The contenders for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or Award for the best player of 2015 and for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2015 Award have been announced today on FIFA.com, francefootball.fr and on FIFA’s YouTube channel in a show hosted by Kate Abdo (Sky Sports) with expert analysis from Nadine Kessler (German national team player and FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2014) and Edgar Davids (former Dutch national team player and winner of the UEFA Champions League 1994-1995).
The nominees for the FIFA Ballon d’Or are, in alphabetical order: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona) and Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona). Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd (USA/Houston Dash), Aya Miyama (Japan/Okayama Yunogo Belle), and Célia Šašić (Germany/1. FFC Frankfurt) are in the running for the women’s award.
The candidates for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football and FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football awards have also been announced. In alphabetical order, the contenders are:
Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Bayern Munich), Luis Enrique Martínez (Spain/FC Barcelona), Jorge Sampaoli (Argentina/Chilean national team) for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football award; and Jill Ellis (USA/USA national team), Mark Sampson (Wales/English national team) and Norio Sasaki (Japan/Japanese national team) for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football award.
All of the nominees were confirmed after a voting process, which was open to the captains and head coaches of the men’s and women’s national teams of the 207 member associations as well as international media representatives selected by FIFA and France Football.
The percentages of the collected votes are as follows (number of votes/number of associations): Voting for men’s awards: 165 Member associations (captains & coaches): 79.71% Media representatives: 88.60%
Voting for women’s awards: 136 Member associations (captains & coaches): 76,83% Media representatives: 80.92%
The voting procedure for each of the awards was supervised and monitored by the independent observer PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Switzerland.
In addition, the three nominees for the FIFA Puskás Award for the “most beautiful goal of the year” were announced. The three final goals are: Alessandro Florenzi – 16.09.2015, AS Roma – FC Barcelona, UEFA Champions League / Wendell Lira – 11.03.2015, Atletico-GO –Goianesia, Campeonato Goiano (Brazil) / Lionel Messi – 30.05.2015, Athletic Bilbao - FC Barcelona, Copa del Rey (Spain).
All of the awards will be presented at the FIFA Ballon d’Or award ceremony at theKongresshaus in Zurich on 11 January 2016 during a televised show to be streamed live on FIFA.com and FIFA on YouTube.
FIFA.com rounds up another busy month of women’s football action, with champions crowned, transfers taking place and crucial qualifying steps being taken across the world.
International footballRace to the Netherlands gathers paceThe last week of November saw the resumption of qualifying for the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 and produced several tight, and some not-so-tight, encounters. Group 7 favourites England, fresh from a 0-0 friendly draw in Germany, were among the teams to find it tough, relying on a solitary Jill Scott goal to see off stubborn visitors from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Russia also found goals hard to come by, eking out a 1-0 win over Hungary after a 0-0 draw with Turkey that further damaged their hopes of emerging from a section dominated by the Germans. Others found it more straightforward, though, with France seeing off Albania 6-0, while Switzerland and Spain returned from Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland respectively with 8-1 and 3-0 wins. The biggest scoreline of all, though, was racked up by Group 1 leaders Scotland, who maintained their 100 per cent record with a thumping 10-0 victory over Macedonia.
Nigeria, Ghana maintain U-20 duopolyAfrica will be represented by Nigeria and Ghana for the fourth FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in succession after this dominant duo maintained their grip in the recent continental qualifiers. Yet although the tournament, which began in May, concluded this month with a familiar outcome, the Falconets and Black Princesses didn’t have it all their own way. South Africa proved tough opponents for Nigeria in the final round before going down 3-1 on aggregate, while Ghana were held to a 2-2 first-leg draw by Ethiopia before their superior class told in the return. The individual stars included Chinwendu Ihezuo, a veteran of Nigeria’s run to the U-20 Women’s World Cup final in Canada last year, who finished joint-top scorer with six goals.
Korea DPR Asia’s U-17 queens Winners of the inaugural edition in 2008, Korea DPR will head to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year as Asian champions. That status was secured after they capped an impressive 2015 AFC U-16 Women's Championship campaign in Wuhan, China PR by beating holders Japan 1-0 in a tight final. Ri Hae-Yon scored the decisive goal as the Koreans recaptured the continental title for the first time since 2007, and the talented striker also earned the Most Valuable Player award for her sparkling performances across the tournament.
Club footballChampions crowned in Asia, Russia Though a few championship races concluded over the past month, none had a more dramatic climax than Korea Republic’s WK-League's. Icheon Daekyo were seconds away from dethroning Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels only to concede a 123rd-minute equaliser in the play-off final, with a subsequent defeat on penalties making it three titles-in-a-row for Incheon. In Japan, meanwhile, NTV Beleza – the Nadeshiko League’s most successful club – ended a five-year championship drought by topping the standings for a 14th time. There was a familiar name inscribed on the Russian Women’s Football Championship trophy too, with Zvezda wrapping up a domestic double with their fifth league title and second in succession.
