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Top 100 sporting moments of 2023: 10-1

Sports Mole counts down the 100 greatest sporting moments of 2023, culminating with numbers 10 to 1.

The year 2023 has been another hugely eventful one across sport, with countless records set, new ground broken and non-stop drama and controversy along the way.

From World Cups in rugby union, women's football, cricket and netball to rarely-seen feats in darts, formula 1 and MMA, the past year has contained thrills and spills to keep any sports fan entertained, regardless of what they are interested in.

GOATs have been crowned, sporting perfection has been achieved and a plethora of prestigious honours and trophies have been hoisted aloft.

Here, Sports Mole takes on the sizeable task of narrowing the last 365 days down to the 100 greatest sporting moments from across the spectrum, based on a ranking system which takes into account prestige, drama, history, newsworthiness, quality and importance.

So sit back and raise a glass to another historic year of sport with the conclusive list of the 100 greatest moments, culminating with the top 10.

SPORTS MOLE'S TOP 100 SPORTING MOMENTS OF 2023

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1



10. Antwerp win first title for 66 years with last kick of the season (June 4)

Winning a league title is special. Doing it for the first time in 66 years is even better. But to do it with virtually the last kick of the season - and for the crucial goal to be a wondergoal from a hometown boy - is the stuff of dreams.

Antwerp enjoyed their own 'Aguero moment' at the end of the 2022-23 campaign, although their wait had been longer than Man City's, their competition had been from two teams instead of one, and the closing stages of the season were arguably even more dramatic.

Heading into the final day, the top three teams were separated by just one point, and two of those - Genk and Antwerp - faced each other in Genk to make matters even more mouth-watering.

There was more than one fairytale story on the line too, and up until the 89th minute it looked as though Union SG would be crowned champions for the first time in 88 years, having only ended a 48-year absence from the top flight in 2021.

Antwerp looked out of contention at that stage, with Genk winning their match 2-1 and Union 1-0 up against Club Brugge, meaning that even Brugge's 89th-minute equaliser only succeeded in putting Genk into top spot heading into stoppage time.

However, despite Union having been set for the title in the 89th minute, and then Genk being on course for it in the 90th minute, it was Antwerp who got the final say to wrap up the season in sensational fashion.

Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld, who had returned to his boyhood club the previous summer to end his career as he had always promised he would, produced a 94th-minute thunderbolt into the top corner from outside the area to level things up at 2-2 against Genk, lifting Antwerp back above their opponents into top spot, which had incredibly changed hands three times in the closing minutes of the season.

Union went on to suffer a stoppage-time collapse and lose 3-1 to Brugge, although that was ultimately irrelevant as Antwerp were left to celebrate their first top-flight title since 1956-57 in scarcely believable style.



9. Kelvin Kiptum smashes marathon world record (October 8)

Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) celebrates after finishing in a world record time of 2:00:35 to win the Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2023© Reuters

In November 2022, Kelvin Kiptum had never run a marathon; 11 months later, he ran the fastest marathon in history, shattering the previous record with an astonishing performance in Chicago.

The Kenyan had already triumphed on his marathon debut in December and then set a new course record when winning the London marathon, but his third win from three races over the distance saw him scale new heights.

Kiptum crossed the line in 2:00.35, shaving an incredible 34 seconds off the previous record which Eliud Kipchoge set in Berlin in September 2022, some three months before Kiptum's first marathon.

In addition to breaking the world record, Kiptum's feat also saw the sub-two hour marathon achievement edge that bit closer as he became the first person to dip within a minute of that mythical mark.



8. Simone Biles becomes most decorated gymnast in history (October 6)

Simone Biles in action on October 6, 2023© Reuters

Simone Biles was already firmly in the conversation of the greatest ever gymnasts heading into the World Championships in Antwerp, where she further underlined her credentials by making yet more history.

After two years away from the sport to focus on her mental health, the American showed no sign of rust to help USA to a record seventh consecutive team title before taking the individual gold with a score of 58.399 in the all-around event.

