And Then There Were Three…
With less than a month to go before the winners of the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year awards are announced, the nominees have been whittled down and U.S. captain Kristine Lilly is one of three finalists for the Women’s World Player of the Year. The other female finalists are Brazilian dribbling magician Marta and German playmaker Renate Lingor. The winners will be announced at the FIFA World Player Gala on Dec. 18 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Lilly had a spectacular 2006 for the U.S. Women’s National Team, finishing second on the team in scoring with 13 goals and seven assists. The 13 goals marked the second-highest scoring year in her brilliant 20-year international career and upped her career international total to 117, second in the world only to Mia Hamm. Amazingly, eight of her 13 goals were game-winning or game-tying strikes.
The 35-year-old forward also played in her historic 300th career match on Jan. 18, 2006, against Norway, becoming the first man or woman to hit that milestone, and finished the year with 319 career caps.
As captain of the U.S. team, she led the American women to an 18-0-4 record in 2006, the second consecutive year the team has gone unbeaten in regulation time. She was named the Best Player and was the Top Scorer at the Four Nations Tournament in January. She won the Golden Ball (MVP) and Silver Boot (second leading scorer) at the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea, scoring the winning goal in the championship game of that tournament. Most recently, she earned MVP honors at the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, helping the USA qualify for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and once again scoring the winning goal in the championship game, a dramatic 2-1 overtime win over Canada.
The winner of last three FIFA women’s awards – German forward Birgit Prinz – was not a finalist, but the 31-year-old Lingor, who helped Frankfurt to the UEFA Cup title this season, will be representing the defending Women’s World Cup and European champions. The 20-year-old Marta, who was spectacular in the 2002 and 2004 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championships and the 2004 Olympics, has not played for Brazil this year, but enjoyed a superb club season at Umea in Sweden and helped them reach next year’s UEFA Cup Final.
Lilly, a two-time Women’s World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, has won two U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Awards (including 2005), but this is her first time as a finalist for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
Hamm won the award the first two years it was given in 2001 and 2002.