Yearender Soccer: Glory for Spain and Lionel Messi but problems never far away
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Spain's glorious third successive triumph in a major tournament and individual goalscoring brilliance from Argentine Lionel Messi will be remembered as soccer's golden hallmarks of 2012.
But the year was also marred by tragedy and death in Egypt and the Netherlands and a worrying escalation of racism in Europe.
It was a year too when the soccer world shifted on its axis and finally spun away from its 19th century roots when 21st century goalline technology, officially sanctioned by world governing body FIFA, was used for the first time in December's Club World Cup finals in Japan.
That tournament, which ended on Sunday, saw Corinthians of Brazil crowned as the best club team in the world - an accolade most people would agree rightfully belongs to Barcelona.
But in one of the great upsets of the year, Barcelona failed to win the Champions League which seemed pre-ordained for them when they somehow lost to Chelsea on aggregate in the semi-finals after Messi, proving he was only human after all, missed a penalty in the second leg.
He had however scored 90 goals with two weeks of the year remaining, beating West Germany's former striker Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record for goals scored in a calendar year.
Chelsea, who finished sixth in the Premier League in May, went on to Munich for the Champions League final.
Written off by virtually all of Europe's media before they played Barcelona, they again confounded the critics by beating Bayern Munich on penalties in their own stadium to become the first London club to lift the European Cup in its 57-year history. Despite also winning the FA Cup, it was not a year without huge problems for the now deposed European champions, who are owned and run by the ruthless billionaire Roman Abramovich. Six months after leading the club to the greatest night in their 107-year history, coach Roberto Di Matteo was cast aside by the Russian - just before Chelsea became the first defending champions to be eliminated from the group stage of the competition.
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