There are three major awards to be handed out in this World Cup – the Golden Shoe (for most goals), the Best Young Player and The Golden Ball (best player of the tournament).
Voting for the ‘Best Young Player’ has been hijacked by an anti-Ronaldo online movement, and the fact that he is being hated for his involvement in the incident that got Rooney sent off (instead of his diving) proves only one thing – football fans are vindictive.
If anything, the reaction to Ronaldo bears no comparison to the one Beckham got after 1998. This will be far worse for Ronaldo, although the United faithful may forgive him if he plays as well as he did against France on a consistent basis at Old Trafford (assuming, of course, that he returns).
Best Young Player Nominees
- Cristiano Ronaldo (POR)
- Luis Valencia (ECU)
- Lionel Messi (ARG)
- Lucas Podolski (GER)
- Tranquilo Barnetta (SUI)
- Cesc Fabregas (ESP)
FIFA’s Technical Study Group (those ‘experts’ that have brought us a messy process of Man-of-Match awards throughout the last month) will be the final judges of who wins the award. The criteria includes skill, impact on the games they’ve been involved in and an adherence to fair play.
Based on that criteria, it’s hard to pick the winner. Ronaldo and Podolski fail on the fair play account (both were guilty of ‘simulation’ in their respective semi-final matches), Messi was underused, although he played well against the Dutch, Valencia, Barnetta and Fabregas all dropped out in the second round (despite being very important for their teams).
The winner will be announced on 7 July.
Golden Ball Award Nominees
- Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
- Maniche (Portugal)
- Michael Ballack (Germany)
- Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
- Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy)
- Thierry Henry (France)
- Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
- Patrick Vieira (France)
- Miroslav Klose (Germany)
- Zinedine Zidane (France)
It’s hard to look beyond Zidane on this one, because his return and presence has affected the fate of the entire French team and the competition as well (Spain, Brazil and Portugal will attest to that).
Of the other contenders, both Maniche and Ballack have had their moments but have not stepped up when it really mattered. Henry has 3 goals to his name but hasn’t performed to expectations (to be fair that has more to do with the system the French are playing with), while 4 of Klose’s 5 goals came in the group stages against weak sides. He is a good striker, but not a great one. Buffon and Zambrotta, despite having excellent tournaments, have not been phenomenal.
This leaves us with four (five if you include Henry and expect him to do something wonderful in the final): Cannavaro, Pirlo, Vieira and Zidane.
Either of them could win. Cannavaro’s superb marshalling of the defense (especially with Nesta injured for the quarters and the semis) has made him the best defender of the tournament, and Pirlo and Vieira have been the heartbeats of their respective sides, driving them on through the tough and easy times. All three of these deserve to win.
But they won’t.
They won’t win because at the end of the tournament, the one man who has shaped the nature of this tournament more than any other (with France dumping out Spain and Brazil along the way) has been Zidane. Vieira has been the enforcer and the creator of so many moves, but for better or worse, the spotlight and the game has flowed through Zidane.
The backstory is fascinating: Zidane’s return brought back Thuram and Makelele (who can both be seen urging Zidane on during the game as if they are there only for him) and kept Barthez in goal ahead of Coupet. It also marginalised Henry, because to accomodate Zidane, France would now play a 4-5-1 with Henry the lone striker. And as a true professional Henry has stuck to the task (despite some questionable actions) and now Zidane has a shot with destiny and a chance to win the World Cup again. He is a player for the big occasions, so you can expect some fireworks from him on Sunday.
FIFA will announce its final decision on Monday (July 10).
Golden Shoe Award
Of the players still in the World Cup, this is the current list:
- Miroslav Klose (Germany) – 5
- Thierry Henry (France) – 3
- Lukas Podolski (Germany) – 3
- Luca Toni (Italy) – 2
- Zinedine Zidane (France) – 2
- Patrick Vieira (France) – 2
(Data pulled from World Cup Goals (2006))
Klose is the clear favorite – at this stage 2 goals will prove hard to come by for both Henry and Podolski, with the Italians and the Portuguese unlikely to be anything close to charitable.
There you have it. Klose for the Golden Shoe, Zidane for the Golden Ball, and…Ronaldo for the Best Young Player.
He deserves it for being their impact player in so many games (played well against the Dutch before he had to withdraw because of an injury, played well against England and was excellent against France).
Let’s hope that FIFA’s Technical Study Group has the balls to give the award to Ronaldo.