FIFA has today announced the names of the six players on the shortlist for the adidas Golden Ball, awarded as always to the best player of the tournament.
All the nominees come from Brazil, Italy, Spain and Uruguay, the four semi-finalists. The winner of the prestigious honour for the outstanding individual at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 will be determined by media representatives accredited for the event.
The winner will be announced immediately after the final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on 30 June. The runner-up wins the adidas Silver Ball, with the adidas Bronze Ball awarded to the player in third.
The candidates were selected by the FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG).
Candidates for the adidas Golden Ball at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 (in alphabetical order):
Andres Iniesta (Spain): Iniesta's reputation as an established global star of the game was sealed by his winning goal for Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ final against the Netherlands. He has been a hot contender for the FIFA Ballon d'Or for a number of years in succession, and despite a blizzard of winner’s medals with La* Roja* and Barcelona, his energy and commitment in Brazil prove he is far from sated yet. The 29-year-old was named Man of the Match in his country's 2-1 victory over Uruguay in their first group fixture.
Neymar (Brazil): The striker, one of the hottest properties in world football, underlined his immense value to A Seleção in the group stage with three goals in three games. He scored early on against Japan (after three minutes) and Mexico (after nine) to hand the hosts a precious lead, and struck shortly after the break against Italy to put his side 2-1 ahead, just four minutes after the Squadra Azzurra had equalised. He has caught the eye with his exceptional pace on the ball, silky dribbling skills, fulminating long-range shots with either foot, deadly composure in the penalty box, and the ability to provide textbook lay-offs to better placed team-mates even in crowded areas of the field. The Brazilian is the only player to be named Man of the Match twice so far.
Paulinho (Brazil): Paulinho is not only exceptionally strong in the air, an attribute based on his powerful leaping ability and outstanding positional play, but is also highly regarded for his sudden thrusts from deep towards the opposing penalty area. As a result, he has scored twice in three matches at the tournament so far, an impressive return for a midfielder. Following a strike in Brazil's opening match against Japan, Paulinho crowned a fine display in the semi-final against Uruguay with the winning goal four minutes from time, sealing his side’s 2-1 victory.
Andrea Pirlo (Italy): Just like Uruguay veteran Diego Forlan, Pirlo seems only to be getting better with age. And in another parallel with the South American master, the 35-year-old Italian also marked his 100th international with a goal: he scored in a 2-1 victory over Mexico, was named Man of the Match, and set his side on the road to the last four. However, it was not only the goal which impressed the fans and experts. Pirlo’s elegance makes sublime passes look like child's play as he prompts, probes and initiates attacking moves from his central midfield position. The Italians came within an ace of eliminating world and European champions Spain in the semi-finals, but with Pirlo carrying an injury, he and his team-mates were unable to exact revenge for defeat in the final at EURO 2012.
Sergio Ramos (Spain): True to form, the defender has been a near-insurmountable obstacle at the heart of the Spain defence. Despite the goals raining in during the group stage, the defender topped the Castrol Index at the conclusion of the preliminary round, ahead of all the star strikers at the tournament. The Real Madrid stalwart is living proof of the quality running through Vicente del Bosque’s team not just in attack but in every area of the park. Ramos has made a vital contribution to the Spaniards restricting their opponents to a solitary goal so far. He tops the rankings for ball-winning and is also the outfield player who has made the most clearances.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay): The 26-year-old rates as one of the top strikers in the global game, and he is a revered star of the Uruguayan team. His free kicks can be deadly, as he has proved again in Brazil: in the opening match, the striker curled a perfectly-struck shot past Iker Casillas and into the right corner of the Spanish net. Suarez’ three goals in Brazil mean he has also become his country’s all-time leading scorer, overtaking no less a living legend than team-mate Forlan.
Previous winners of the adidas Golden Ball at the FIFA Confederations Cup
1997 - Denilson (Brazil)
1999 - Ronaldinho (Brazil)
2001 - Robert Pires (France)
2003 - Thierry Henry (France)
2005 - Adriano (Brazil)
2009 - Kaka (Brazil)