Lionel Messi and Abby Wambach accept their awards. (Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty…)
Argentina’s Lionel Messi and U.S. national team star Abby Wambach were named winners of FIFA’s 2012 male and female players of the year awards Monday during world soccer’s annual gala in Zurich.
For Messi the award was his fourth in as many years, making him the first man to win the award more than three times. And he did so in record-breaking fashion, scoring 91 times for Argentina and his club team in Barcelona. Other finalists included Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Real Madrid and Spain’s Andres Iniesta, who is also Messi’s teammate at Barcelona.
Wambach is the first U.S. player to win the world award since Mia Hamm in 2002. And she did by putting together a remarkable season in which she started every game for the U.S., scoring 27 times – including once in five of her team’s six games in the Olympics -- to run her lifetime total to 152 goals. That’s second all-time to Hamm’s 158.
Wambach edged 22-year-old teammate Alex Morgan for the award. Morgan, of Diamond Bar, posted ridiculous numbers in her second full season on the national team, scoring 28 goals – including one in overtime to beat Canada in the Olympic semifinals – while tying a U.S. record with 21 assists in 31 games.
The third women’s finalist was Brazil’s Marta, who has won the prize five times previously.
Pia Sundhage made it a clean sweep for the Americans by winning Coach of the Year honors for leading the U.S. to a 21-1-3 record and an Olympic title last year, her second in five seasons with the national team. Weeks after climbing the medal stand in London, Sundhage elected not to pursue another term with the U.S. team, instead returning to her native Sweden to lead that country’s national team.
Sundhage is the first coach from a U.S. team to win a FIFA manager award. On the men’s side the award went to Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque, who led his team to a European Championship last summer after winning a world championship in South Africa two years earlier.
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