World Cup award contenders: Messi, Mbappe fighting for the Golden Boot, Golden Ball

With 62 games done and clean, only two games are yet to be played at the World Cup in Qatar: the third-place clash between Croatia and Morocco on Saturday, December 17 and then the mini-final itself, between Argentina and reigning champions France 24 hours later.

Lionel Messi has vowed, win or lose, the 2022 final in Lusail will be his last World Cup game for Albiceleste and the stage is definitely being set for the 35-year-old forward to reach his peak.

However, France is both looking to become the championship’s first successive winners since the great Brazilian side of 1958 and 1962, and Les Bleus also boast their own talismanic superstar in Kylian Mbappe who they hope will spur them on their quest.

But apart from the World Cup itself, there are still a number of individual prizes at stake such as the Golden Boot, Golden Glove and Golden Ball awards which will be distributed after the final concludes on Sunday. Indeed, all three can still be decided over the remaining two matches of the 2022 World Cup given the sheer number of players remaining.

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Golden Shoe

The Golden Boot is awarded to the top scorer in the World Cup and, as it happened, finalists against Messi and Mbappe are the joint front runners with five goals to their name heading into the final.

But this is not a two-horse race, as Argentina’s Julian Alvarez and France’s Olivier Giroud trail only by four goals apiece, with the latter also having the distinction of overtaking Thierry Henry to become France’s all-time leading men’s goalscorer. during the 2022 World Cup.

The Golden Shoe is primarily determined based on the total number of goals scored by individual players in the tournament, but if there is a level-pegging at the top towards the end of the game then the award is settled using tie-breaker criteria: first assist, then fewest minutes played.

Messi therefore leads the standings with three assists for Argentina (the most with any player in the tournament) while Mbappe has provided two for his France team-mate. However, this could all change during the final, in which Messi has played 570 minutes, far more than Mbappe’s 477 so far.

There have been very tight Gold Shoe races that have been completed this way before. For example, the 2010 race was eventually won by Thomas Muller despite being one of four players to score five goals in South Africa alongside Wesley Sneijder, David Villa and Diego Forlan. The German was awarded based on his three assists.

Regarding the race for the 2022 Golden Boot, there are only two other players under Messi, Mbappe, Alavarez and Giroud in the standings who are still active and have recorded more than one goal. Andrej Kramaric of Croatia and Youssef En-Nesyri of Morocco have scored two goals each so far, but they will have to produce something truly extraordinary in third place if they are to leapfrog their rivals and claim the honor.

Golden Gloves

The Golden Glove is awarded to the goalkeeper with the best performance at the World Cup, with some of the biggest names having won in the past — including Oliver Kahn, Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer, Gianluigi Buffonl — since the award was first inaugurated in 1994.

More subjective than the Golden Boot, the winner is determined by FIFA’s Technical Study Group, or “technical committee”, as it is often called. In the event of a stalemate in the deliberations, the winner is the goalkeeper who has advanced farthest in the competition. If a further tie-breaker is required, the award will be awarded to the shot-stopper who makes the most saves, then the most minutes played.

Emi Martinez (Argentina), Hugo Lloris (France), Dominik Livakovic (Croatia) and Yassine Bounou (Morocco) are the four goalkeepers who have qualified for the last two matches of the 2022 World Cup.

Bounou, Livakovic and Martinez have all won from at least one penalty shootout apiece in Qatar, although Lloris has made plenty of stunning saves as Les Bleus advanced to their second final in four years.

golden ball

The Golden Ball is awarded to the best player at the World Cup and again features a more subjective selection process, with selected members of the global media voting on a list of nominees compiled by FIFA’s technical committee.

While a definitive outcome may depend on the outcome in the final, it’s safe to say that Messi and Mbappe are the two main contenders for the 2022 award thanks to the moments of match-winning genius they have provided so far.

Midfield maestro Luka Modric and Antoine Griezmann are also likely to be considered at first along with other standout players like Livakovic and Achraf Hakimi, but the definitive decider will be who gets the best result at Lusail on Sunday – Messi or Mbappe.

The Golden Ball award was first awarded in 1982 when it was claimed by Italian striker Paolo Rossi (who also won the Golden Boot that year). Since then, a number of big names have received praise with Diego Maradona (1986), Ronaldo (1998) and Modric (2018) among the recipients.

Messi was the previous winner, although he did claim the Ballon d’Or in 2014 after losing the final to Germany, leading to some odd images of the Argentinian anguished at having to lift his best player amid Germany’s celebrations.

Similarly, French talisman Zinedine Zidane was forced to collect the Golden Ball at the 2006 World Cup despite being sent off for head-butting an opponent and then France went on to lose on penalties to Italy in the final.

Kahn remains the only goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball thanks to his outstanding performances for Germany at the 2002 World Cup, which also earned him the Golden Gloves.

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