As December brought 2004 to a close, the FIFA World Player Gala provided a fitting climax to the centennial year of football's governing body. Earlier in the month, Spain had overcome Italy to win the fifth FIFA Futsal World Championship, but now all eyes were turned firmly towards Zurich.

On 18 December, FIFA held its Executive Committee meeting, during which decisions were taken on numerous matters: the frequency of the Confederations Cup (every 4 years) was confirmed, the new International Transfer Regulations were adopted, the FIFA U-17 World Championship 2007 was awarded to Asia, etc. This highly formal occasion was followed by the thrilling FIFA Interactive World Cup finals, won by the Brazilian Thiago amidst a tremendous atmosphere at FIFA's Sonnenberg auditorium.

Then, on 20 December, it was party time at the Zurich Opera. While Lionel Richie provided the musical star turn, most eagerly awaited of all were the nominees for the title of FIFA World Player and FIFA Women's World Player. Among the men, Ronaldinho triumphed ahead of Thierry Henry and Andriy Shevchenko, while Birgit Prinz edged out Mia Hamm and Marta in the female category. In addition, Brazil and Haiti won the Fair Play and Presidential Awards, Falcao was voted Futsal Player of the Year and fellow Brazilian Thiago was also crowned FIFA Interactive Player. Phew! Finally, what has been a superb 2004 now makes way for a tantalizing 2005, during which no less than five FIFA competitions will be held!

FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking
Brazil ended 2004 in number one spot for a record third consecutive year, while fellow lusophones Portugal also finished in the top 10 for the first time since 2001. Lower down the list, countries making great strides included China (Best Mover of the year, +32), Côte d'Ivoire (+30), Uzbekistan (+34) and Saint-Vincent-et-les-Grenadines (+32).

FIFA Women's World Ranking
Despite their victory at the Olympic Games, the Americans failed to topple the German world champions from the loftiest perch in the ranking. And although there was little change amongst the top 10, it was encouraging to see the development made by numerous so-called weaker teams this year. Algeria, for example, leapt 19 places up to 78th position.

Qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™
After a hectic November, there were no qualifying games held in December. Hostilities will be partially resumed with the 12 matches in February, followed by an avalanche of ties scheduled for the end of March.

Key dates:
5th December: Spain crowned FIFA Futsal World Champions
12th December: FC Porto win the Toyota Intercontinental Cup
18th December: FIFA holds its Executive Committee in Zurich
19th December: Brazilian Thiago becomes the first FIFA Interactive World Player
20th December: Ronaldinho is crowned FIFA World Player and Birgit Prinz FIFA Women's World Player
27th December: FIFA sends its condolences to the Federations of Asia and Africa affected by the earthquake

Look back on the year that was:

The Top Stories...

  Ten nights in Bangkok and endless dreams for women's football
  Futsal : Spain 2-1 Italy: Lozano's men prove teamwork is the key
  Futsal : Falcao: I want to keep on promoting futsal
  Asian Champions league: Al Ittihad snatch crown after amazing recovery
  Toyota Cup: figures, records and a giant-killer
  FIFA Fair Play: Playing for a better world
  Developing the game: FIFA lends a professional hand in Vietnam
  FIFA Club Task Force meets for first time
  FIFA Executive Committee ratifies revised transfer regulations
  FIFA Interactive World Cup: Thiago: The best day of my life
  A Night at the Opera with Ronaldinho and Birgit Prinz
  FIFA World Player Gala: Birgit Prinz and Ronaldinho take top honours
  FIFA World Player Gala: Presidential Award for Haiti, Fair Play Award to Brazil
  FIFA Fair Play : FIFA President expresses condolences to countries devastated by tsunamis

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