The final day of the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 proved to be one of contrasting emotions. One player to experience the highs and lows was Brazil's striking sensation Marta, who missed a penalty as her team slumped to defeat against Germany in the final but gained consolation in the form of the adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Shoe awards as the tournament's best player and top goalscorer respectively.
The triumphant Germans also got in on the act with Birgit Prinz picking up the adidas Silver Ball and team-mate Nadine Angerer pocketing the Best Goalkeeper accolade. Norway were rewarded for their spirited efforts with the FIFA Fair Play award.
Adidas Golden Ball: Marta (Brazil), 51 per cent
Not even an untimely penalty miss at a vital stage in the final could take the gloss from Marta's magical tournament, as the vote by accredited journalists covering the event showed. The gifted Brazilian was the runaway winner of the poll, amassing a hugely impressive 51 per cent of the votes cast.
Marta arrived in China with a host of accolades to her name.
After being named FIFA Women's World Player in 2006, she
followed up by helping the
Canarinhas to gold at the recent Pan-American Games and
came into the tournament confident of securing the ultimate prize
in the women's game.
True to the swaggering style her compatriots have become famed for, she lived up to all expectations. Using her pace and superb technique to full effect, the Umea star produced goals, assists and tricks aplenty as she inspired her team-mates to a fully deserved runners-up spot.
In the group phase, braces against New Zealand and China provided further proof that her strike partnership with Cristiane had become even deadlier than it was three years ago in Thailand. Once the knockout stages began, though, Marta stepped up a gear, smartly converting a penalty against Australia to help Brazil advance to a mouth-watering semi-final clash with USA.
The 21-year-old proved equal to the occasion, drawing on all her unique skills and bagging two more goals, one of them an exquisite strike, to end the Americans' challenge and take the Seleção into their first ever FIFA Women's World Cup final. Defeat to the Germans and that penalty miss could not blemish what was a superhuman performance overall, and there can be no doubting that China 2007 will forever be associated with this supremely talented colossus of the women's game.
adidas Silver Ball: Birgit Prinz (Germany), 17 per
As she contemplated her 30th birthday, the three-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year set her sights on keeping Germany firmly ensconced at the top of the pile. The German goal machine ensured she played her part in helping her country retain their world title by chipping in with five goals.
Her polished striking performances contributed to her collecting the adidas Silver Ball with 17 per cent of the votes. The skipper enjoyed another tournament to remember, becoming the highest ever goalscorer in the history of the competition and grabbing the all-important opener in the final as the Europeans successfully defended the title they won at USA 2003.
Four of her goals came in the group phase, where she notched a hat-trick against Argentina and got on the score-sheet again against Japan. Many were surprised to see her fail to add to that tally in the quarter and semi-finals, but the regal Prinz silenced the doubters in the biggest game of them all, putting her side ahead against Brazil with a firmly struck right-footed drive. Having now scored 115 goals for her country, 14 of them in the showpiece tournament, it is clear that Prinz is one of the greatest markswomen the world has ever seen.
adidas Bronze Ball: Cristiane (Brazil), 11 per
There can be no question Sunday's final against Germany proved a bitter experience for Cristiane. With the passage of time, however, the Brazilian No11 will look back affectionately on a tournament that saw her come of age.
Despite plying her trade in the German second division, the eagle-eyed sharpshooter showed she belonged on the big stage with a string of rampaging performances that caught the eye of the watching media and earned her the adidas Bronze Ball. Cristiane had already shown what she was capable of at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004 and the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Thailand 2004, and the experience she has acquired in rubbing shoulders with the world's best should see her go on to even better things. Her goals and celebrations against New Zealand, China, Australia and USA will live long in the memory.
adidas Golden shoe: Marta (Brazil), seven goals, two assists
adidas Silver Shoe: Abby Wambach (USA), six goals, one
The athletic USA striker bases her game on power and stamina, and drove opposing defences to distraction as she spurred her side to a third-place finish. Wambach headed into China 2007 as one of the North Americans' main attacking weapons and wasted little time in showing that her reputation was well merited. Korea DPR were on the receiving end of her right foot in the opening game before the Swedes were put to the sword with a couple of lethal strikes.
Wambach opened the way to victory against England in the quarter-finals, but had no answer to Brazil's peerless display of attacking verve in the semis. The No20 kept her focus in the match for third place against the Norwegians, however, scoring twice and hitting the crossbar as the Americans bowed out on a high note.
adidas Bronze Ball: Ragnhild Gulbrandsen (Norway), six
The 30-year-old Norwegian forward was the first to admit she had never imagined vying for a place in the women's goalscoring elite with the likes of Marta or Birgit Prinz. Yet, as she has found out in the Far East, football always throws up its fair share of surprises. Ragnhild opened Norway's tournament account against Canada, and was on target again the 1-1 draw with Australia, the prelude to a fine hat-trick in the 7-2 reverse of Ghana in the Scandinavians' final group game.
The last of her six goals came against USA in the play-off for third place and perfectly encapsulated the qualities of the Asker striker. With her team feeling the full force of USA's attacking might, the Norwegian No16 salvaged a little pride with a superb header to round off the scoring.
Best Goalkeeper: Nadine Angerer (Germany)
A major factor in Germany's successful defence of the title they won four years ago was the outstanding form of their goalkeeper. Not only did the unbeatable Angerer go through the entire tournament without conceding a single goal (a feat achieved only once before in a FIFA tournament), she capped a flawless three weeks by keeping out Marta's second-half spot-kick in Sunday's Shanghai showdown.
FIFA Fair Play award: Norway
FIFA Award for the Most Entertaining Team: Brazil, 42.12 per cent
All-star team (chosen by the FIFA TSG):
Goalkeepers: Nadine ANGERER (GER, No1), Bente NORDBY (NOR, No1).
Defenders: LI Jie (CHN, No3), Kerstin STEGEMANN (GER, No2), Ariane HINGST (GER, No17), Ane STANGELAND HORPESTAD (NOR, No2).
Midfielders: DANIELA (BRA, No7), FORMIGA (BRA, No8), Kelly SMITH (ENG, No10), Renate LINGOR (GER, No10), Ingvild STENSLAND (NOR, No4), Kristine LILLY (USA, No13).
Forwards: Lisa DE VANNA (AUS, No11), MARTA (BRA, No10), CRISTIANE (BRA, No11), Birgit PRINZ (GER, No9).