That second gold of the competition took her tally of total world and Olympic medals to an incredible 34 - more than any other gymnast in history, male or female.

It was also a sixth all-around world title, a 21st World Championship gold and a 27th world medal in total, with more to come over the remainder of the competition too.

Biles held off the challenge of defending champion Rebeca Andrade (56.766) and compatriot Shilese Jones (56.332), who took silver and bronze respectively.



7. Spain beat England to win Women's World Cup (August 20)

Spain players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Women's World Cup on August 20, 2023© Reuters

A brand new name was guaranteed to be etched on the Women's World Cup trophy before a ball was kicked in the final in Sydney, as England took on Spain looking to lift the nation's first world football title since 1966.

Sarina Wiegman's European champions went into the match as favourites in the eyes of many against a Spanish team that endured a tumultuous build-up to the tournament, was without many first-team players due to that build-up and had defied most pre-tournament expectations to make it to the showpiece event.

However, on the day they were clearly the better side as England produced an underwhelming display at the worst possible time, failing to land any significant blows on the Spaniards.

Captain Olga Carmona scored what proved to be the only goal of the game in the first half with a clinical finish, a strike made all the more poignant when news emerged that she was informed after the final whistle that her father had passed away earlier in the week.

It could have been even worse for England, with Mary Earps saving a Jenni Hermoso penalty, but in the end they could have few complaints as the Spanish women joined their 2010 male counterparts as World Cup winners.


6. The greatest leg of darts ever played (January 3)

Michael Smith celebrates winning the PDC World Darts Championship on January 3, 2023© PDC Darts Twitter

The world title and world number one were both on the line as arguably the two best players of 2022 met in the World Championship final at Alexandra Palace.

Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen served up a classic too, playing out one of the greatest finals of all time including the greatest leg of darts ever seen.

That came in the second set when both players were on for nine-darters, with Van Gerwen hitting eight perfect darts before missing double 12 to allow Smith the chance to achieve the holy grail himself.

Smith made no mistake to record only the second-ever perfect leg in a World Championship final, joining Adrian Lewis from 2011 in that exclusive and coveted club, and sending commentator Wayne Mardle into such a frenzy that he "couldn't spake" - literally, as it turned out, as he soon had to leave his duties midway through the match having lost his voice.

The general standard of the final continued at a remarkable level for much of the remainder of the match, but Smith finally forced Van Gerwen to waver by winning four successive sets, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead.

Van Gerwen briefly threatened a comeback in the closing stages, but Smith held his nerve to win 7-4 and claim the biggest title in the sport for the first time in his career.



5. Max Verstappen records most dominant F1 season ever

Max Verstappen wins record 10th successive Grand Prix (September 3)

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates winning the race with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, Red Bull's Sergio Perez and team on September 3, 2023© Reuters

While recent Formula 1 history has been defined by periods of dominance for Red Bull and Mercedes, Max Verstappen took it to a new level in 2023.

The Dutchman had a third world title effectively sewn up long before the halfway stage of the season, and the question from that point on was just how anyone would stop him and Red Bull from winning every remaining race.

Sure enough, at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza Verstappen chalked up a staggering 10th successive Grand Prix victory, overtaking the previous record of nine that had been held by Sebastian Vettel during his Red Bull days in 2013.

Verstappen won in Miami, Monaco, Spain, Canada, Austria, Britain, Hungary, Belgium and Netherlands to set up the unprecedented perfect 10 in Italy, and despite not starting on pole, he overtook Ferrari's Carlos Sainz before cruising to yet another victory.

Max Verstappen wins third F1 world title (October 7)

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates after finishing second in the sprint race and winning the championship on October 7, 2023© Reuters

Max Verstappen's dominance of the 2023 Formula 1 season made his third successive world title an inevitability from very early on in the season, but that does nothing to undermine the significance of his success.

The crowning moment came in Qatar, but unusually it happened on a Saturday as Verstappen went into the weekend's sprint race knowing that he needed only three points, or to not lose more than five points to teammate and closest challenger Sergio Perez.

