Thursday, October 22, 2015

FIFA Women's World Player of the Year predictions

Everyone who follows football (soccer) knows about the Ballon d'Or—the Golden Ball— the annual award given by FIFA to the best male player in the world. As has been the case since 2009, this is basically a face off between Messi and Ronaldo, with Messi looking set to reclaim this year after back-to-back wins by Ronaldo (preceded by three Messi wins). Thrilling stuff.

But there's a women's version of the award, as well, the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award. It's been around since 2001, and of the previous fourteen awards, the first ten were won by Mia Hamm (the first two), Birgit Prinz (the next three), and Marta (the next five). In fairness to Hamm, if the award had existed before 2001, she's likely have a few (shoot, maybe a bunch) more. The last four awards have seen four different winners however, a testament to the expansion of the women's game.

And the crop just announced as the short list for the 2015 award, well they're even more of a testament to the expansion of the game. Neither Abby Wambach nor Marta is in this group, nor is Homare Sawa, arguably the three most dominant players in women's football since 2010 or so. Fair enough, they are all past their primes, but still it's good to see that FIFA isn't stuck in the past.

So, let's have a look at the nominees and decide who should win (and who should get second and third). In alphabetical order, with country and club in parenthesis):
Nadine Angerer (Germany/Brisbane Roar/Portland Thorns)—goalkeeper, 36 years old, most certainly one of the best at her position right now and maybe of all time. She's made some magnificent PK saves this year, especially at the Women's World Cup (WWC). 
Ramona Bachmann (Switzerland/FC Rosengard)—forward, a wizard on the ball, and only 24. She scored a memorable hat trick in the WWC and scores consistently in the Swiss league. 
Kadeisha Buchanan (Canada/West Virginia University)—defender, only 19, and an offensive threat because of her speed. She already won the Best Young Player award at the WWC.  
Amandine Henry (France/Olympique Lyonnais)—defensive midfielder, 26 years old, and a model of consistency. She won the Silver Ball at the WWC and was a finalist for the UEFA best player award. 
Eugénie Le Sommer (France/Olympique Lyonnais)—striker, 26 years old, and always at or near the top in goals scored in the French league. She had a less-than-memorable WWC, however, though she still forced the best out of her opponents. 
Carli Lloyd (U.S./Houston Dash)—midfielder, 33 years old, and current USWNT captain. She won the Golden Ball at the WWC, along with the Silver Boot (though she scored as many goals as the winner of the Golden Boot). Her third goal from midfield in the final against Japan was easily the goal of the tournament. 
Aya Miyama (Japan/Okayama Yunogo Belle)—midfielder, 30 years old, and the directing force for Japan's national team. She's a true two-way player and always one of the classiest players on the pitch. 
Megan Rapinoe (U.S./Seattle Reign)—winger, 30 years old, and a fan favorite wherever she plays. She had a strong WWC and has been a consistent force for the Reign whenever she is available. 
Célia Šašic (Germany/FFC Frankfurt)—striker, 27 years old, and recently retired from football. She won the Golden Boot at the WWC (tying Lloyd in goals scored, but with fewer minutes played) and the UEFA best player award. She was also the top scorer in the German league for the past two seasons. 
Hope Solo (U.S./Seattle Reign)—goalkeeper, 34 years old, and possibly (likely) the best women's keeper to ever play the game.  She lead the USWNT to victory in the WWC with a 540 minute shutout streak, earning her the Golden Glove for the tournament. 
Now before I announce my picks, I'd like to point out that I actually follow women's football, beyond just the WWC. It's enjoyable to watch, largely because most of these athletes aren't making all that much money—as compared to men's pro sports leagues and really, most other women's pro sports leagues—and their club teams are often teetering on the brink. They play because they love to play, want to play, by and large. Sure the best ones, like many of the above, have scored endorsements and the like, but getting there was a hard road. I note all of this because I don't want to come across like an Amerophile, someone who automatically assumes whatever is from the U.S. must be the best. That said...
Third Place: Hope Solo—a difficult call, because Henry is just so consistent (and good), especially at the club level, and because Angerer has had a great year in the net. But Solo had a better one and dominates club games in an almost Neuer-esque fashion. That said, Solo's off-the-field problems may end up costing her here, so I wouldn't really complain if Henry or Angerer finished third. Solo would have no one to blame but herself. 
Second Place: Célia Šašic—this was a much easier call, because Šašic is a force on the pitch. She retired in July, but even without the additional goals she might have accumulated, she was unquestionably the best striker of 2015. 
First Place: Carli Lloyd—in my view, this is a no-brainer and Lloyd should be a lock for the award. She has really blossomed as a player in the last couple of years, perhaps owing to the need for leadership on the USWNT, as some older players retired or saw less playing time. And this particular year, her WWC performance was simply unparalleled.

No comments:

Post a Comment