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Top 100 sporting moments of 2023: 80-71

Sports Mole counts down the 100 greatest sporting moments of 2023, continuing with numbers 80 to 71.

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, continuing with numbers 80 to 71.

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



80. Argentina inflict first-ever home World Cup qualifying defeat on Brazil (November 22)

Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on November 22, 2023© Reuters

Having watched on helplessly as Argentina lifted a third World Cup title in Qatar in 2022, and having also been on the wrong end of a famous Argentina victory at the Maracana in the 2021 Copa America final, Brazil were looking for a small measure of revenge when their great rivals returned to the stadium for a World Cup qualifier in November.

The five-time world champions had incredibly never lost a home World Cup qualifier before that, winning 51 and drawing 13 of their previous 64, but that proud, long-standing record was shattered by the worst possible opponents as far as the Selecao are concerned.

Nicolas Otamendi's towering header shortly after the hour mark proved to be the only goal of a game which was marred by violent scenes in the stands before the match, with kickoff delayed by half an hour after Brazilian police charged at Argentina fans - an incident which caused Lionel Messi and his fellow players to go over to the stands and attempt to quell the situation.

While the reigning world champions strengthened their position as leaders in the South American qualifying section, Brazil were left languishing down in sixth having lost three games in a row for the first time since 2001, and taken just one point from the past 12 on offer.



79. World Athletics Championship glory for Team GB

Katarina Johnson-Thompson wins heptathlon world gold (August 20)

Katarina Johnson-Thompson celebrates heptathlon gold at World Athletics Championship on August 20, 2023.© Reuters

Just two years after injury at the Tokyo Olympics forced Katarina Johnson-Thompson to consider retirement, she found herself winning World Athletics Championship gold for a second time this summer.

The Liverpudlian ran a personal best 800m time to clinch top spot on the heptathlon podium, finishing 20 points above USA's Anna Hall - the favourite going into the competition - with a final score of 6,740 points.

The 2023 triumph added to her gold from Doha in 2019 and completed a remarkable recovery after four injury-plagued years since that Doha success.

Josh Kerr stuns Jakob Ingebrigtsen to win 1,500m gold (August 23)

Josh Kerr wins the men's 1500m at the World Athletics Championships on August 23, 2023.© Reuters

One year on from being pipped to World Athletics Championship gold by a Brit in Eugene, Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen found himself in the same position once again at this summer's championships in Budapest.

The Olympic champion was heavily fancied to add a world title to that crown heading into the race, but Britain's Josh Kerr emulated compatriot Jake Wightman and executed his race to perfection with a late surge past the favourite to claim an unexpected gold.

The 25-year-old already had an Olympic bronze to his name, but this was his first World Championship medal and thrust him into contention for Olympic glory next year.



78. Lionel Messi wins eighth Ballon d'Or (October 30)

Lionel Messi poses with the Ballon d'Or trophy on October 30, 2023© Reuters

With both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi having departed European football in 2023, there was a suggestion that their era of Ballon d'Or dominance was finally over, having shared 12 of the previous 14 awards between them.

Messi at least showed that the old guard still have life left in them when he picked up football's most prestigious individual honour for a record-extending eighth time at the end of October.

The Argentine's exploits in dragging his country to World Cup glory in Qatar were the biggest factor in his latest success, as he pipped treble-winning goal machine Erling Haaland and former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe to the honour.

Messi's eighth Ballon d'Or trophy saw him move further clear of perennial rival and five-time winner Ronaldo in the all-time list, while it was his third time winning the trophy past the age of 30 and he became the first person to lift it while playing for a non-European club.



77. New Zealand beat England in Test thriller (February 28)

In the entire long and storied history of Test cricket - spanning almost 150 years and 2,500 matches - just one match had ever been won by a single run prior to England's trip to New Zealand in February.

Led by a Kiwi of their own in Brendon McCullum, England had enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in the Test arena, winning six successive matches - usually in enthralling and entertaining fashion - ahead of their second Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

For all of the drama that had preceded it, nothing could match the final day at the Basin Reserve as England suffered two separate batting collapses before eventually losing by the finest of margins.

England's final Test of the winter had already been a notable one, with England enforcing the follow-on on the morning of the third day, only for New Zealand to battle back from 226 runs behind with a second innings score of 483.

England began day five on 48-1 and as firm favourites to win a seventh straight Test for the first time since 2004, but they lost four wickets for 27 runs and then three for 14, with a Joe Root and Ben Stokes stand in the middle adding some much-needed stability to the innings.

James Anderson joined Jack Leach at the crease with seven required to win and clubbed a four to raise hopes of hitting the winning runs for the very first time in his legendary career, only for Neil Wagner to dismiss the 40-year-old and seal a one-run win for the Black Caps.

In addition to being only the second one-run defeat for any nation in the near 150-year history of Test cricket, it was also the first time England had ever lost after enforcing the follow-on, and only the fourth time that had ever happened in Test cricket as whole too.



76. Novak Djokovic wins record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam (January 29)

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning his final match against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas on January 29, 2023© Reuters

One year after being deported from the country over his vaccination stance, Novak Djokovic returned to his favourite Grand Slam to reassume his position as the undisputed king of the Rod Laver Arena.

Having blitzed his way through the tournament, dropping only one set along the way, Djokovic again proved to be a class above Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final as he won in straight sets, 6-3 7-6 7-6.

The title was a record-extending 10th at the Australian Open, with Djokovic joining Rafael Nadal as the only men to have reached double figures of victories at a single Grand Slam, Djokovic's 2023 title coming 15 years after his first in 2008.

