madrid to join the Los Angeles Galaxy?
But it was true. The Galaxy and MLS had pulled off a spectacular coup by tempting Beckham to come to North America in a move designed to revolutionize soccer in the United States. Beckham's arrival was greeted by a whirlwind of hype and publicity, with more than 600 journalists showing up for his gala unveiling at the Home Depot Center.
Beckham's switch to MLS was a flop for two years but has since improved drastically with the Galaxy reaching this year's MLS Cup final. As for the final result of the Beckham Experiment, it remains to be seen.
1. The headbutt
Let's just say it wasn't meant to end like this.
Zinedine Zidane's spectacular international career came to a screeching halt on the biggest stage of all when he was sent off in the 2006 World Cup final with the French locked in a 1-1 tie with Italy. Following alleged racial provocation from Italian defender Marco Materazzi, the two-time World Footballer of the Year turned and head-butted Materazzi in the chest, sending him sprawling to the turf.
Italy went on to win the title in a penalty shootout, leaving one of the game's all-time greats to rue the moment of madness that would become one of the most notorious incidents in World Cup history.
Photos by Associated Press and Getty Images