Last week, Cristiano Ronaldo became the 14th male footballer to be voted as the world’s best player when he took out the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or. Already bookmakers are betting on the winner of the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’Or, with Ronaldo occupying second favouritism behind four-time winner Lionel Messi.
Two thousand and 14 is a FIFA World Cup year so anyone who wants to strike an early bet on the FIFA Ballon d’Or really needs to investigate what happens to the individual honour when the world’s top national teams go hell for leather.
The FIFA Ballon d’Or and its predecessor, the FIFA World Player of the Year, are awards that have been handed out since 1991. Lothar Matthaus won the 1991 prize, with Jean-Pierre Papin second and Gary Lineker third.
There have been five FIFA World Cup tournaments played since the prize’s inaugural year, with the events being the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States of America that Brazil won, the 1994 FIFA World Cup in France that the host nation won, the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan that Brazil won, the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany that Italy won and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa that Spain won.
The 1994 FIFA World Player of the Year was Brazil’s Romario, who ran away with the award, collecting 346 points compared to the 100 points that his nearest challenger, Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov, accrued. Three Brazil footballers made the top eight in recognition of the roles that they played in their country’s 1994 FIFA World Cup tournament triumph.
The 1998 FIFA World Player of the Year was France’s Zinedine Zidane. France footballers occupied three of the top four spots, with Zidane (335 points) winning the prize ahead of Brazil’s Ronaldo (175 points), Lilian Thuram (136 points) and Emmanuel Petit (122 points). Clearly, France’s win over Brazil in the 1998 FIFA World Cup final had a major impact.
The 2002 FIFA World Player of the Year was Ronaldo after he scored eight goals for Brazil in its 2002 FIFA World Cup success. Ronaldo polled 384 points to edge out Germany’s Oliver Kahn (171 points) and Zidane (141 points). Brazil footballers filled three of the top five positions.
The 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year was Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro. Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup on the back of several superb defensive displays by Cannavaro, who also captained the Azzurri. Cannavaro did not run away with the voting in what was an unusually tight contest but his 498 points were too much for Zidane (454) and Ronaldinho (380 points), of Brazil. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon collected 118 points to finish in eighth place.
The 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or was Argentina’s Messi. It was the one and only time that the FIFA World Cup-winning side did not supply the winner of the individual honour, although it was a close-run thing as Messi polled 22.65 per cent of the vote compared to Spain teammates Andres Iniesta (17.36%) and Xavi (16.48%). That Spain’s 2010 FIFA World Cup victory was a genuine all-round effort enabled Messi to come out on top even though Argentina lost 0-4 to Germany in the last eight.
For the record, two of the three FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year awards that have corresponded with FIFA Women’s World Cup years have been taken out by footballers from the triumphant national team. So, all up, world champion sides have supplied six of the eight individual prize winners.
So how should one approach on the FIFA Ballon d’Or? Well, one would have to be a sandwich short of a picnic to back Messi at odds of 2.75 with BetVictor.com. Argentina is trading at odds of 6.00 with several bookmakers, including SkyBet.com, and the difference between the two prices is too great. To fancy Messi to win the honour for the fifth time one would have to fancy Argentina to win the FIFA World Cup, certainly given the markets.
Given that Brazil is the FIFA World Cup favourite on home soil, it makes sense for one to go through its starting line-up with a view to identifying FIFA Ballon d’Or value. Neymar is the Brazil star whose name leaps off the page, with the Barcelona forward available at odds of 15.00 with 888sport and Unibet. Brazil is trading at about one-third of those odds to win the tournament and Neymar won the Golden Ball at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in his homeland.
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