Yearender Soccer: Glory for Spain and Lionel Messi but problems never far away
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Their tilt at the world club title also ended in failure when they lost to Corinthians.
Their triumphs were further blemished by racist controversies involving captain John Terry - found guilty and banned by the English FA despite being cleared in an earlier court case - and unfounded allegations made by the club against Premier League and FIFA referee Mark Clattenburg.
Spain were untroubled by controversies at Euro 2012 and basked in the glory of their record 4-0 final victory over Italy on a memorable night in Kiev in July which put the "cherry on the cake" of a superb tournament, according to former UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh.
Inspired by their brilliant midfielder Andres Iniesta, UEFA's Player of the Tournament, Spain also strengthened their claim to be regarded among the best international teams ever after becoming the first nation to win back-to-back European Championships - either side of their 2010 World Cup triumph.
On the domestic front, Real Madrid ended Barcelona's run of three straight La Liga titles but dreams of a first European club decider between Real and Barca ended when Real lost on penalties to Bayern the night after Barca were eliminated by Chelsea.
Barca have continued to wow audiences and are well clear in La Liga this term even after talismanic but exhausted coach Pep Guardiola handed the reins to assistant Tito Vilanova in May.
The Catalans have also been hugely inspired by Messi, who at the relatively young age of 25 is fast securing his place among the greats with much of his career still ahead of him, injuries notwithstanding. Although Barca missed out on the major prizes, their passing style enthralled millions and while Messi is adored in Catalonia, he also won over his more sceptical Argentine compatriots as he led the national team to seven wins and two draws in nine matches including World Cup qualifiers and friendlies.
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