By TIM FONTENAULT
Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer should see plenty of each other in Sunday’s World Cup Final, and they are both in line to clean up in the World Cup awards department as well after leading the nominees unveiled on Friday.
Germany and Argentina dominate the list of finalists for the Golden Ball, which will be awarded to the tournament’s best player. Seven of the 10 finalists – four Germans and three Argentines – will be on the field on Sunday.
Toni Kroos, Phillip Lahm, Mats Hummels and Thomas Mueller are the German players up for the award. Lahm and Kroos have been catalyst in the midfield for Germany throughout the tournament, while Hummels has scored two critical goals. Mueller has scored five goals and assisted three others as he quickly climbs the ranks of all-time greats at the World Cup.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano are up for the award as well. Messi has four of Argentina’s eight goals and assisted Di Maria’s goal in their victory over Switzerland in the Round of 16. Mascherano has been Argentina’s handyman in the back, especially against the Netherlands in the semifinals, when he prevented Arjen Robben from getting to goal.
Robben is also a finalist for the award, along with Colombia’s James Rodriguez and Brazil’s Neymar.
Tim Howard, who made 28 saves and allowed six goals in four matches at the tournament, was not among the nominees for the Golden Glove, which is awarded to the best goalkeeper.
Instead of Howard, who made 15 saves in the Round of 16 against Belgium, Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas joins Neuer and Argentina’s Sergio Romero as the nominees for the award. Navas helped Costa Rica escape a group that included England, Italy and Uruguay with seven points. He also stopped Theofanis Gekas’ penalty kick attempt in a victory over Greece in the Ticos’ shootout victory.
FIFA also nominated three players for the Best Young Player Award. France dominates this list, with midfielder Paul Pogba and defender Raphael Varane nominated for the award. Dutch forward Memphis Depay, who has two goals and one assist, is also nominated for the award.
What do you think about the nominations for the World Cup’s individual awards? Think Howard deserved a nomination? Who will win the Golden Ball?
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