With the Premier League stars disappointing at this year’s World Cup, not a single one of them made it onto FIFA’s shortlist for the 2010 Player of the Tournament award, also known as the Golden Ball. The contenders are as follows:
1. Wesley Sneijder
The bookmakers narrow favourite, Wesley Sneijder has been the driving force in the Netherlands midfield that has helped them reach the final. With the freedom to roam in the midfield, he has caused endless problems to defences in his 6 games, currently joint-top scorer with 5 goals. His tournament will be remembered for a brace against Brazil in the quarter final unless he can score the winner in Sunday’s final. However, his season will be remembered for winning the treble with Inter Milan. No signs of fatigue in Sneijder’s game carried into the World Cup.
2. David Villa
Closely behind Sneijder in the bookmakers race for the Golden Ball, is joint-top goalscorer David Villa. Entering the tournament as the favourite for the Golden Shoe, Villa hasn’t disappointed to date with 5 goals. A spectacular opener against Chile got his and Spain’s tournament started. Despite a cautious approach from the European Champions, they’ve reached the final without conceding a goal in the knock out stages, as they did in Euro 2008. Villa has scored the opening goals against Honduras, Chile, Portugal and Paraguay to date. He is 4/1 to score the opener in the final.
His odds have been cut substantially this week as Xavi is third favourite for this award. Alongside club and country team mate, Andres Iniesta, Xavi has created several chances in this tournament. He complements the Spanish midfield and has completed the most passes in the tournament. Simply one of the best passers of the ball in football. The player of the tournament at Euro 2008, Xavi hasn’t scored a goal in South Africa but is rightfully a contender for the award and I expect him to make the top 3 if Spain win their first World Cup on Sunday.
4. Andres Iniesta
Alongside club team mate, Xavi, as mentioned above, Andrea Iniesta has also controlled and complemented the Spanish midfield in this tournament, as the pair did in Euro 2008 and have for many years for both Barcelona and Spain. They are the reason for Cesc Fabregas only being good enough for Vicente Del Bosque’s bench. It’s hard to make a case for him winning the Golden Ball though, rightfully behind fellow countrymen David Villa and Xavi.
5. Arjen Robben
Despite missing the first two game with a hamstring injury, Arjen Robben has caused every full back he has come up against problems. His first goal in this tournament was a trademark Robben goal; cutting in from the right wing against Slovakia before sweeping home from outside the area. He ran Brazil ragged in the quarter final, enticing Felipe Melo into a red card. He then headed in the winner against Uruguay to book the Netherlands into their third World Cup final. His play acting has been the low point of the tournament, with more rolls and screams than even Cristiano Ronaldo. But in terms of quality, Robben is up there and has the potential to be the difference maker in any match.
6. Thomas Muller
The Bayern Munich and Germany right winger has all but wrapped up the young player of the tournament award, as I nominated pre-tournament in my Group D preview. Was missed in their semi final defeat to Spain, Muller came into the spotlight by scoring twice against England in the second round. He also scored a fine goal in their opening game victory over Australia and then started the scoring in their 4-0 victory over Argentina in the quarter final. Still in contention for the Golden Shoe, he’s not going to win the Golden Ball without playing in the final. Young player of the tournament is a great achievement for him.
7. Bastian Schweinsteiger
My choice for German player of the tournament, Bastian Schweinsteiger has done an excellent job in protecting his backline, starting up counter attacks, and as he done against England in particular, causing opposition defences real problems. With great ability on the ball, he can see and play a pass. He would be amongst the favourites for this award if Germany reached the final. However it’s not going to happen for the Young Player of the Tournament in 2006. Rightly amongst the nominations in 2010, Schweinsteiger’s performance in South Africa has been greatly appreciated amongst German fans and neutrals. A class act in his second consecutive World Cup.
8. Diego Forlan
Alongside Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan helped Uruguay to their first World Cup semi finals since 1970 in Mexico. A player who’s certainly not had problems adapting to the new ball, scoring 3 out of 4 of his goals from outside the penalty area. An outsider for the Golden Shoe, he is more than a long shot for the Golden Ball. He, alongside the rest of his team will come back home as heroes. A great set piece taker and striking the ball, Forlan has caused defences problems throughout the tournament. A heart breaker to the hosts when he put two past South Africa in their 3-0 win. Forlan also scored the equaliser in normal time against Ghana in the quarter final and the opening penalty of the shoot out as they eliminated the last African nation last Friday.
9. Lionel Messi
One of two nominees who didn’t reach the last four, Lionel Messi had a solid tournament without living up to pre-tournament expectations. Amongst the favourites for the Golden Shoe, Messi failed to score a single goal in the tournament. When he wasn’t being closely man marked or brought down, Messi showed glimpses of what he’s shown us at Barcelona over the years. Failed to make an impact versus Germany in Argentina’s final game at this year’s World Cup, his nomination falls somewhere short of the eight previous mentioned candidates.
10. Asamoah Gyan
The scorer of Ghana’s first goal at this year’s World Cup, Asamoah Gyan’s penalty against Serbia got Ghana going. The heart beat of their attack, Gyan has worked tirelessly up front. Scoring 3 goals in this tournament, he will remember his 121st minute penalty miss against Uruguay for the rest of his life. That cost Ghana becoming the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi final, but it did not stop him and his team mates flying home as heroes. He’s got character and is hard working, along with Kevin Prince Boateng, they have caught the eye of some big clubs during this tournament.