All of the individual awards have been handed out for the top performers in the 2014 World Cup, and as expected, there was some controversy involved. Voting procedures are often skewed toward the bigger names, and several pundits disagreed with some of the names that were passed over on Sunday.
That's not to say the winners were not deserving—all recipients of trophies made their mark on the 2014 World Cup and can look back on excellent campaigns.
Let's have a look at how the awards were distributed and analyse whether the voters made the right decisions.
|Golden Ball||Lionel Messi||Argentina|
|Silver Ball||Thomas Mueller||Germany|
|Bronze Ball||Arjen Robben||Netherlands|
The Golden Ball goes to the best overall player in the tournament, and such a definition immediately leaves room for interpretation. Is it the player who contributed the most to his team's success? The most consistent performer, or the one who came through in the clutch when called upon?
Plenty of fans believe the winner of this award should always play on the team that won the World Cup, and that wasn't the case this year. Lionel Messi had a very strong World Cup campaign, and he was rewarded with the biggest individual award available for a performance in a single tournament.
Analyst Ives Galarcep didn't like the decision:
Messi given the Golden Ball award for Best Player of the Tournament. Bit of a farce that he wins, but that's FIFA for you.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 13, 2014
"Farce" is too strong a word. Messi had a great tournament, and the voters recognised this. He was Argentina's most clutch player for the bulk of the tournament, and his mere presence opened up acres of space for his teammates in the knockout stages.
That said, Arjen Robben probably did the same for the Netherlands, and he had less talent surrounding him. Thomas Mueller played on a very talented team, but his star shone brightest in most of the matches.
Most fans seemed to feel like Colombia's James Rodriguez deserved the award, however. CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello echoed the same sentiment:
Thought James was better than Messi during the games he played, but tough to win Golden Ball when losing in quarterfinals.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) July 13, 2014
Rodriguez was the most consistent performer of the tournament, as his impact was felt on every single match he played in. It's hard to win this award if your team goes out in the quarter-finals, but if we're truly looking for the best player of the World Cup, the Colombian probably deserved it most.
|Golden Boot||James Rodriguez||Colombia|
|Silver Boot||Thomas Mueller||Germany|
No discussion here—if you lead the tournament in scoring, you win the award. The fact Rodriguez was able to win this award despite his team playing in two fewer matches is a testament to how consistently great he was.
Mueller and Messi both had a chance to catch the youngster in the latter stages of the World Cup but failed to score enough to do so. Brazil's Neymar likely had the best chance, playing as his team's primary scoring outlet, but an unfortunate injury halted his challenge prematurely.
|Golden Glove||Manuel Neuer||Germany|
|Finalist||Keylor Navas||Costa Rica|
The controversy surrounding this award has little to do with the eventual winner—Manuel Neuer was awesome during the 2014 World Cup, and he played a big part in Germany's victories over France and Argentina.
But pundits and fans alike were upset over some of the other finalists. Keylor Navas was phenomenal for Costa Rica, and Sergio Romero established himself as Argentina's brick wall in defence, but several other top contenders were left out.
AS English thought perhaps Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa or the USA's Tim Howard were more deserving of a nomination:
A few eyebrows raised at Romero's inclusion on Golden Glove list. Penalty heroics give him the nod over Howard and Ochoa et al. Who's yours?— AS English (@English_AS) July 11, 2014
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone only had praise for the Argentine stopper in his column for Goal, however (via Ben Hayward):
I was very happy with the performance of Romero against Iran. In a World Cup, when you have a player like Messi who can win you any game, plus a goalkeeper who is growing with each match, that's very important.
... Romero was decisive and I'm so happy for him. He was a team-mate of mine at the end of my career at Racing and he's humble, hard-working – a great person. Sabella kept faith in him and that confidence, that continuity and even bravery to stand by a player who didn't have the opportunity to play often at Monaco last season, has all paid off.
Only three players are nominated for this award, so in the end, someone would always feel left out. There's no denying Neuer is a worthy winner, so the voters made the right decision here.
Best Young Player
France had two nominees in Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane, but most fans seemed to sway toward the Netherlands' Memphis Depay. Dutch Football was very upset with the eventual winner:
Not only Messi, but did Pogba do more then Depay? Who votes on these awards?— Dutch Football (@football_oranje) July 13, 2014
Depay was great against Australia and Chile, scoring in both matches. But he was scarcely used by Louis van Gaal, he didn't see the pitch in the final two matches, and his impact was perhaps more limited than fans would care to admit.
Scorers always steal the headlines, but Pogba quietly had an excellent campaign in the centre of the pitch for France. He dominated the physical battles in that area of the pitch, giving his teammates out wide carte blanche to roam forward and fire in cross after cross.
Pogba's impact may not always register on the stat sheet, but of the three nominees, he undoubtedly had the biggest influence on his team's success. All three youngsters can be proud of their performances in Brazil, and the future looks very bright for this trio.