Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Global Scope: World Soccer's Awards

We are getting closer to the end of the year and at the end of every year there are a few international awards for top players, coaches, and teams in the wide world of football. One of the most prestigious of these awards is given out by the British magazine World Soccer. Well regarded as the world's top magazine for international football fans, they give out an award every year for the best player, young player, manager, and team of the year. One of the main reason's as to why their awards are so special for players is because it is 100% decided by fans. Fans will vote on the magazine's website and the results are out on the magazine's January edition (released to the public in December).

The top player award was first handed out in 1982 for Juventus and Italy's Paolo Rossi who received 23% of the votes. In 1982 Rossi won the Italian first division (Serie A) with Juventus FC and the FIFA World Cup with the Italian national team where he was the competition's top goal scorer (6 goals), and scored one of the three goals in the final versus West Germany. After Rossi the award moved forward, passing through players such as Zico, Maradona, Maldini, and many other legends until it was last handed out to Lionel Messi. In 2011 Messi was awarded top player for the second time, first being in 2009, and with a record breaking percentage of 60.2%. The awards for coach of the year, young player of the year, and world team of the year were last awarded to Josep Guardiola (Barcelona), Neymar (Santos), and FC Barcelona respectively.

This year's list of finalists for the awards really do represent what fans have been watching in international football and is filled with interesting stories. The finalists for top player are Drogba (Chelsea/Shanghai Shenhua), Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid), Eden Hazard (Lille/Chelsea), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Neymar Junior (Santos), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), and Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona). There really is a case to be made for every one of those players to win the top player award, but it is likely that it will end with Messi, Ronaldo, or Iniesta. Messi had a fantastic scoring record last season with 73 goals in 60 appearances with Barcelona, while Ronaldo and Iniesta led their teams to success in the Spanish First Division and the Eurocup 2012.

The finalists for the award of best coach of the year travels the globe from South America, to Europe, and to Africa. The ten coaches in the mix are Marcelo Bielsa (Athletic Bilbao), Vicente del Bosque (Spain), Roberto Di Matteo (Chelsea), Rene Girard (Montpellier), Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid), Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid), Luis Tena (Mexico Olympic Team), Tite (Corinthians), Herve Renard (Zambia). There are so many interesting and successful story lines in this mix that it is tough to only pick one, so I'll pick three. The Italian Roberto Di Matteo, who is a Chelsea former player, was brought in to fill the gap left by Andre Villas-Boas he led his squad to win the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Jose Mourinho was able to finally stay ahead of FC Barcelona and win the Spanish First Division with Real Madrid after four years, where Barcelona won for three years in a row. There is also Tite, the coach of Brazilian side Corinthians FC, who last season won the Brazilian league and this year the Copa Libertadores da America (equivalent to the UEFA Champions League in South America) for the first time. There is also a very special mention to be left for French head coach of the Zambian national team Herve Renard. He was able to take a fragile Zambian squad to their first ever African Cup of Nations title win in 2012. Zambia beat favorites Senegal in the group stages and then defeated Ghana in the semi finals and the Ivory Coast in the final. The win was made even more special when the team dedicated this historic accomplishment to the 18 players who died in a plane crash in April of 1993.

Finally, up for the award for best world team of the year are Atletico Madrid (Spain), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Chelsea (England), Corinthians (Brazil), Juventus (Italy), Mexico, Montpellier (France), Spain, Universidad de Chile (Chile), and Zambia. In this list again they are all well deserving of this award. Chelsea winning their first ever Champions League, Dortmund with back to back league titles, and even Universidad de Chile with an impressive Copa Sul Americana win. However I am going to pick three teams to keep the same pattern. The favorite for this award is Spain, winning their third major title consecutively and consolidating their place in history. Following not too far behind is Juventus FC who bounced back after a few tough years and won the Italian first division (Serie A) in undefeated fashion. Finally, the third candidate would be the incredible Zambian national team. Beating African powerhouses on their way to Nations Cup success for the first time ever.

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