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Cannavaro and Marta Voted FIFA Players of the Year
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Fabio Cannavaro was voted FIFA Player of the Year on Monday, becoming the first defender and the second Italian to earn the honor.

Brazilian midfielder Marta was voted FIFA Women's Player of the Year, with US forward Kristine Lilly finishing second.

The 33-year-old Cannavaro, who captained Italy to its fourth World Cup title, finished with 498 points after voting by national team coaches and captains.

"It is indeed more difficult for a defender to come this far," Cannavaro said.

Zinedine Zidane was second with 454 points. He was voted top player at the World Cup despite his ejection in the final for head-butting Marco Materazzi.

Ronaldinho, who won the award in 2004 and 2005, was third with 380 points.

The only other Italian to ever be voted world player of the year by FIFA was Roberto Baggio in 1993, two years after the award began. This was a tumultuous year for Italian soccer, which was racked by a scandal in which team officials were found guilty of match-fixing for Serie A games.

"I would like to dedicate this award to Italian football," Cannavaro said. "Everyone knows that we have had problems, and this should be a moment of rebirth for Italian football."

Marta topped the voting for the women's award with 475 points. Lilly had 388 and German midfielder Renate Lingor ranked third with 305. Marta finished second behind Germany's Birgit Prinz last year.

"I don't feel much pressure. I just want to keep playing at my level," said the 20-year-old Marta, who was prevented from competing in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Championship this year by her Swedish club, Umea IK.

(China Daily via AP December 19, 2006)

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