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World Cup 2018: Who will win the Golden Ball?

The best player at each World Cup is awarded with the Golden Ball, and is invariably selected for not just his individual performances, but also the impact it made on the fortunes of his team. As we countdown to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, here’s a look at three players who can take home the Golden Ball.

Lionel Messi

The Argentina national team captain was adjudged the best player of the World Cup in 2014. Although his performances couldn’t take La Albiceleste to ultimate glory as they lost narrowly to Germany in the final in Brazil. But Messi’s performances throughout the course of the tournament did stand out.

The Barcelona stalwart also had a great chance to win the trophy for Argentina, but one of his trademark cross shots just missed the goal and went away. He also set up his team-mates with several opportunities, but none of the chances were taken, and ultimately a Mario Gotze strike settled the game in favour of the Germans.

Over the course of the past year and a half Messi’s role with his club has changed and from being a goalscorer par excellence, he has also turned into a superlative provider of opportunities to his striking partners.

At the time of the 2018 World Cup, it is expected that he may drop further in midfield. And with the rise of great Argentine strikers in Paulo Dybala and Angel Correa, as well as with the prospect of a fit Sergio Aguero, Messi will be expected to weave his magic to win La Albiceleste their third World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal national team have endured some tough time at the international competitions in the recent past. They also had a torturous experience at the last World Cup in Brazil when they exited the tournament from the group stage after losing to Germany and drawing with the United States in their group games.

Their captain and Real Madrid talisman, Ronaldo, couldn’t deliver at the level he is capable of and his failures were attributed to a knee injury he was suffering from at the time of the tournament.

Just like Messi, Ronaldo’s role has also evolved with his club side and he is increasingly playing in more central areas than he did in the past. As a consequence, he will be expected to lead the attacking duties as a centre-forward for Portugal at the World Cup.

If he could get his side to the last four, he would be amongst the likeliest winners of the Golden Ball.

Neymar

The Barcelona star enjoyed a great campaign at the World Cup in his home country in 2014. It was an unfortunate back injury in the quarter-final against Colombia that ruled him out of the semi-final against Brazil.

The forward has now gained extensive European experience and has also collected a treble of the league title, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey in his second season at the Camp Nou. He also scored in both legs of the quarter-finals, semi-finals, as well as in the final of the European Cup to give a display of his credentials.

In two years’ time he will be even more deadly and will be expected to carry the hopes of Brazil even more admirably than he did in the summer of 2014.

2018 FIFA World Cup: Who will be the Top Goalscorer?

Thomas Muller

The Bayern Munich forward has played in two World Cup tournaments and has already notched up ten goals in the competition. Still only 26, there is hardly a doubt in anyone’s mind that by the time the gangling forward hangs up his boots, he would have taken over his compatriot Mirsolav Klose as the all-time leading goalscorer at the quadrennial event. What also helps Muller’s cause to be the leading marksman in Russia in two years time is the fact that the defending world champions have no real alternative as yet in the striker role, which will allow the Bayern Munich star to play majority of minutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portugal national team captain will most probably be playing his last World Cup in Russia in the summer of 2018. Although a prolific scorer at club level as well in internationals, Ronaldo has somehow failed to light up the World Cup with his goals. With the 2018 being his last chance to win the prestigious competition, Ronaldo must be greatly determined to finish on a high and preferably with not just the Golden Boot but also the World Cup.

Luis Suarez

The Uruguay international has always been a prolific goal-getter. A fierce competitor, for him no ball is a lost cause as long as he can reach it. Uruguay’s do or die game against England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is a prime example of Suarez’s attitude towards the game. He fought through the pain and scored a brace to ensure his team qualified for the knockout stage of the competition in Brazil. His performances elevated Liverpool into contenders in the 2013/14 Premier League campaign, and if numbers are anything to go by, he has become even more deadly after joining Barcelona, having recently become only a handful of Blaugrana players to score 40 goals in a single campaign. Suarez is a good bet to finish as the topscorer in Russia.

Antoine Griezmann

The Frenchman has been in terrific form at the club level for the past three seasons. He formed an exceptional attacking partnership with Carlos Vela while he was at Real Sociedad that ultimately earned him a move to Atletico Madrid and he has continued scoring goals at will at the Vicente Calderon outfit. The youngster was the top scorer for Los Rojiblancos in their last league campaign and this season, too, he is on course to repeat the feat, having netted 12 league goals already. Karim Benzema’s Les Bleus future remains unresolved and if he ends up getting banned from the national team for a long time after his recent off-field issues, there is every chance that Griezmann will be Didier Deschamps’ favoured frontman in 2018.

Neymar

Still only 24, the Barcelona star has already scored 46 goals for the Brazil national team. If he continues at the same rate, there is every likelihood that he will end up as the leading goalscorer for the Selecao by the time he retires. The way he carried the hopes of his nation at the 2014 World Cup was fantastic for someone at just 22 – as a he was at the time. Now with sufficient experience of European football under his belt, Neymar will be even more fearsome in Russia.