Close call for Golden Ball award

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:27 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG -- Right now, it's probably a battle between Spain's David Villa and the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder for the World Cup Golden Ball award.

The award goes to the player voted the best in the tournament. There are 10 names on the list and all are impressive. Sneijder and Villa lead the tournament in scoring with five goals each.

Sneijder's teammate Arjen Robben is also on the list while Villa has plenty of company from his Spain squad. The striker is joined on the list by midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Two of the beaten semifinalists had players who made the list. Germany, beaten by Spain, had midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil while Uruguay, who went down to the Dutch, had outstanding striker Diego Forlan named.

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Ghana's Asamoah Gyan rounded out the list of 10.

The winner of the Golden Ball award in 2006 was France's Zinedine Zidane. He finished ahead of Italy's Fabio Cannavaro.

FIFA also announced the three-player shortlist for the tournament's best young player award. German forward Thomas Mueller, Mexico winger Giovani Dos Santos and Ghana midfielder Andre Ayew have been nominated by FIFA's technical group for the award.

Players born in January 1989 or later are eligible. There was a list of 35.

The award was handed out in 2006 in honour of young players who played in previous World Cups such asthe 17-year-old Pele in 1958, 20-year-old Franz Beckenbauer in 1966 and 18-year-old Michael Owen in 1998.

Mueller is the favourite to win this award. The 20-year-old has scored four goals, including two against England and one against Argentina.

The award is given to a player who combines skill on the field along with fair play.

Jomo Sono of the FIFA technical committee was asked how Mueller and Ayew could qualifying considering both were suspended for one game.

"We looked at it very closely and for a long time," Sono said. "But the suspension were for two yellow cards, not a red.

"For example, one was a yellow card for ball-to-hand. It wasn't for a tackle from behind. We looked at this and in some cases, the yellow cards were not warranted."

If Mueller does win the award, he will be the second German player to win it. Lukas Podolski won it in Germany in 2006.


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