The win also took him back to the top of the world rankings, and perhaps more importantly in the intensely-competitive tennis GOAT debate, brought him back level with Nadal on 22 Grand Slams overall.

Djokovic was more emotional than ever after what he described as his "greatest victory", proving if there was any doubt that he is in no mood to step aside for the next generation any time soon.



75. Michael Block hits hole-in-one at US PGA Championship (May 21)

Michael Block acknowledges the fans on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club on May 21, 2023© Reuters

It had already been a dream week for club pro Michael Block at the US PGA Championship, with his carefree attitude and eye-catching quality endearing him to the crowds at Oak Hill in New York state.

As the only one of 20 club pros to make the cut, Block readily admitted to being starstruck when paired with Justin Rose on day three, but even better was to come on day four when he produced arguably the moment of the tournament while playing alongside Rory McIlroy.

Lining up at the 151-yard par-three 15th, Block produced an inch-perfect shot from the tee, looping it straight in for a hole-in-one which was as brilliant as it was aesthetically pleasing.

The shot was the first hole-in-one at the US PGA Championship since 2020, the first by a club pro since 1996, and helped him secure the best finish by a PGA professional since 1986.

True to his demeanour throughout the tournament, Block appeared the most disbelieving man on the course as the crowd erupted, continually asking McIlroy: "Did it go in?".

The reality of his moment of perfection soon sank in, and it only made the reception he received heading to the 18th all the more rapturous to bring a feelgood end to a fairytale week for the Californian.



74. Wigan Warriors win League Leaders' Shield on thrilling final day (September 22)

The 2023 Super League regular season proved to be arguably the best yet, and it was all up for grabs heading into the final day in September.

Remarkably, the top three teams were level on points going into that final day, with Wigan Warriors, Catalans Dragons and four-time defending champions St Helens separated by only points difference at the summit.

A slip-up for any of them in their last game of the regular season would have opened the door for another, but all three held up their own ends of the bargain to win and remain in the positions where they started the day.

Wigan edged to a nervy 10-6 triumph at Leigh Leopards, who slipped from fourth to fifth as a result to surrender home advantage in their eliminator playoff, while Catalans' 19-8 win at Salford Red Devils earned them a home semi-final and St Helens were forced to settle for third despite beating Hull FC 30-12.

Behind them, Hull KR pinched fourth spot off Leigh with a big win against Wakefield, while Warrington Wolves secured the sixth and final playoff spot.



73. Las Vegas Aces win back-to-back WNBA titles (October 18)

The Las Vegas Aces celebrate after defeating the New York Liberty to win the 2023 WNBA Finals on October 18, 2023© Reuters

Not since 2002 had a franchise managed to successfully retain the WNBA title, but the Las Vegas Aces went into game four of the Finals series this year knowing that victory would end that 21-year wait.

By a quirk of fate, 2002 was also the last time the New York Liberty made it to the Finals series, and they provided the opposition this time around too, going into game four knowing that only a win would keep their championship hopes alive.

They made a promising start too, leading 39-30 at the halfway stage before an error-strewn second-half display saw them throw away their advantage and lose 70-69.

A'ja Wilson was the star for Las Vegas with 24 points and 16 rebounds - a sixth double-double of the post-season - and was subsequently named the WNBA Finals' Most Valuable Player.



72. Australia Women retain The Ashes (July 16)

Australia Women's Alyssa Healy celebrates with teammates after the match on July 16, 2023© Reuters

Running concurrently with a thrilling men's Ashes series, the women's Ashes threw up drama galore too, with England recovering from 6-0 down in the series to level things at 6-6 against the odds.

Australia's possession of the urn meant that England were in must-win territory from the moment they went 6-0 down, though, and even after levelling the scores, only a win in their last two ODIs would suffice.

The penultimate of those came at the Ageas Bowl in July when, in keeping with a series in which most matches had gone down to the wire, Australia retained the trophy in dramatic circumstances.

Nat Sciver-Brunt's unbeaten century had dragged England back into contention from a perilous position of 203-7, leaving them needing 15 runs off the final over.

England knocked off 10 of those runs in the first five deliveries, but needing five to win or four to force a super over off the final ball, Sciver-Brunt failed to find the boundary.

It sealed a three-run win for Australia on the day and ensured that they could no longer lose The Ashes, regardless of what happened in their final meeting in Taunton the following week.



71. Australia retain The Ashes (July 23)

Umpires Joel Wilson and Nitin Menon with ground staff during a pitch inspection ahead of the rain delayed start of day 5 on July 23, 2023© Reuters

After three thrilling Ashes Tests that had already catapulted the 2023 series into the conversation of the best of all time, the destination of the urn was ultimately decided in a thoroughly disappointing and underwhelming manner.

England were firmly in command after day three of the fourth Test, having blitzed to a brilliant score of 592 in their first innings at Old Trafford, highlighted by a wonderful 189 for Zak Crawley and a similarly impressive 99 not out from Jonny Bairstow.

Australia had been bowled out for 317 in their innings and got to within 61 runs of England's lead with five wickets remaining, but the rain put paid to England's otherwise likely hopes of levelling the series at 2-2 from 2-0 down and forcing a winner-takes-all decider.

Day five was rained off completely to leave the Test drawn, meaning that England could no longer win the series outright and that Australia at least retained the urn.



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: 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
Top sporting moments of 2023: 10-1


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