2022 FIFA World Cup – Individual brilliance focuses the Golden Ball spotlight

Quite literally billions of eager football fans are glued to their screens right now. The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has turned into a fascinating tournament, filled with entertaining and highly competitive encounters, and this has just been the initial group stage. Anything is possible once we reach the knockout stage, when further progress is decided in one-off matches, with no second chances.

Aside from the competing teams aiming for the biggest prize in football, which is none other than lifting the World Cup trophy, there are also numerous individual player awards up for grabs. The most prestigious of these is the undoubtedly the Golden Ball, presented to the best player of the tournament, accompanied by the Silver Ball and Bronze Ball, awarded respectively to the second and third most outstanding players.

Everything begins with a shortlist drawn up by the FIFA Technical Committee, albeit with an important minimum criteria in place, which is that players must have at least reached the Round of 16 with their national teams. The shortlist of candidates is then handed over to representatives of the media covering the tournament, who then vote for the winner of the Golden Ball, along with recipients of the Silver Ball and Bronze ball awards.

2022 Favourites

Given the tournament is currently in play, odds are continually fluctuating in practically every betting market. For the most prestigious individual award available, frequently checking the latest World Cup Golden Ball odds will be important, before deciding which players to back. In their detailed guide covering the award, SBO reviews all the options available, highlighting the most competitive odds and promotions available.

Now that every team has played at least two group stage games, at the time of writing, we now have a better indication towards genuine candidates to win the Golden Ball award. Unsurprisingly, there are a host of Brazilian players rated highly by oddsmakers at leading international betting sites, given their teams is also widely tipped to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Top amongst their candidates are Richarlison, Vinicius Junior, and Neymar.

But while numerous previous Golden Ball winners also lifted the World Cup trophy, we must not lose sight of this being an individual award. Regardless of how France ultimately fare at the 2022 World Cup, oddsmakers believe Kylian Mbappe has been their star player so far, demonstrating superb skill and scoring ability. That being said, his compatriot Antoinne Griezmann rates highly at statistical sites, when focusing entirely on performance numbers.

Considered to be the best footballer anywhere on the planet by many, Lionel Messi is also hotly tipped for the Golden Ball award. Despite the shock defeat suffered by Argentina in their opening match against Saudi Arabia, his performance made all the different in the victory against Mexico, firmly putting their ambitions to win the tournament back on track. As for outside considerations, Pedri could be an interesting within a Spain side boasting lots of youthful talents.

Past Winners

FIFA introduced the Golden Ball award for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, and the inaugural prize went to Italian footballing legend Paolo Rossi, who proved instrumental towards his team winning the tournament. Diego Maradona claimed the award at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, producing spellbinding performances that guided Argentina to victory. At the 1990 World Cup in Italy, striker Salvatore Schillaci won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot.

Brazilian expressions of skill and quality dominated the next two tournaments, insofar as the individual player awards are concerned. Romario was exceptional throughout the 1994 World Cup in the United States, as was Ronaldo during the 1998 World Cup in France. At the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, Oliver Kahn became the first goalkeeper to win the award, having made crucial saves that helped Germany triumph at the tournament.

Despite his infamous dismissal in the 2006 World Cup final, making his last appearance with the French national team in the defeat against Italy, the voting panel still awarded Zinedine Zidane the Golden ball for his magnificent performances beforehand. Interestingly, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa saw a player who hadn’t reached the final win the Golden Ball, when it was deservedly awarded to Diego Forlán of Uruguay.

At the last two editions of the tentpole FIFA tournament, Lionel Messi was voted best player at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, somewhat tempering the loss by Argentina against Germany in the final. When the 2018 World Cup rolled around in Russia, virtuoso performances by Luka Modric earned him the Golden Ball, crucial for Croatia on their adventure to the final, before ultimately being defeated by France.