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FIFA has announced short lists for various awards that it will hand out in Zurich, with betting on the Puskas Award throwing up an interesting punting proposition at big odds.
Merit and FIFA prizes have a tendency not to go hand in hand – for example, Lionel Messi was not most people’s idea of the best player at this year’s FIFA World Cup and one does not need to labour one’s point about Qatar and the 2022 FIFA World Cup – but surely Stephanie Roche is over the odds at +450 with BetVictor and Boylesports to win the Puskas Award.
James Rodriguez, Robin van Persie and Roche are the three Puskas Award short-listed candidates and, if there is any sense in the world, it will boil down to the scrap between Rodriguez and Roche. No offence to Van Persie but his goal is a combination of a hopeful long ball – the like of which would not have looked out of place in a Wimbledon playbook from the 1980s and 1990s – schoolboy defending and a tidy header over the top of an out-of-position goalkeeper. Van Persie’s goal should not have made the top three so surely it is not going to become the sixth Puskas Award winner.
Rodriguez has some advantages over Roche, including that he is a household name around the globe, he plays for one of the most famous clubs on the planet and he scored his short-listed goal at the FIFA World Cup in front of a television audience in the billions, not millions.
After a game of head tennis between Colombia and Uruguay players, the ball found its way to Rodriguez about 25 metres from goal. Rodriguez chested the ball to his own advantage and used his swinging left foot to volley it into the roof of Uruguay’s goal, past the out-stretched arms of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. It was Rodriguez’s second goal of a game that Colombia won 2-0 to qualify for the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. It is a worthy candidate for the Puskas Award and it probably does deserve favouritism.
However, one thinks that Roche’s goal, which she scored for Peamount in its 2-0 Irish Women’s National League win over Wexford, is superior to those of Rodriguez and Van Persie.
Roche received a 30-metre cross-field pass with her back to goal and a Wexford defender in proximity. Roche cushioned the ball using her right foot, used her left foot to flick the ball over her head and then unleashed a left-foot volley to score from the edge of the penalty area. At no point from Roche receiving the ball did it touch the ground. Well, not until it hit the back of the net and fell to the turf.
One thinks that Roche should be trading at odds of around +150 to become the first woman to win the Puskas Award. Roche is the first woman to have a realistic chance of receiving the prize and her goal is the pick of many football pundits. For example, former Wales striker John Hartson reviewed the Puskas Awards contenders for the BBC and he had Roche’s goal as the best of the three. According to Hartson, if either Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney had scored Roche’s goal, we would be talking about it for years.
It would be a major surprise if Ronaldo did not receive the FIFA Ballon d’Or for the second time and bookmakers have priced him accordingly ahead of Messi and Manuel Neuer.
It should not be a major surprise if Roche receives the Puskas Award because, if a bloke had scored her goal, then that bloke would be trading at almost unbackable odds.
FIFA will hand out the Puskas Award to Roche, Rodriguez or Van Persie at Zurich’s Kongresshauz on Monday 12 January.
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