As 2012 winds to a close, TSN.ca looks back at the stories that made the year memorable. Producer Shane McNeil reflects on the best soccer moments from the past 12 months including Christine Sinclair’s war face and the indomitable spirit of the Irish fans.

Originally published TSN.ca – December 24, 2012.

Shane McNeil on Christine Sinclair’s big moment

One image from the now-legendary Olympic women’s semifinal soccer match should never leave the minds of Canadians and that is Christine Sinclair’s face after putting the Canadian team up 3-2 in the 73rd minute.

It had been a back-and-forth match and so often in the past the Americans had found a way to eventually outlast the Canadian side in international tests. This game smacked of that type of resurgence, especially after Megan Rapinoe’s stunner in the 70th minute leveled the game at 2-2.

But Sinclair completed her hat-trick in the 73rd minute and ran immediately to the sidelines to fire up her coach and teammates.

That face is the image that will define the Olympics for so many Canadians. It said “I will not be denied.”

Although fate was cruel in the end to the Canadian team, the pride they instilled in Canada has reverberated since that very moment and it is that image that will long define the icon that Sinclair has become in the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Shane McNeil on Ireland’s Euro 2012 fans

The Irish fans really deserved better.

The Irish football team qualified for Euro 2012 on the strength of a 5-1 aggregate pasting of Montenegro, sending the squad to its first major international tournament since the 2002 World Cup. However, when the Irish team got to Poland, the wheels just came off.

They were competitive against Croatia until a late first-half goal put them back for good and then the team was simply overpowered by eventual finalists Spain and Italy.

The Irish fans, however, showed staunch faith in their side. Down 4-0 in the final minutes against the defending European and World Champions, the entirety of the Irish team’s support – an estimated 25,000 – break out into song as they watched their team get eliminated.

The thousands-strong version of the Irish traditional “The Fields of Athenry” endeared the Irish fans to supporters of just about every nation participating in the tournament and prompted UEFA to give the Irish supporters a special award recognizing their passion throughout the tournament.