The footballing calendar for 2009 has certainly been action-packed, featuring two top FIFA youth events, the FIFA Confederations Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. As if that were not enough, there was the culmination of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying, the Final Draw for the competition, and the FIFA World Player Gala to add to an already heady mix. takes a look back at the footballing highlights of 2009, a year that has whet appetites and set the stage perfectly for 2010’s main event: the first FIFA World Cup to be held on African soil.

Click on the links on the right-hand side to see summaries of each competition.

First-time champions
It was a landmark year for Ghanaian and Swiss football, with the Black Satellites winning their first world U-20 crown and the Helvetians winning their first ever FIFA tournament when storming to victory at the U-17 showpiece.

The FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 will live long in the memory for a host of reasons. Ghana’s first success in the competition, achieved after a penalty shoot-out victory over final opponents Brazil, spectators were also treated to a record 167 goals scored and the sight of surprise packages Hungary and Costa Rica going all the way to the semi-finals. Star man for the champions was Dominic Adiyiah, who won the adidas Golden Shoe and Golden Ball at a tournament which did not feature 2007 champions Argentina but did witness a promising debut from Venezuela.

Just days later in Nigeria, Switzerland played their opening match at the finals of a FIFA U-17 World Cup. And what a way to make an entrance, coach Dany Ryser’s charges downing opponents of the calibre of Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Italy and red-hot favourites and hosts Nigeria to take the title. A spirited Colombia side, meanwhile, made it to the last four on the back of decisive late strikes and a never-say-die attitude, though fellow CONMEBOL representatives Brazil were surprisingly knocked out in the first round. The talent of Spain’s Borja and Uruguay’s Sebastian Gallegos also caught the eye at the second FIFA event of the decade on Nigerian soil, as did the audacity of the Golden Eaglets’ lethal super-sub Sani Emmanuel.

Brazil do it again
Winners of five FIFA World Cups, two FIFA Confederations Cups, five FIFA U-20 World Cups, three FIFA U-17 World Cups and three FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups prior to 2009, this past 12 months provided the mighty Seleção with several more opportunities to add to their bulging trophy cabinet.

The first of these came at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, a chance Dunga’s charges grasped firmly with both hands. The Auriverde gave a textbook example of how to play as a team, taking full advantage of the talent at their disposal and the deadly finishing of Luis Fabiano to reach the final, where they secured a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over the United States. No winners of this tournament have yet to win the subsequent edition of the FIFA World Cup, however, so can A Canarinha break that curse?

They would be odds-on to do just that if next June/July’s event in South Africa was held on sand, given the evidence of Brazil’s fourth consecutive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup success in Dubai in November. Reaching the final on their debut appearance were a Switzerland side inspired by adidas Golden Shoe and Golden Ball winner Dejan Stankovic, with the Swiss’ second place a fine finish to a year which included the U-17 world title and qualification for South Africa 2010. Stankovic and Co will need to wait until 2011 for another chance to end Brazil’s beach soccer dominance, however, with the tournament changing from an annual to a biannual event.

Unstoppable Barça
Going into December of what has been a dream year for FC Barcelona, the FIFA Club World Cup, a title Los Azulgranas had failed to win in two previous attempts, was the final piece of the puzzle. And Josep Guardiola’s all-conquering side finally laid hands on the trophy, winning an epic final in the United Arab Emirates against an Estudiantes de La Plata team which came within a minute of victory. Thanks to a last-gasp leveller from Pedro, who scored in all six competitions won by Los Culés this calendar year, followed by an extra-time clincher from the inimitable Lionel Messi, Barça proved yet again why they were the finest team of 2009.

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