Arguably the greatest player of all time and certainly the greatest player of the current generation, Lionel Messi was expected to light up this World Cup. Argentina breezed through the group stages albeit playing some unimpressive football, with Messi scoring an incredible four goals in three games.
Some might say Messi dragged them past the group stages and few could argue against that fact. Messi scored an amazing goal in the first game against Bosnia and Herzegovina, hit a last minute winner against Iran and topped it off with an impressive brace against Nigeria. The Argentine legend looked set to cement his legacy as the greatest player of all time.
Argentina entered the knockout stages and continued to grind out narrow wins. Firstly against Switzerland in the Round of 16, where Messi produced a last minute assist in extra time to set up Angel Di Maria's winner. However, Messi failed to have much of an impact in a game in which Argentina was expected to win comfortably. Next came Belgium and Messi showed flashes of brilliance however failed to score or assist in a rather dull game.
Argentina failed to score a single goal in the next two games- the Semi final and the Final of the World Cup. Messi was rather anonymous in both games having been excellently marked by the Dutch (Ron Vlaar in particular) in the semi final and by the Germans in the final. He blew an excellent opportunity to win it all for Argentina.
Giving the Golden Ball to a player who only scored his goals in the group stages and against relatively weak opposition teams and failing to have a large impact in the crucial knockout stages was unfair to several other deserving candidates.
For starters, Javier Mascherano was outstanding throughout the tournament. He was one of the main reasons behind Argentina's excellent defense this season, shielding the back 4 perfectly and making the crucial block to stop Arjen Robben from scoring the winner in the semi-final.
Germany themselves had probably four players more deserving of the award in Tony Kroos, Thomas Muller, Philip Lahm and Mats Hummels.
Kroos was instrumental in Germany's success throughout the tournament dictating the play and was voted man of the match in Germany's demolition of Brazil scoring two goals and contributing two assists in that match itself.
Muller, who finished runner-up to Messi for the Golden Ball, was the focal point of Germany's attack. He scored an impressive hat trick against Portugal and followed it up with crucial goals for Germany throughout their World Cup winning campaign.
Lahm, the captain of Germany performed well as expected in the holding midfield role and the right back role during this tournament making some excellent tackles and successfully negating Argentina's attack in the finals making some excellent tackles and interceptions throughout this tournament. Lahm also contributed to Germany in the attacking sense providing two assists and dictating the play with his brilliant passing in the middle of the park.
Hummels was a rock in the heart of defence. He was solid for Germany throughout the tournament, proving some match winning performances most notably against an impressive French team in the quarter finals; scoring the winner and then defending brilliantly to keep out Karim Benzema and company.
Finally we move to Arjen Robben who was my personal choice for the Golden Ball award. The flying Dutch winger was outstanding this tournament and looked menacing in all of Holland's games in this World Cup. Beginning with the dismantling of the world champions Spain in his first game, Robben scored a brilliant solo goal in his brace.
He followed that performance with some excellent performances against Chile and Australia and was involved in most of the goals for Holland. Robben was the focal point of the attack again against Mexico and Costa Rica and was unfortunate to lose to Argentina on penalties in the semi finals where Robben was always on the ball and was looking very dangerous in contrast to Messi who was largely anonymous in that match. Robben topped off an incredible campaign with another excellent performance against Brazil to gift Holland 3rd place in the World Cup.
Do you think Messi deserved to win the Golden Ball? Leave your comments below.
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