World Cup 2010 - Early Boers: Wesley's world?

Tue, 06 Jul 08:34:00 2010

The decision by FIFA and France Football to strike a deal and unify their respective player of the year awards in a World Cup year is very significant.

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In the last two instalments of world football's biggest jamboree (no offence, Confederations Cup), both prizes have been little more than glorified player of the tournament gongs.

Few could argue with Zinedine Zidane scooping the double in 1998, but in 2002 Ronaldo repeated that feat after only making 10 appearances before the finals and only scoring five goals between firing Brazil to their fifth title and the end of an injury-plagued year.

Four years later, Fabio 'C'è Capitano' Cannavaro was undoubtedly a top defender and a key part in Italy's victorious campaign, but was he really the undisputed best player in the world?

The two panels (FIFA, made up of international coaches and captains; and Ballon d'Or, founded by France Football and now consisting of 96 journalists from around the world) have historically been at odds with each other ever since the governing body introduced its own prize in 1991.

Whereas the FIFA award usually goes to a player with a winner's medal from that year, the writers have often gone for less populist choices. For example, in 2001 FIFA were a year behind the hacks in voting for Luis Figo, as the esteemed members of the press honoured Michael Owen.

However, since 2004 when Andriy Shevchenko won the Ballon d'Or and Ronaldinho won the FIFA prize, the two have coincided every year.

It's worth pointing out at this stage that, while he was England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson once made Roberto Carlos his first choice for the FIFA award, in 2002.

So, bearing in mind, what about the main contenders for this year's award?:

Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona): Current holder of both titles. Had an outstanding season that put paid to all the mid-season calls for Wayne Rooney to be named the world's top player but, despite attempting more dribbles and having his fair share of shots at this World Cup, failed to get on the scoresheet in South Africa.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid): Customary mention here as the previous year's double-winner and most expensive player in the world. Scored 33 goals on his debut season for Real Madrid, but the only silver he brought the Bernabeu was the millions of euros in merchandise revenue. Outshone by Messi in both Clasicos, and spent more time sat in disbelief on the field than celebrating goals at the World Cup. Mind you, ask him who the best player in the world is and you can guess what the answer would be.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany, Bayern Munich): Back in the days when players like Owen and Pavel Nedved got the France Football seal of approval, Schweini is just the sort of player who would spring a surprise by winning the Ballon d'Or. The ease with which he has converted to his defensive midfield position whilst remaining a potent attacking force has been astonishing. Came agonisingly close to winning the treble for Bayern. Please see Early Boers after the final.

David Villa (Spain, Barcelona): If EB had its way, Villa would win this award every year - perhaps just as well then that it doesn't get a vote. As close to an anti-star as you can get while still being a world class player for largely eschewing the limelight. Making the move to Barcelona after years as a willing hostage at Valencia should finally make him the household name his talents and record deserve. Dragging Spain this far with five goals already could be enough if he leaves South Africa as top scorer.

Arjen Robben (Netherlands, Bayern Munich): How Real Madrid must regret letting him go. His shiny pate shone brightly as he lit up the Champions League for Bayern Munich this season. Reminded everyone that, when fit, he is an unstoppable world beater. If he can hit top form again in Netherlands' last two games, he could be doing his 'too hot' celebration (which reminded EB of a new-born Benjamin Button) again in Zurich come December.

Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands, Internazionale): How Real Madrid must regret letting him go. His shiny pate shone brightly as he lit up the Champions League for Bayern... oh, sorry... Inter. Ticks every box: Craft, pace and steel all contributed to him orchestrating Inter's Champions League win and help Netherlands to five wins out of five in South Africa. Officially scored four goals so far in South Africa, thanks to FIFA being kind to Felipe Melo who, it's fair to say, is not a contender.

Philipp Lahm (Germany, Bayern Munich): "A third Bayern player? A defender? WTF?" you may cry, but the stand-in Mannschaft skipper (who could be set for the job full-time) has been exceptional this year. He currently tops FIFA's official Castrol rankings, and you know how the governing body doesn't like to look fallible. Plus, if Cannavaro can become the first defender to be crowned the world's best for skippering his country to World Cup glory, why can't Lahm become the first wing-back this time?

Wayne Rooney (England, Manchester United): Ahem...

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It was a very fast shot that I did not see properly, even though I was located in the right place. We didn't see a replay in the dressing room at half-time but you could sense what had happened. It was only when we saw the TV that we realised what happened. I feel quite sad about it because we had prepared for such a long time for the World Cup. It could have happened to anyone, unfortunately it was us. You just have to accept it. Life goes on." - Uruguayan linesman Mauricio Espinosa speaks out about his failing to award Frank Lampard's 'goal' against Germany.

FOREIGN VIEW: "We are proud of what we have achieved in this World Cup and the way we have overcome the difficulties we have faced, not just because of the way we have played but also because of our behaviour. Uruguay played for more than two games without receiving a yellow card so don't come to me and say that we're a team who cheat, I don't accept that at any time. They are speculating about something which can happen and has happened in other matches and which is covered by the rules." - Uruguay again, this time team manager Oscar Tabarez on the defensive over Luis Suarez's handball that saved a last-minute goal for Ghana in their quarter-final.

BOERMY ARMY TWEET OF THE DAY: "@EarlyBoers "No semi for ref Howard Webb." So hes not watching Man Utd then" - segmatt isn't climbing aboard the 'support England, support Webb' bandwagon.

COMING UP: There's the Armchair Pundit with his own take on events in South Africa, plenty of analysis from our select squad of experts and the steady drip feed of all the latest events from the World Cup news ticker. And then, at 7.30pm UK time, the first of the semi-finals as Uruguay take on the Netherland - you can follow it live right here.

It's also stage three of the Tour de France today. You can keep up-to-date either via our live commentary and peloton tracker or watch it on the Eurosport Player. Why not get involved by joining the #tourdetweet?

Early Boers / Eurosport

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