It pays to know how the Golden Ball is awarded
With just over half the matches needed to win the World Cup now completed by each team, the race for the tournament’s Golden Ball is heating up.
Spain’s David Villa is currently the 5/2 favourite to win the player of the tournament gong but those thinking the four-goal striker is a shoe-in should be aware of the process involved as well as the list of past victors.
The prize is voted for by journalists and other opinionated souls in the media after a shortlist is whipped up by FIFA’s technical committee.
This committee is chaired, somewhat curiously, by Reynald Temarii, from Tahiti, and is made up of 24 FIFA representatives including members from a variety of footballing locations – from New Caledonia to Spain. The most famous member is Brazil’s Romario.
Last time out they picked a fairly sensible list of eight, which comprised: Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo, Gianluca Zambrotta and Maniche.
The message is clear: to get nominated, a player’s team must make at least the semi-finals.
Zidane was the eventual winner despite, or perhaps because of, his infamous headbutt in the final. Indeed runners-up have provided the Golden Ball winner in the last three World Cups, with Oliver Kahn getting the prize in 2002 and Ronaldo winning it in 1998.
Romario for Brazil was the last World Cup winner to also claim the best player award in 1994, while Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci in 1990 was the last man to do a Golden double winning both top scorer and best player titles.
From this year’s crop of candidates there are a few which stand out as potentially subscribing to this pattern.
Mesut Ozil, 7/1 third favourite, has had a superb tournament putting in excellent displays in all his matches. He is just the kind of player football hacks might warm to should he propel Germany to the final, with voters potentially swayed by the charm of his rise from almost nowhere. He has moved from the 25/1 price offered after his first game against Australia.
Also at 7/1, Wesley Sneijder could be a decent shout. He has notched twice for Holland and is their beating heart of creativity. The Oranjes are underdogs for their quarter-final tie with Brazil and he could become favoured should he engineer an upset.
The voting media might also find the storyline of a player going from the scrapheap at Real Madrid in the summer, to winning the treble with Inter too compelling to ignore and feel inclined to top it off with this award.
At 20/1, Brazil captain Lucio (backed in from 66/1 pre-tournament) also looks a very good bet. He has been monumental so far, both in defence and in starting attacks. With Brazil favourites to win the tournament he seems destined to be the one to lift the cup and, as the personification of Dunga’s Brazil, would be a fitting winner.