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Michael Taylor 7th Jun 2010 - 12:14

Five great bets for the Golden Ball

It seems that goals don't only win games when it comes to World Cup time, they also win somebody the Golden Ball award.

Since the inception of the World's greatest tournament back in 1930 it seems FIFA have had eyes for forwards and forwards alone when it comes to choosing the player of the Cup.

Eighteen times the award has been handed out and sixteen times has the recipient been more focused on their opponents' penalty area than defending that of their own.

Is it fair? Perhaps not. But when it comes to betting it makes a potential minefield that little bit easier, or at least it should do.

Here's where I think the value is for the 2010 edition in South Africa:

1. Steven Gerrard - 33/1

Gerrard and Liverpool, to put it politely, didn't have the best of seasons in the Premier League this season but I feel it's far too early to write the inspirational captain as a 'has-been'.

Every single English football fan knows exactly what 'Stevie G' is about with a career littered with big time goals and performances, and it'd be only fitting if the midfield man stepped up on the biggest stage of all.

What's more, in Rio Ferdinand's absence, he has the captain's armband and he'll be an essential cog if England are to progress deep into the competition.

A few things need to happen for him to be at his peak, including building a partnership with Frank Lampard and staying healthy after a few worrying pre-tournament moments, but if things do click then he has the chance of a lifetime.

2. Cesc Fabregas - 40/1

Another one Premier League fans know all about, unlike Gerrard though he has the potential to be an unknown quantity on the world stage.

Fabregas, at club level, shines every week in front of adoring Gooners yet when it comes to the Spanish national team he's far from the first name on the teamsheet.

The brilliant Barcelona duo of Andres Iniesta and Xavi are without doubt the best attacking midfield pairing in South Africa, however neither has enjoyed a clean bill of health in the run-up.

If one of the star men can't participate then you better believe Fabregas will be ready to take his chance if needs be and when you think of that type of depth within the Spanish ranks then you can see exactly why they're the ante-post favourites.

3. Gonzalo Higuain - 50/1

The correlation between the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot is plain for all to see with four men in the past having won both awards in the same year - Higuain could easily be the fifth.

The Real Madrid man was a regular scorer in La Liga this season and with the attacking talent surrounding him in the Argentina set-up there's no reason he won't be at least as prolific, if not more, for his national side.

He may only have two international goals to his name, however if he can be on the receiving end of the countless chances everyone expects Argentina to have then he can't be overlooked when the award panel comes to judgement.

It'll probably take six or seven goals for him to get into the reckoning, plus he needs Maradona to have wised up since a drab qualification - I can't be the only one to believe both of these things are achievable though.

4. Lucio - 100/1

Don't worry, I'm not going mad. I don't expect Lucio to be a regular goal threat for the Brazilians (although it wouldn't be the first time a centre back is seen as a goalscorer for the Samba Boys).

What I do expect the Inter Milan man will do is stop goals and if he manages it as well as he's done for the Champions League winners then he's a great each way shot.

The truth is a centre back has never claimed the crown, in 2006 though Fabio Cannavaro came close winning the Silver Ball (second best player) as he imperiously marshalled the Italian defence to the World Cup.

And believe it or not Brazil may just take a leaf out of Marcelo Lippi's book, favouring counter attacking football rather than attacking every match with stereotypical flair and gusto.

If this is the case then Lucio becomes more integral than ever, and if he ends July with a Champions League winners' medal and a World Cup one then not even the most critical can deny his name is in the hat.

Maybe the Golden Ball is beyond him but at ¼ odds first three his value is clear for all to see.

5. Steven Pienaar - 150/1

This may seem way off the mark, indeed it could be foolish, however a good run for the hosts, even ones with squads as bad as South Africa, are almost a given at the World Cup.

The weakest Germany side in years were desperately unlucky not to make the 2006 final; South Korea wound-up in the semi-finals four years prior to that and France landed a first ever Jules Rimet back in 1998.

If South Africa can make it to the quarter-finals, grant you it'll be tough, then everyone will be looking towards their star player as the leader and he comes in the form of Everton's Steven Pienaar.

The tricky midfielder has great delivery and an eye for goal. He may be far from the best player on display however with Africa wanting to put themselves on the football map they need an icon and FIFA may just signal Pienaar out as that.

An obvious long shot, no longer than Hong Myung-Bo (the retired South Korea sweeper) though and he managed to claim the bronze ball back in 2002 - at least I've heard of Pienaar!


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