2019 was an eventful year in international football on and off the pitch. The United States claimed a record-extending fourth Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over European champions, the Netherlands, in the final in Lyon, France. And star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, helped Portugal to lift the inaugural UEFA Nations League on home soil.
US coach Jill Ellis retired soon after the Women’s World Cup, leaving as the most successful coach in the national team’s history. She won two Women’s World Cup, the only coach ever to do so, and finished with a record of 106 wins in her 132 matches in charge.
Goals from Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle against the Netherlands helped the US add to their 1991, 1999 and 2015 titles.
Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus played a major role in one goal, scored another and was sent off in the second half as they beat Peru 3-1 to win the Copa America for the ninth time in a pulsating match at the Maracana stadium. It was Brazil’s first major title since they won the Copa America in 2007 and the first for coach Tite, who took charge in 2016.
They also did it without Neymar, who was injured on the eve of the tournament.
Algeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for the second time when a freak second-minute goal by Baghdad Bounedjah gave them a 1-0 win over Senegal in the final in Cairo. The final whistle provoked wild celebrations among the large contingent of travelling Algeria fans. It was a fitting end to a tournament that, with 24 teams for the first time, produced plenty of drama, even though the quality was sometimes lacking.
In one of the biggest upsets at 2019’s tournament, powerhouses Nigeria lost to minnows Madagascar in the group stages of the tournament. On the other hand, hosts Egypt who were amongst the tournament favourites, were booted out of the tournament by South Africa in the last 16.
Portugal became the first team to win UEFA’s Nations League competition when a well-crafted goal by Goncalo Guedes gave them a 1-0 win over the Netherlands in the final. The 22-year-old Guedes beat goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with a shot from the edge of the area on the hour for his fourth international goal in 17 appearances.
Portugal had only 45% of possession, but were more dangerous throughout, as they added another trophy to the Euro 2016 title they won in 2016 with a 1-0 win against hosts France, also under coach Fernando Santos.
An early Mohamed Salah penalty and a late strike by Divock Origi gave Liverpool a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the all-English UEFA Champions League final as their coach Juergen Klopp finally got his hands on Europe’s biggest club title.
Egypt striker Salah, who had painful memories of 2018’s final defeat by Real Madrid after suffering a shoulder injury, got his side off to a flying start in Madrid by lashing home from the penalty spot after a handball from Moussa Sissoko.
Liverpool did not produce much of their usual attacking football, but they were more intelligent and powerful than Spurs and sealed a sixth European Cup triumph. The win was sweet redemption for Salah and especially German Klopp, who has suffered defeat in his last six appearances in major finals including Champions League showpieces with Borussia Dortmund in 2013 and Liverpool in 2018.
Following a slow start to the new season, Spurs parted ways with coach Mauricio Pochettino, replacing him with Jose Mourinho.
In another all English final, Chelsea won the Europa League by beating Arsenal 4-1. Coach Maurizio Sarri had secured Chelsea’s place in next season’s Champions League with a third-place finish in the Premier League before he led the Londoners to their third European title since 2012 in the Olympic Stadium in Baku.
Sarri left the club in the summer and Chelsea appointed fan favourite Frank Lampard. Lampard, adored by Chelsea fans as the heart and soul of the club’s midfield during a trophy-laden 13 years at Stamford Bridge, was handed a three-year contract having left second-tier Derby County.