JOE's betting guide for the World Cup Player of the Tournament
We're all waiting in anticipation for the World Cup in Brazil, it's where reputations are enhanced and stars are made. Here we analyse the betting for the Player of the Tournament Award...
Pele, Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane are all among the previous winners of the Golden Ball so it's an honour that's coveted by every player going to the Brazil this month. Each player that's won the award hasn't necessarily been the top-scorer in the tournament but they've shown individual brilliance and been highly influential for their country.
So JOE's job is to help you figure out who could be that player this time around, we'll look at the favourites and the outsiders you need to look out for over the course of the four weeks.
He's the darling of Brazilian football and the weight of the nation's expectation is firmly on his shoulders. Neymar scored 14 goals in 41 games in his debut season with Barcelona and a lot of people have been quite underwhelmed by the impact he's had with the Catalan giants. However, when he puts on that yellow Brazlian kit, the 22-year-old comes alive.
He's scored 31 goals in 48 games for his country since making his international bow back in 2010. The thing about his record is that he's scoring important goals, he's hit the net against the likes of Germany, Argentina, Italy and Spain so he has a big game mentality which will be vital for him and his side.
Lionel Messi 8/1
The Argentine maestro has never shown his maximum ability at a World Cup and that's something he'll want to put right. The problem for Messi is that Argentina just haven't performed on the biggest stage for a long time so he's been limited in his chances to shine. The signs of improvement was evident in qualifying as he bagged 10 goals and numerous assists but doing it in the tournament proper is another proposition altogether. However, this is Lionel Messi so anything is possible.
Cristiano Ronaldo 12/1
Cristiano Ronaldo is doing this on his own, Portugal are as close to a one-man team as you'll find at the World Cup so if they reach the latter stages, it will be down to CR7. He's carrying a slight knock heading into the tournament but he's a quick healer so we expect him to be fully fit for business time. He dragged Portugal through the play-off win over Sweden with a stunning hat-trick. He's hard to ignore but we feel the lack of support around him will make it difficult for him to really impose himself on the competition.
You look past those guys and you have Sergio Aguero at 20/1 with Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta both at 25/1. Anyone of those three players are capable of taking the tournament by the scruff of the neck but if we had to pick one, we'd go for Iniesta. The Barcelona midfielder has proved his class at this level and if Spain tick, which they very well could do, he'll be a the centre of it.
A bunch of German players 33/1
Never write off the Germans, especially this group of German players. Joachim Low has created a club atmosphere with his highly talented squad and everyone is playing for each other. A host of their midfielders are available at 33/1 - Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus. Anyone of those four guys is capable of being the star of this tournament, they're all well worth a few bob.
Thiago Silva 40/1
Historically Brazil have been lauded for their attacking players and their flamboyant play but this is a very different Samba set-up. Their main focus is to be rigid and hard to beat and then they allow their flare players to win games for them. At the heart of the solid core is Paris St Germain defender Thiago Silva, he's a hell of a defender and he also poses a threat in the opposition box.
Paul Pogba 50/1
When you look at France on paper, you wonder why they aren't being considered more seriously to get far in the tournament. A starting XI littered with top players, good youth, a good coach and huge pedigree in the competition. Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba is a player that can take the tournament by storm, he's got all the attributes: power, pace, good passing, a hunger to win and one thunderb*stard of a shot...
Daniel Sturridge 80/1
Stop laughing. We're serious. Daniel Sturridge was one of the most in-form striker in European football last season and he seems to have taken that form on following his stunning goal against Peru last week. The Liverpool man's link-up play has improved immeasurably under Brendan Rodgers so if they players around him can build up a relationship with the 24-year-old, he could have a special tournament.
A few more outsiders well worth a look are the Argentine duo of Angel Di Maria at 33/1 and Gonzalo Higuain at a massive 66/1.
The favourite and the obvious choice but it all seems set up for Neymar to go home and lead the host back to World Cup glory. It's not just the goals he can score, it's his creativity and ability to bring other players into the game. He's the fulcrum of the team so he'll see a lot of the ball which will make it very exciting to watch for us but JOE feels he'll prove why Barcelona paid so much money for him last summer.
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