Tuesday, December 1, 2015

FIFA Awards update

FIFA has announced the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, the Women's Word Player of the Year, and several other awards:
The nominees for the FIFA Ballon d’Or are, in alphabetical order: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona) and Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona). Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd (USA/Houston Dash), Aya Miyama (Japan/Okayama Yunogo Belle), and Célia Šašić (Germany/1. FFC Frankfurt) are in the running for the women’s award.
The final three contenders on the men's side is not a great surprise. In fact, it was about as predictable as death or taxes, since—as I noted previously—this has been a back and forth between Messi and Ronaldo for the six years running (including this one). I guess there's an outside chance that Neymar could win, but I think it highly unlikely. Messi is probably a lock at this point, even with his injuries. Personally, I think Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland) should have been in the final three, in place of Neymar. There's no question that Neymar is an incredible talent, but Lewandowski has been the best striker in the world for the past year, hands down. And on top of that, there was his record-setting five-goal outburst against Wolfsburg in September:

It's a phenomenal display of skills, missing only a headed goal, which is something for which Lewandowski is already well known.

True enough, he plays with Muller, Robben, and others. But then Neymar plays with Messi and Suarez. Of course, there something to be said for the leagues the finalists—and Lewandowski—are playing in, the Bundesliga (Germany) and La Liga (Spain). These are two of the best leagues in the world. But neither one is the English Premier League, which remains far and away the most competitive league in the world, top to bottom, in my opinion (and in the opinion of most football experts, as well). Beautiful goals, hat tricks, and thrilling ball control (the bread and butter of players like Messi and Ronaldo) are much harder to come by in the Premier League, with it's far superior cadre of defenders and two-way players.

But I digress. Again, expect a Messi win here, with Ronaldo in second, and Neymar bringing up the rear.

With regard to the women, well I have to admit that I'm a little but surprised to see Miyama in the final three. My predictions for the final three again:
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.
Allowing that Solo's off-the-field problems may have had an impact here, I can't see the preference for Miyama over Angerer. That said, as I previously noted, Miyama is a great player on both ends of the pitch and through the middle, as well. And she is a great ambassador for the sport, enjoys the respect of teammates and foes alike, and really has no negatives to speak of. So, fair enough.

That said, she's a distant third here in my opinion, as would have been the case for Solo or Angerer. This contest is between the UEFA Player of the Year and the WWC Golden Ball winner. And I'm still thinking the edge is to the latter, to Carli Lloyd. Come January 11th, we'll find out.

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