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The Puskas Award is FIFA’s annual prize for the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the previous year. The award is named after Ferenc Puskas, the great centre forward of the Real Madrid and Hungarian teams of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Ten goals have been shortlisted for the award, with a public vote via FIFA’s website to decide the three finalists, which will be announced on the 1st of December 2014. The voting will continue for the top three thereafter, and the winner will be announced at the Ballon d’Or Gala on the 12th of January 2015.
The Winning Formula
The criteria for a winning goal, as defined by FIFA, lists the following four points:
The award has been presented each year since 2009, with a variety of goals taking the plaudits. The first winner was Christiano Ronaldo’s 40-yard thunderbolt for Man. United against Porto in a Champions League quarter final. In 2010, Hamit Altintop won the award with a volley from the edge of the box, direct from a corner for Turkey against Kazakhstan in a Euro 2012 qualifier. Neymar’s brilliant individual goal for Santos against Flamengo took the prize in 2011; while 2012 was won by another volley direct from a corner – this time by Miroslav Stoch in a Turkish League game between Fenerbache and Genclerbirligi. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s audacious overhead kick for Sweden against England was voted the winner in last years award.
The ten goals shorlisted for this year’s award are:
Tim Cahill – +900 with SkyBet – For the superb left-foot volley he hit for Australia against Holland in the 2014 World Cup group match.
Diego Costa – +2000 with Bet Victor – For his classic overhead kick for Atletico Madrid against Getafe in a Spanish league game.
Marco Fabian – +5000 with William Hill – A deft chip over the keeper from the edge of the box for Cruz Azul v Puebla in the Mexican league.
Zlatan Imbrahimovic – +1600 with Bwin – The improvised back-flick for PSG in a French league game against Bastia.
Pajtim Kasami – +1600 with Bet Victor – For his chest and volley on the run for Fulham against Crystal Palace in last year’s Premier League.
Stephanie Roche – +1200 with Coral – The sole female nominee, who scored a sensational volley after juggling the ball over a defender, for Peamount United against Wexford Youths in the Irish Women’s League.
James Rodriguez – -138 with Paddy Power – For his iconic World Cup goal for Colombia against Uruguay in the second round, when he took the ball on his chest and crashed in a volley off the underside of the bar.
Camilo Sanvezzo – +5000 with Coral – A stunning scissor kick for Vancouver Whitecaps against Portland Timbers in the MLS.
Hisato Sato – +6600 with William Hill – Received the ball on the edge of the area with his back to goal and flicked it up before looping a volley over the keeper, in a Japanese league match between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kawasaki Frontale.
Robin Van Persie – +600 with Paddy Power – For his brilliant diving header in Holland’s incredible 5-1 win over Spain in the World Cup group game.
The football public vote for this award, and the best odds are available before the ten are whittled down to three next week. James Rodriguez’ goal against Uruguay is the odds-on favourite, and it does tick all the right boxes. It was a goal of pure quality that stands out as one of the best of this year’s World Cup. It was in an important match, as it was in the knockout stages, and Rodriguez barely put a foot wrong for the duration of the tournament. However, it’s debatable how much FIFA’s criteria comes into the thinking of the general public, and most will probably just vote for the goal they like the best.
Stephanie Roche has seen her odds drop after an online campaign was started to encourage people to vote for her, and that could be a consideration. The goal would certainly be a worthy winner, but it’s always hard to gauge how much impact these campaign’s will have, and her odds look short enough at this stage.
The goals that seem to be generating the most debate online are Robin Van Persie’s header, James Rodriguez’ volley, and Pajtim Kasami’s volley for Fulham. The Swiss international looks a cracking bet at +1600 when compared with the odds for Rodriguez. Both goals involved controlling the ball on the chest, then volleying in first-time. Rodriguez was static when the ball came to him from a short distance, and while the control, turn, and finish was sublime, he was also in the centre of the goal. Kasami was travelling at some speed when he took a 40-yard pass on his chest, and didn’t break stride before hitting his volley on the run, from a tight angle over the keeper. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Kasami’s was the harder technique, and on that basis he is well worth an interest.
Volleys have been responsible for three of the last four winners of the award, so they are clearly a popular ‘type’ of goal in the footballing public’s eye. There is a suggestion that Rodriguez is a shoe-in in a World Cup year, but it’s worth remembering that the winning goal in 2010 (the last World Cup year) was Altintop’s volley in a European Championship qualifier. Tim Cahill’s spectacular volley for Australia should also come into consideration, particularly as it was on his ‘wrong’ foot and he took it first time, but the overall difficulty of Kasami’s goal possibly makes it slightly better and the odds are much more appealing.
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