The FIFA Ballon d’Or, or “Golden Ball” award, is given annually to the best player over the last calendar year. The list has been pared down to three finalists: Marta, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. The award will be given out on January 7.
Here is why Alex Morgan deserves to win it.
Marta is an obvious candidate for the award since she has won the award five times and finished as the runner-up twice.
However, 2012 was not her best year.
In the London Olympics, Brazil was once again knocked out in the quarterfinal stage of a major tournament and Marta was held scoreless by three of Brazil’s four opponents.
In the tournament, she finished with only two goals, both of them unimportant.
Marta scored the third goal in a 5-0 rout of Cameroon (the last-place team in the tournament) from the penalty spot and then added the fifth goal of the game with two minutes to play.
Abby Wambach (who finished third in the 2011 Ballon d’Or vote) has put together a stellar 2012, but when compared side-by-side to Alex Morgan, Morgan had a slightly better year.
Headed into the last game of the year, Abby Wambach has 25 goals compared to Morgan’s 28 goals. And Morgan did that with fewer starts (26 compared to Wambach’s 31) and with fewer minutes (2,275 to Wambach’s 2,381).
Two of Wambach’s additional starts were at the beginning of the year when former USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage was still using Alex Morgan as a substitute off the bench.
In those two games, in the opening round of CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, Wambach racked up four goals. Those goals came in the U.S.’ 14-0 and 13-0 drubbings over the badly outmanned Dominican Republic and Guatemala squads.
Morgan also finished the year with over twice as many assists (20) than Wambach (eight), which displays how much more of a playmaker and provider Morgan is than Wambach.
In the most important tournament of the year, the 2012 London Olympics, their performances, considered as a whole, are about equal.
Although Wambach didn’t record a single assist in the tournament, her five goals were all important. She scored the first goal in the comeback against France when the U.S. was down 2-0. She scored the goal that sealed the game against Colombia and had the game-winning goal against North Korea (assisted by Morgan).
Wambach also had the game-winning goal against New Zealand (assisted by Morgan) in the quarterfinals and the game-tying penalty against Canada in the semifinals.
Morgan didn’t score as many goals as Wambach did, finishing the tournament with three, but Morgan did have four assists, three of them on game-winning goals.
Morgan’s assist on Megan Rapinoe’s game-winner against Colombia came from a combination of hard work and skill. Morgan won the ball back, danced out of traffic and then found Rapinoe open on the weak side (Rapinoe’s shot was world-class as well).
Morgan did the bulk of the work assisting Wambach on her goals against North Korea and New Zealand and while both were excellent, the New Zealand assist is simply world-class.
Two of Morgan’s goals came in the opening round game against France in which Morgan scored the equalizer and the goal that sealed the 4-2 win.
And, who can forget Morgan’s 123rd-minute winner in the epic 4-3 semifinal victory over Canada just seconds before the game was set to go to penalties.
Finally, U.S. Soccer named Morgan its 2012 Athlete of the Year, recognizing that while Wambach’s year was also excellent (and certainly deserving of FIFA’s highest award), Morgan’s was slightly better.
With more goals, more assists and recognition from the U.S. Federation that Morgan was the best player in 2012, Alex Morgan deserves to be the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.
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