That effectively meant that the world title was secured well before the end of the race as Perez span off, leaving Verstappen to enjoy a number of victory laps before actually passing the chequered flag.

The 26-year-old, who became the second-youngest driver to win his third world title, ended a chaotic sprint in second place behind first-time F1 winner Oscar Piastri, whose triumph was somewhat overshadowed by the Dutchman's greater glory.

Verstappen's win saw him become only the 11th driver to win three world titles, joining an elite group including Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.

Max Verstappen wins record 16th race of season (October 29)

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Mexico City Grand Prix on October 28, 2023© Reuters

The fate of the 2023 Formula 1 title had already long been decided by the time of the Mexican Grand Prix on October 29, but records were still there to be broken for the relentless Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman's next step towards the most dominant season in the sport's history arrived with his 16th win of the campaign, breaking the record he set himself last year, with three races still to go.

Verstappen sped past an all-Ferrari front row before the very first corner in Mexico City and ended the race 13 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton behind him to seal the unprecedented landmark.

The win was also Verstappen's 51st Grand Prix triumph of his career, taking him level with the legendary Alain Prost in fourth on the all-time list.



4. Novak Djokovic wins record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at US Open (September 10)

Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the US Open on September 10, 2023© Reuters

Having finally moved clear of his great contemporary rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam stakes - likely for good - the next target on the Serb's mind was the all-time Grand Slam singles record in tennis of 24.

That had been held by Margaret Court for 50 years, since she won the 1973 US Open, and it was fitting that Djokovic had the chance to equal the long-standing milestone at the same venue.

One year after being denied entry to the country due to his stance on the COVID vaccines, Djokovic outlasted Daniil Medvedev in the final at Flushing Meadows to win 6-3 7-6[5] 6-3.

The victory was not as straightforward as that scoreline might suggest, though, with Djokovic visibly struggling at times during a marathon second set that lasted one hour and 44 minutes.

There was a feeling that the fate of that match could hinge on the tie-break in that set, and Djokovic duly won it before wrapping up the third to reach the magic number 24 - a remarkable feat having played in the golden era alongside the two other greatest male players of all time.

The win also saw him become the oldest US Open men's champion in the Open era and the first man to win three of the four Grand Slams in a year on four separate occasions, as well as seeing him return to the top of the world rankings.

Djokovic paid tribute to his late friend Kobe Bryant, who famously wore the number 24 shirt during his legendary NBA career, during his celebrations before hoisting a fourth US Open and an incredible 24th Grand Slam trophy aloft - although it looks unlikely to be his last.



3. Australia break India hearts to win record sixth Cricket World Cup (November 19)

Australia players celebrate with the trophy after winning the ICC Cricket World Cup on November 19, 2023© Reuters

Everything seemed set up for India to be crowned champions in front of their adoring home crowd at the Cricket World Cup this year.

The previous three editions of the tournament had been won by the hosts - including India themselves in 2011 - while they had been the standout team throughout the tournament, with a 100% record heading into the final, as well as having both the best-performing batter and bowler of the tournament in their ranks.

There was a level of expectancy as 120,000 fans crammed into the world's largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, then, with billions more watching on around the world, most expecting India to fulfil what had seemed like their destiny.

However, to achieve that they would need to overcome the most successful World Cup nation of all in Australia, who themselves had found form at the tournament after bouncing back from losing their opening two matches.

Captain Pat Cummins won the toss and decided to bowl first, and that proved to be a shrewd decision as some fine pace bowling limited India to a slow-scoring 240.

The hosts came roaring back to reduce Australia to 47-3 and raise hope of salvaging victory after all, but Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne came in to steady the ship with a World Cup-winning partnership of 192.

Head was the standout batter on the day with a sensational 137 from 120 balls, with Labuschagne offering a more measured approach to his 58 from 110 deliveries.

Head eventually departed with just two runs needed for victory, and Glenn Maxwell provided those with seven overs to spare to clinch a record-extending sixth World Cup title for Australia - and a fifth in the last seven editions of the tournament.



