We aren’t far away now. The World Cup is almost over, which means not only will one team be crowned champion, but one individual will win the Adidas Golden Ball award. The title of the Golden Ball is awarded to the player who makes the biggest impact during the competition. In short, the best player of the tournament.
In 2014, Argentina’s Lionel Messi won the title, with Thomas Muller winning the Silver Ball and Arjen Robben winning the Bronze Ball. The title has been exclusively won by someone who has made it to the final or third-place match. Notable winners in the past have been Diego Forlan (2010), Zinedine Zidane (2006), Oliver Kahn (2002), Ronaldo (1998) and Diego Maradona (1986).
Before it was called the Adidas Golden Ball for the first time in 1986, it was simply called the Best Player award. This title was won by footballing greats such as Johan Cruyff (1974), Pele (1970) and Bobby Charlton (1966). While not the most sought-after award in world football, the title of best player has been held by some of the most gifted players to ever play the game. Any player would be honoured if they were presented the award.
After we approach the end of the competition, it’s time to start thinking about is in contention to be crowned this year’s winner or the Adidas Golden Ball. Here are my predictions for who it could be
Yup, it’s an obvious choice. Currently leading the race for the Golden Boot with six goals in three games, the England skipper is lighting up the competition with his finishing prowess. Of course, three of his goals have come from the penalty spot, one a wicked deflection off his heel and another tapped in from inside the six-yard box. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve the praise, but they haven’t been the most technical goals he’s scored.
These things are rarely taken into consideration by those who hand out the awards though. With an average of two goals per game, it is hard to ignore his influence on England’s World Cup success. He will almost certainly have to take England to the final if he wants to win the Golden Ball, as any less will be considered a failure at this point.
While scoring less than Kane, Lukaku’s influence has been noticed both on and off the pitch for Belgium. He is often shown rallying the Red Devils before games, even when he hasn’t started. Romelu has scored two goals in back to back games, which is an impressive feat, even against Panama and Tunisia. At four goals, he is breathing down Harry Kane’s neck for the Golden Boot too.
When he isn’t scoring goals, his intelligent off-the-ball play has been stellar. Go back and watch his influence on Belgium’s last-minute winner against Japan. His run inside allows tons of space for Kevin De Bruyne to thread a pass into Meunier. Lukaku then darts back into the box before unselfishly letting the ball run past him for Chadli to smash in from close range. This is trademark Lukaku and it’s one of the main reasons Belgium are the competitions top scoring team.
The second Belgian to make it on this list is Eden Hazard. The Chelsea winger will be relieved that his World Cup fortunes have fared better than Chelsea’s during a disappointing season. Registering man-of-the-match performances in wins against Tunisia and Japan, Hazard is proving why Roberto Martinez made him captain.
With two goals and two assists to his name, Hazard has been a threat from all areas of the pitch. Both he and Lukaku will be more concerned with winning Belgium its first ever World Cup and won’t be thinking about the Golden Ball. Hazard faces Brazil in the quarterfinals where he will come up against an impressive Brazil side. If he can lead his team to success, I’d put my money on him to win the award.
He’s something special, isn’t he? The PSG youngster might have had a slow start to the tournament, but he’s woken up. If it wasn’t for him, Lionel Messi would still be in with a shot of finally winning a World Cup. Mbappe dismantled the Argentinian defense with him blaring pace and wonderful finesse.
Within 11-minutes, Mbappe’s freight train like run had won Les Bleus a penalty after Marcos Rojo wrestled him to the floor. The Frenchman threatened throughout the game and scored himself two goals to ensure Didier Deschamps’ men progressed to the quarterfinals versus Uruguay. While his goal against Peru was a simple tap-in, Mbappe popped up in the right space at the right time to score a vital match-winning goal.
He hasn’t quite done enough to win the award yet, but a couple more performances like he had against Argentina and he will shoot into a contention spot.
Who else expected Luis Suarez to be Uruguay’s main-man? I’m surprised too. Edison Cavani has been so important for Le Celeste and, like his PSG striking partner Kylian Mbappe, has scored three goals so far. Two of those goals were pivotal in knocking out Cristiano Ronaldo, who was hoping to keep Portugal’s momentum on the national stage rolling. What’s it with PSG players knocking out the world best?
Cavani is included in this list, despite a recent injury to his calf muscle. Although unlikely to start against France, he could yet reappear in the semifinals if his team push through. However, without their star striker, Uruguay will be looking toward Luis Suarez to inspire a win.
There had to be a Brazilian included, and it’s surprisingly not Neymar. Don’t get me wrong, Neymar hasn’t played poorly, but Coutinho has taken initiative. While a relatively underwhelming Brazil has made its way through the competition with mediocre performances and a lack of flair, Coutinho has impressed.
Two man-of-the-match performances, two goals and an assist show his influence for the five-time world champions. If he is going to win the Golden Ball, Brazil need to seriously step their game up. If they can’t get past an impressive Belgium, Coutinho really doesn’t stand a chance at winning it. He has been good but hasn’t done enough to warrant the title of best player of the competition yet. Time will tell.
A lot can change in eight games, and my opinions are almost certainly different than everyone else’s. What are the award judicators looking for in their nominees? Who knows. At the end of the day, the players left in the competition will be more concerned with helping their team reach the next stage of the competition. After all, Messi was nearly in tears when he was handed the award in Rio four years ago. Maybe it’s not that important after all.
Who do you think should win the award? Should the last member of the PSG trifecta, Neymar, be on this list? Let us know who your player of the tournament has been in the comments.