France, Costa Rica and Honduras received special prizes at today's FIFA World Player Gala in Zurich for their exploits this year in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
This one was a real turn up for the books... Australia's World Cup-ending defeat by Uruguay in their final game undoubtedly played a significant role in the Team of the Year award going to Honduras, who incidentally also had to shunt their World Cup aspirations onto the buffers when they were beaten in their last game in Mexico City. No other team could amass so many points (and distinguish themselves as giant-killers) as the Hondurans did in their best matches. Putting in a convincing performance in the World Cup qualifiers, this 11 also made their mark in the Copa America, thanks mainly to top scorer Carlos Alberto Pavon, who plays for Udinese in the Italian Serie A. There, several of the well-established South American teams had to prove their worth to stay in the running for the semi-finals. Honduras' 2-0 victory over Brazil in the quarter-final game on 23 July was truly outstanding.
Best Mover of the Year for 2001 - Costa Rica
Anyone who might have predicted at the start of the year that Costa Rica would be CONCACAF's uncontested top team in the World Cup qualifiers would have deservedly been on the receiving end of more than a few doubtful looks. However, the team was unstoppable in their march through the competitions: Wanchope und Fonseca's goals brought them 12 victories and 6 draws, losing only 3 games en route. The points they amassed was enough to take them from 60 to 30 in the rankings where they nestle amongst the world's elite. A memorable moment this season was the away victory over Mexico in the Azteca Stadium, ending the home team's 20 year unbeaten record on their home soil.
Finally, France were presented with the diploma for the top-ranked team. The équipe tricolore have been in pole position ever since dislodging Brazil from the top spot in May.