2. South Africa beat New Zealand in epic Rugby World Cup final (October 28)

South Africa's Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Cup as they celebrate winning the World Cup final on October 28, 2023© Reuters

Fans of France and Ireland in particular might disagree, but most could not have wished for a more enticing Rugby World Cup final than the two most successful nations in the competition's history and arguably the two greatest rivals in the sport going toe to toe for the honour of becoming the first four-time winners.

South Africa and New Zealand had shared the previous four titles between them and had taken the hard route to the final - especially the Springboks, who were drawn in a group alongside Ireland and Scotland and then edged past France and England in the knockout stages.

The final itself may not have been quite as free-flowing and exciting as the two great quarter-finals involving both of the teams that made it all the way to the showpiece, but it was every bit as gripping and nerve-wracking.

Both teams saw two players sent to the sin bin, while New Zealand captain Sam Cane's was upgraded to a red card - the first in Rugby World Cup final history.

The All Blacks therefore had to play more than an hour of the match with 14 men, yet they refused to take a backward step and pushed South Africa all the way in an epic, gladiatorial contest.

In the end, it was South Africa who came out on top by a solitary point as they once again showcased their supernatural ability to dig deeper than the rest, having also won the quarter-final and semi-final by only one point.

Beauden Barrett's try was in vain as the boot of Handre Pollard made the difference - just as it had in the previous knockout rounds as well - although New Zealand may look back with regret on two difficult missed kicks of their own which would have won them the match.

The result ensured that South Africa's remarkable record of winning every Rugby World Cup final they have ever played in stayed intact - a run which includes the legendary 1995 final between the same two sides.



1. Manchester City complete historic treble (June 10)

Manchester City players celebrate lifting the Champions League trophy on June 10, 2023© Reuters

Twenty-four years on from watching their bitter local rivals Manchester United win the treble, Manchester City had the chance to do the same when they met Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul.

Having already seen off Arsenal's challenge in the Premier League title race and beaten Man United in the FA Cup final, Pep Guardiola's side set their sights on their holy grail as they aimed to complete the treble by being crowned European champions for the very first time.

An obdurate Inter ensured that Man City were not at their best on the night, and supporters may have begun to worry that their dream could turn into yet more European heartbreak when the talismanic Kevin De Bruyne was forced off injured in the first half.

However, Rodri's goal in the 68th minute - coupled with two crucial late saves from Ederson - proved to be enough to end Man City's wait for Champions League glory, finally claiming the trophy their owners had coveted above all others since their takeover.

The result saw them become only the second English club to win the treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, cementing their place as immortals in the history of English football.

For Guardiola, it was an unprecedented second treble as a manager in addition to a third Champions League crown of his coaching career.



Read more of the countdown here

Top sporting moments of 2023: 100-91
Top sporting moments of 2023: 90-81
Top sporting moments of 2023: 80-71
Top sporting moments of 2023: 70-61
Top sporting moments of 2023: 60-51
Top sporting moments of 2023: 50-41
Top sporting moments of 2023: 40-31
Top sporting moments of 2023: 30-21
Top sporting moments of 2023: 20-11


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Group A

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Germany Germany32107
Q Switzerland Switzerland31205
3 Hungary Hungary31023
4 Scotland flag Scotland30121

Group B

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Spain Spain22006
2 Italy Italy21013
3 Albania national flag Albania20111
4 Croatia Croatia20111

Group C

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1 England flag England21104
2 Denmark Denmark20202
3 Slovenia Slovenia20202
4 Serbia Serbia20111

Group D

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1 Netherlands Netherlands21104
2 France France21104
3 Austria Austria21013
4 Poland Poland20020

Group E

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1 Romania Romania21013
2 Belgium Belgium21013
3 Slovakia Slovakia21013
4 Ukraine Ukraine21013

Group F

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Q Portugal Portugal22006
2 Turkey Turkey21013
3 Czech Republic Czech Republic20111
4 Georgia Georgia20111


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