Forlan, Zidane, Ronaldo, Romario – what links all of these players? They have all won the Golden Ball at the World Cup, of course. With this year’s World Cup just under 4 months away, anticipation for the most-viewed sporting event in the world is at fever pitch. The mega-power forces of Germany, Brazil, Spain, and Argentina are surely favorites for the title, however the threat of dark horses such as Portugal, Uruguay, and Belgium cannot be underestimated. But who will claim the individual prize – the Golden Ball – in Brazil this summer?
Taking into account his performances at the Confederations Cup, how he has settled at Barcelona, and the fact that the World Cup is hosted in Brazil, Neymar stands out as a serious contender for the Golden Ball. He is an obvious candidate, and as the focal point of the Brazilian national team he is bound to have an influence on the tournament.
The group stage should be easy enough for Brazil and it should set up Neymar with an opportunity to make a real impact on the tournament. The draw has set up Neymar with an excellent chance to be a hero in at least one game, both Brazil and Argentina will not meet until the final if all goes to plan. If anyone is going to win it for Brazil, it will be Neymar.
After a disappointing 2010 World Cup, Messi will look to emulate his form for Barcelona at the summer tournament yet again as Argentina search for their first World Cup win since 1986. After overcoming injury recently, Messi is slowly returning to top form and he could be back to his best come the summer.
If that is the case, then there is surely no other winner of the Golden Ball at the tournament. Looking at the draw for Argentina, they should ease through and Messi should be the star of it all. With 18 goals in 16 appearances for Argentina in the past two years, the argument that he doesn’t deliver for Argentina has run its course.
The current holder of the Ballon D’Or is certainly a contender for the Golden Ball, even if Portugal are not considered one of the favorites in Brazil. How he has matured over the past year must be taken into account when considering him as contender for this award. The level of his game was proven in the World Cup playoffs as he lead Portugal to the World Cup with some inspired displays against Sweden.
Many have pointed to the fact that Portugal side is average bar Ronaldo and have claimed that it comes to his detriment. However, unlike Messi, he has no World Class players to contend with in his side. If anyone is going to shine for Portugal, it will be Cristiano Ronaldo.
Belgium’s biggest hope at the World Cup, the 23-year-old will surely be the main man if Belgium are to realize their potential at the tournament. Known for his ability to have an explosive impact on the game, the former Lille midfielder does fit the category of a match winner. What interlinks every Golden Ball winner is that they have won games for their nations in the form of goals or assists.
The Uruguayan striker has been the best player in the Premier League this season by some distance, and if he brings his form with him into the World Cup, then he is a serious candidate for the Golden Ball. According to South American football expert Tim Vickery, he combines the virtues of both Schiaffino and Ghigga – the two players that scored for Uruguay in their famous 2-1 win over Brazil in the final of 1950.
What Suarez has in his favor is that he has already delivered in a World Cup before. When Uruguay qualified for the semi-finals, it was Suarez along with Diego Forlan who guided them there. If Uruguay are to recreate that success, Suarez will be a monumental part of it.
After winning the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, Thomas Muller may be able to set his sights on the Golden Ball at the upcoming World Cup. Part of an extremely successful Bayern side, if they continue at the rate they are going, then Muller is guaranteed to arrive at the World Cup in the form of his life.
His past experience in the World Cup will only benefit him; Germany have been a dealt a difficult draw therefore tournament experience is essential. If Germany are to negotiate their way through the group phase, it’s going to take some big performances from the likes of Thomas Muller. Performances that can win a player the Golden Ball.
The winner of the Golden Ball will depend solely on how the tournament pans out, and looking at how the draw has gone and the squads, the most likely and ideal final seems to be Brazil vs Argentina. If that turns out to be the case, then there are only two candidates for the Golden Ball – Messi or Neymar.