The third piece in this series is focusing on the Golden Ball award or Player of the Tournament.
How Does it Work?
A FIFA technical committee will put forward three players for the award then the accredited members of the press will vote on who wins this award, so this is down to opinion.
Four of the last five winners of this award have played for the runners-up, while the odd one out was Diego Forlan back in 2010.
Lionel Messi took the award in Brazil after losing his Argentina side lost in the final to Germany, but no one has retained this title, which would make you twitchy if you have already backed him.
A Tad Controversial?
Maybe! Obviously, this award comes down to an opinion but of late Adidas sponsored athletes seem to be doing well in this category, which is of course sponsored by the kit manufacturer.
You’ve got the likes of Messi but no player has won this in back-to-back World Cups and I’m against Argentina, so he’ll have to produce something special for Argentina to go the distance this time around.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be the main man for Portugal but they could be reliant on him, plus they have a tricky draw to overcome, which gives him no appeal whatsoever in this market.
Teammate Bernardo Silva could have some appeal if Portugal does go deep into the tournament. Bet365 go 80/1 on the Man City player and he enjoyed a good end to his season at club level and could be the one in those burgundy shirts to help tee-up Ronaldo.
Neymar is up there in the market but if you go with the sponsorship theme then with the Brazilian being with Nike that could go against him.
I couldn’t back anyone at single figures in a market that could come down to something as small as that but the thing going for him are that Brazil are likely to make the semi-finals at least.
If Brazil are as successful as many expect then two players at the prices for the Samba Boys could be worth backing.
Gabriel Jesus is the second Brazilian in the betting and if getting the goals he is expected to get then the youngster should feature prominently on the FIFA technical committee’s list of candidates.
With seven goals in ten qualification matches and him used to European conditions, then he should perform to high levels.
Teammate Paulinho is top price 150/1 with Bet365 and he is a Brazilian being overlooked with the likes of Coutinho and Firmino also in this side.
The midfielder scored six goals in qualifying and all of those were in away games, so handles conditions better than some of his teammates when they travel to places at altitude and the like.
He was a bit-part player for Barcelona since joining the Spanish giants but he still bagged nine goals, which isn’t to be sniffed at, so he could prove to be a big price if continuing his form from qualifying.
In the opposite side of the draw lurk Germany and Spain. With that being a likely semi-final match-up then players from both squads need to be considered.
Timo Werner leading the line for Die Mannschaft with make him a front-runner in this market.
With Joachim Low having named just three forwards in his 23-man squad then the responsibility will fall on the Red Bull Leipzig forward.
The 22-year-old scored three in three qualifying and with the Germans having top scored in the last three World Cups, then you have to look at their frontman to be a candidate here.
Toni Kroos is a dependable midfielder, who may not get the credit he deserves and could carve open a few defences with his through balls, while Joshua Kimmich at 125/1 could look huge.
The Bayern Munich man scored twice in qualifying and topped the European qualifying assist charts with nine proving he could be worth a look if able to influence play as much in Russia.
Towards the backend of the season at club level, he popped up with a goal in both Champions League quarter-final legs against Real Madrid, so him getting in advanced positions could be positive for his chances.
For Spain, you’ve got the last hurrah from Andres Iniesta who scored the winning goal back in 2010 and the Barcelona midfielder will be the one pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
David Silva was a joy to watch during the Premier League season and chipped in with nine goals and 11 assists for champions Man City.
He’ll be one of the options supporting Diego Costa and the playmaker could be one to rack up the goals if Spain cut through defences.
There were personal problems for Silva at towards the end of the season but thankfully they have cleared up with his prematurely-born son now at home.
With that, Silva feature 29 times for Man City in the Premier League and despite the emotional fatigue those family matters could have had, he is likely to be well primed physically given the time away.
Isco will be an important cog in the midfield. Not just with the ball at his feet but when Spain press and hurry their opponents.
The Real Madrid hit the bar in the Champions League final against Liverpool and the way he drifts into space could see him figure prominently in Spain’s attacking build-up play.
When asked to step-up at international level he’s done it. The performance against Italy was masterful and his two first-half goals made sure of their progress.
In and around the box from open play and dead-ball situations he can be lethal, that’s why he got a favourable mention in the top goalscorer market and I do think he can have an influential say on Spain’s tournament.
The other player to mention is David de Gea, who is now accepted to be the best goalkeeper in the world.
It’s likely to be the latter stages of the tournament when we’ll see his athleticism and reactions at their best but his concentration levels will need to be high given the way Spain are likely to dictate possession in the majority of their contests.
With Brazil, Germany and Spain three of the fancied nations, then look no further than their players to shine and be high on the list of candidates for the Golden Ball.
Gabriel Jesus (25/1)
Joshua Kimmich (125/1)
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