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Global Nov 30, 2012

Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Pia Sundhage named finalists for FIFA year-end awards

U.S. forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, and former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage have been named finalists for the year-end awards given out by FIFA, the world governing body of soccer.

Wambach and Morgan, who have combined to score 50 international goals so far in 2012, were chosen as two of the three finalists for the Women’s World Player of the Year along with Marta of Brazil. Sundhage was one of three finalists for the World Coach of the Year for Women’s Soccer along with Bruno Bini of France and Norio Sasaki of Japan. The finalists for World Coach of the Year for Women’s Soccer are the same as in 2011.

“Obviously, any kind of individual awards are a product of what a team can do,” said Wambach. “But what a tremendous honor for all of us, and even more so to be recognized with Alex, someone who compliments me in almost every way on the field, and also with our coach who set us both up to succeed. We’ll be excited to go to Switzerland with the hearts of champions as this will always be about winning titles as a team and that’s something we are really proud of this year.”

Wambach, Morgan and Sundhage made the final three in the respective categories through voting by the captains and head coaches of almost all the women’s national teams throughout the world as well as by international media representatives.

The finalists for the Men’s World Player of the Year are Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal, Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina and Andrés Iniesta of Barcelona and Spain. The finalists for the World Coach of the Year for men’s soccer are Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque, former Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho.

The winners of all of FIFA’s year-end awards will be revealed at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala at the Zurich Kongresshaus on January 7, 2013, during which the Men’s World Player of the Year, the FIFA World XI and the FIFA Puskás Award for the most beautiful goal of the year will also be announced. The FIFA Presidential Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award will also be presented during the gala.

Sundhage finished third in the voting for the World Coach of the Year in 2008, the first year the award was given out, and finished second last year.

This is the second time Wambach has been in the final three for the award, finishing third last year. She finished fourth in the voting in 2004 and 2006, fifth in 2007, was one of the final 10 in 2009 and was fifth again in 2010. Wambach led the USA with five goals at the 2012 Olympics, scoring one goal in each of the first five matches. Her 23 goals this year (she also has eight assists) are the second most in a single year during her 12-year international career. With 148 career international goals, she is just eight behind tying Mia Hamm for the world’s all-time greatest goal scorer.

Morgan scored three times at the 2012 Olympics, which of course included the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition when she headed home the game-winner in the 123rd minute of the dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 victory against Canada in the semifinal. She was also tied for the team lead in assists at the Olympics, setting up four goals.

Morgan’s 27 goals this year are the third-most ever in a calendar year behind Abby Wambach’s 31 in 2004 and Michelle Akers’ record 39 in 1991. Morgan’s 18 assists in 2012 are also tied for the fourth best ever in a single year and are by far the most on the team this year. She has either scored or assisted on 41 percent of the USA’s 108 goals this year and scored her second career hat trick, with all three goals coming in a 20-minute span of the first half, on Nov. 28 in a 5-0 victory against Ireland on the Fan Tribute Tour, presented by Panasonic.

Sundhage led the USA to a 23-1-1 record in 2012, which of course included dramatic run to the Olympic gold medal, before she coached her last game for the USA in a 6-2 victory against Australia on Sept. 19 in Colorado. The USA scored 16 goals at the Olympics, the most of any team the tournament, and came from behind to win in two matches, against France in the opener and against Canada in the semifinal. The USA’s 6-0-0 record in England, which included three shutouts, marked the first-time a U.S. team had won all six games during an Olympic Games. Sundhage recently took over as the head coach for her native Sweden and will lead her team into the 2013 European Women’s Championships in Sweden next summer.

Hamm is the only American to have previously won the FIFA Women’s World Player of the year, doing so twice in 2001 and 2002, the first two years it was given out.

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