May 27, 1045 days ago

World Cup 2014 – Player of the Tournament Preview

World Cup 2014 – Player of the Tournament Preview

Over the last 84 years, some of the best footballers in history have graced the World Cup. Some players have become synonymous with certain tournaments, not least Pele in 1970, Cruyff in 1974 and our own Bobby Charlton in 1966.

So, as we head to Brazil this summer, which player will join the greats and be awarded FIFA’s Golden Ball award for the player of the tournament? Keep reading for our preview.

All the trends and facts you need to know

If you’re looking to back a potential Player of the Tournament at a World Cup there are two key trends that you should consider.

Firstly, the leading player generally comes from a side that reaches the final. There’s no point your chosen player being fantastic for a country that goes out in the group stages as they have to perform well throughout the entire tournament. While a player from a last four team can win (Diego Forlan did in 2010), the leading player tends to be from a finalist.

Saying that, they don’t have to be from the winning nation. While 15 World Cup Player of the Tournament winners have come from sides that reached the final, just nine have come from eventual World Cup Winners. And, you have to go back to 1994 for the last time a World Cup winner was awarded the Golden Ball (Romario of Brazil).

Secondly, the winner of the Player of the Tournament is almost always an attacking player. Eleven of the last twelve winners have been attacking players with only Oliver Kahn’s win in 2006 upsetting that record.

Attacking players often get increased exposure which elevates them over other positions. Was Zinedine Zidane really a better player at the 2006 tournament than Fabio Cannavaro? Ronaldo better than Thuram in France 98? Or Schillachi better than Matthaus in 1990? Probably not – but that didn’t stop the attackers winning the prize.

So, the winner is generally an attacking player from a World Cup finalist. So, who does that point to in 2014?

Neymar leads the way in 2014

For me, the four leading contenders for this season’s World Cup are Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina and so it makes sense to pick a Player of the Tournament from those nations.

Neymar is the 13/2 favourite and is likely to tick all the right boxes – an attacking talent from a likely winner and the host nation. The Barcelona striker is certainly a contender but I’d prefer to look elsewhere for value. Attacking midfielders have got plenty of goals at recent international tournaments and so team mates Oscar (33/1), Willian (40/1) and Hulk (50/1) may offer better value.

I fancy Spain to go well in the tournament and their star man could well be Diego Costa. The Atletico Madrid striker has been inspirational in his side’s La Liga triumph this season and could provide the goals that the holders need. He looks excellent value at 40/1 as do his colleagues Xavi (40/1) and Fabregas (50/1).

Germans have won the Golden Boot for top goalscorer at each of the last two World Cups and Thomas Muller hit five goals in 2010. He’s in the perfect position to be named Player of the Tournament and is available at 33/1.

Lionel Messi is the second favourite to win the Golden Ball at 8/1 and it is certainly about time we saw Messi perform at a World Cup. He has scored just one goal at the World Cup finals – and that in the 88th minute of a 6-0 win – although coach Alejandro Sabella has devised a system that finally seems to get the most out of the 26 year old. Messi would certainly be a popular winer.

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