Messi collects fourth consecutive best player title

Argentina’s Lionel Messi collected a record-breaking fourth consecutive title of best player in the world when he was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or, while US player Abby Wambach claimed her first FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala held at the Zurich Kongresshaus this evening.

Vicente del Bosque, the Spanish national team coach, and Sweden’s new women’s national team coach Pia Sundhage (former USA coach) were the winners of the FIFA World Coach of the Year awards for men’s and women’s football, respectively.

Aged 25, Messi concluded 2012 by scoring over 90 goals. He also finished top scorer in the UEFA Champions League 2011-2012 season with 14 goals. Meanwhile, Vicente del Bosque added the European title to his 2010 FIFA World Cup crown when leading Spain to victory at EURO 2012.

In women’s football, 2012 was the US national team’s year. Sundhage and Wambach led the US to its fourth Olympic gold medal in London after defeating the Japanese team in the final and thus exacting revenge for the FIFA Women’s World Cup final the previous year, which Japan won for the first time in their history.

These awards were decided after a poll in which the captains and head coaches of the men’s (for the two men’s awards) and women’s (for the two women’s awards) national teams, as well as international media representatives selected by French football magazine France Football, voted for candidates in each of the four categories. Each group’s votes represented one third of the final result.

Lionel Messi won the FIFA Ballon d’Or after polling 41.60% of the votes, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo on 23.68% and Andrés Iniesta on 10.91%.

Vicente del Bosque secured the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football award with 34.51% of the votes, ahead of José Mourinho, the Portuguese coach of Real Madrid, with 20.49%, and former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who received 12.91%.

FIFPro, the world players’ union, invited 50,000 professional players from all over the world to select their best team of 2012, the FIFA FIFPro World XI. The honours went to the following all-star squad: Iker Casillas (Spain) in goal; Dani Alves (Brazil), Marcelo (Brazil), Gerard Piqué (Spain) and Sergio Ramos (Spain) in defence; Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain) and Xavi Hernández (Spain) in midfield; and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) up front.

The FIFA Puskás Award for the “most beautiful goal” of the year as voted for on, FIFA on YouTube and by more than five million fans was also presented. This prize, created in 2009 in honour and in memory of Ferenc Puskás, the captain and star of the Hungarian national team during the 1950s, went to Slovakian striker Miroslav Stoch, who superbly hooked a shot into the top corner of the net on 3 March 2012 for his club Fenerbahçe in a Turkish Süper Lig match against Gençlerbirliği.

Franz Beckenbauer received the FIFA Presidential Award from President Joseph S. Blatter in recognition of his extraordinary achievements and record of service to the world’s favourite game. Beckenbauer excelled as a supremely elegant, world-class player, as a charismatic coach and manager on the touchline, and as the figurehead and chief organiser of a major sports event. And each and every time, the focus was the FIFA World Cup™.

The FIFA Fair Play Award was given to the Uzbekistan Football Federation (UFF) for showing that fair play and competition are not mutually exclusive but complement each another. The UFF finished as winners of the 2012 AFC Fair Play Association of the Year award. The Uzbeks amassed 498.84 points over the year, 16.37 points more than runners-up Iran, as they emerged the victors.

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