Germany triumphant, Brazil eclipsed in dramatic year

Fri Dec 19, 2014 2:29pm EST
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By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - A superb World Cup featuring one of the greatest upsets in the sport's history, Germany's fourth title and the duel between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to be the world's best were among the soccer highlights of 2014.

Real Madrid's long-awaited tenth European crown -- 'la decima' -- secured after they equalised late in normal time before winning the Champions League final 4-1 after extra time against Atletico Madrid in Lisbon was another dramatic moment.

But far too often in a turbulent 12 months, the headlines made for unsettling reading.

Allegations surrounding corruption within FIFA never end with world's soccer's tarnished governing body lurching from one drama to another over the decision it took in 2010 to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.

A report into alleged corruption has only created more problems for the game's rulers with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, 78, unwilling to make the findings public.

Racism and match-fixing also blighted the game but, unless sweeping changes are made next year and Blatter is voted out of office when he seeks a fifth term as president in May's elections, it is hard to see where real reform will come from.

Luckily for the millions of fans, though, the problems affecting the men who run the game were not apparent on the field when the World Cup kicked off in June.

Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 in a thrilling opener that set the tone for a fantastic tournament in which invisible spray, the innovation to mark distances at free-kicks and goalline technology, made their debuts.   Continued...

Barcelona's Lionel Messi smiles during a training session at Joan Gamper training camp, near Barcelona December 19, 2014. REUTERS/Albert Gea