A run-down of five European teams that hit the heights in2014.

Real Madrid in football

Thegalacticos of Real Madrid have had an amazing year in 2014, beating the Spanishrecord for the most successive victories in a row, winning the European Cup /Champions League for a record tenth time against local rivals Atletico in adramatic final (4-1 after extra time), defeating San Lorenzo in the recent ClubWorld Cup final and boasting the only 100% record during the group stages ofthis season’s Champions League campaign as they bid to retain their status ofthe best team in Europe.

Few who witnessed their demolition of the five timeswinners, Liverpool, in the Champions League group stages at Anfield earlierthis year, will doubt their credentials as top dogs at present and it lookslikely to take a great team to stop them securing their eleventh trophy.

Theyhave invested big in an effort to secure the cream of footballing talent withintheir squad and to ensure that their style is as swashbuckling as it iseffective, with possibly the greatest player of the current era (with a ‘nod’to Lionel Messi) Cristiano Ronaldo lighting up the Bernabeu stadium inpartnership with his partner in ‘crime’, Gareth Bale.

Europe’s Ryder Cup golf team

Europe’sRyder Cup golf team swept aside their noisy American rivals with a commandingthree-day display at Gleneagles, under the watchful eye and precisionleadership of Paul McGinley and his back-room team. McGinley’s attention todetail and pinpoint preparation were highlighted as a key factor in theirvictory, but that is to diminish the brilliance of the players at his disposal (includingfour of the top six players in the world at the time) who quite simply were notgoing to allow their rivals to take the trophy back across the Atlantic as theywound up 16.5 – 11.5 winners.

Germany’s World Cup winning men’sfootball team

Theyseemed to grow in unified strength and belief as the tournament in Rioprogressed, displaying a seemingly fragile defence in the early stages in oneor two of the qualifying matches. By the time they reached the semi-finalsthough they had ironed out their issues and with an admirable team ethic producedperhaps the most spellbinding and almostunbelievable performance for many a World Cup, with their 7-1 demolition of thehost nation. The whole of Brazil wept as their team were put to the sword bythe Germans and they carried their momentum into the final to overcome theformidable Argentinians and their talisman, Lionel Messi.

Not even themercurial skills of the Barcelona genius could deny them their historic victoryin the southern hemisphere.

England’s World Cup winning women’srugby union team

Asif to prove the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, thestory of England’s women’s rugby union team and their eventual triumph at theWorld Cup would seem to be the bona fide justification. After tasting victoryin the tournament in 1994, they suffered the heartache of being runners-up inthe last three World Cups leading up to this year’s version of the tournament,before finally breaking the hoodoo when beating Canada in the final.

Othertrophies have followed in recognition of their achievement, including the Teamof the Year award at the recent BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, beingplaced above no less than the European Ryder Cup winning team in the process.

Great Britain’s European AthleticsChampionships’ team

Team GB enjoyed theirbest ever European Athletics Championships in Zurich, bringing home amagnificent twelve gold medals in an overall haul of 23 medals in total, to topthe medal table for only the third time in their history. Perhaps most encouragingwas the manner in which many of the younger members of the team elevatedthemselves to compete at a higher level at the event and claim medals. Not todismiss the more senior competitors though as ‘Supermum’ Jo Pavey took aninspirational women’s 10km gold in her 40s, Mo Farah was back in great shape todo the distance double and Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford addedEuro gold to his Commonwealth title from Glasgow. The relays were a rich sourceof silverware for Britain, with the women’s 4 x 100m team not only winning butalso smashing the national record set in 1980, with what is essentially a youngand developing squad. There will be stronger challenges ahead on the global stage,but the men’s sprinters (James Dasaolu took the 100m and Adam Gemili the 200mtitle) demonstrated their growing maturity in their performances. 
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