Ferroviaria lift the LibertadoresThere is a new name on South America’s top female club prize after Ferroviaria became the third Brazilian side to claim the Copa Libertadores Femenina. The Araraquara outfit maintained their unblemished record in this year’s tournament by beating 2012 champions Colo Colo 3-1 in the final, with Tabatha notching two of their goals. The Chilean runners-up remain the only non-Brazilians to have won the Libertadores thus far, with Santos and Sao Jose the other sides to have claimed the continental crown.
Done deals in USAWhile USA’s National Women’s Soccer League players enjoy a well-earned break, its clubs have been busier than ever preparing their squads for next season. Among the eye-catching deals taking place have been Western New York Flash’s capture of New Zealand stalwart Abby Erceg and Canada’s Adriana Leon, along with USA defender Whitney Engen’s move to Boston Breakers. Seattle Reign have been busier than most, and while the addition of Sweden midfielder Antonia Goransson and talented Dutch forward Manon Melis should provide fresh impetus, it is the club’s re-signing news that has most excited fans. That is because the club, NWSL Shield winners in 2015, have retained seven key players, most notably the league’s 2014 MVP and all-time leading scorer, Kim Little.
DevelopmentNo fewer than 12 countries played host to Live Your Goals events during November, with Lithuania, St. Kitts and Nevis, Wales, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Tahiti, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Jordan and Tanzania building on the programme’s erstwhile successes. Girls’ festivals were also held in Maldives, Solomon Islands, Singapore, Egypt, Comoros, Montenegro, Vanuatu, Afghanistan, Samoa and Uruguay, where the next generation of female players all enjoyed games and benefited from expert coaching.
The stat493.6 million – The amount, in Canadian dollars, of economic activity generated by the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™ and FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014, as revealed by a report earlier this month. This impressive figure exceeded preliminary projections by a whopping 46 per cent.
The quote“It wasn’t as if I was doing something I shouldn’t, something scandalous. I told him where to go. That’s the way I am. I have a lot of character. If I’d just bowed my head, none of this would have happened.” Maria Elena Valverde, a pioneering figure in Costa Rican women’s football, on divorcing a husband who disapproved of her involvement in the game.
UAE sharpshooter Ahmed Khalil stunned compatriot Omar Abdulrahman and China's Zheng Zhi on Sunday as he was named AFC's Asian player of the year at a glittering ceremony in India. The 24-year-old former youth player of the year could hardly believe his good fortune when his name emerged from the envelope at the Bollywood-themed show in Gurgaon, near New Delhi.
Much of the smart money had been on 2013 winner Zheng, after he led Guangzhou Evergrande to their second AFC Champions League title in three years against Khalil's Al Ahli last week. But instead it was Khalil who accepted the trophy from Asian football boss Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in front of hundreds of delegates.
"My feeling is something I cannot explain...this award means a lot to me," Khalil told reporters. "This achievement is not for Ahmed, it's for all the people in the Emirates."
"In the end there can only be one winner. Maybe this year I gave my 100 per cent in all matches. Honestly I did not expect to win this award - God has helped me win this award."
Khalid's award is richly deserved after his goals fired UAE to third place at the AFC Asian Cup in January and also took Al Ahli to the brink of the AFC Champions League title. He has also scored ten times in the UAE's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, raising hopes of a second appearance at the tournament after Italy 1990.
Khalid's victory comes just a week after emotional scenes when he was substituted due to fatigue during Al Ahli's decisive 1-0 defeat to Evergrande in the second leg of the Champions League final. He said he would stay loyal to UAE outfit Al Ahli in the immediate future, despite a burning ambition to make the lucrative and prestigious move to Europe.
"Every player wants to play in Europe," he said. "I have goals that I have set for the future. My ambition is to play with a European club (but) I have a contract with my club and I will continue to play for them."
Khalid's success denies Evergrande and China captain Zheng his second Asian player of the year award, and also means disappointment for Abdulrahman, known as "Amoory". The mop-topped playmaker dazzled with his performances at the Asian Cup but Khalid's performances in the AFC Champions League helped tip the balance in his favour.
Among other awards, Ange Postecoglou was named coach of the year after guiding Australia to the Asian Cup title in January, and the Socceroos also won best men's team.
"It's been a great year for Australian football," Postecoglou said. "I guess this award is not just for me but everyone who works really hard, and not just the national team but the whole organisation."
Tottenham Hotspur's Korea Republic forward Son Heung-Min was named international player of the year and Evergrande's Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart won foreign player of the year. Under Asian Football Confederation rules, only footballers who attend the awards show are entitled to receive the main prize of Asian player of the year.
Arguably the biggest winners were Japan, who won seven awards in total including best women's team for their Nadeshiko national outfit, who finished runners-up at FIFA Women's World Cup™ in Canada. And there was some consolation for Zheng when Evergrande were named club of the year, after winning their fifth straight domestic title as well as the Champions League.
Arsenal lost Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny to injury in a 1-1 draw at Norwich City on Sunday that prevented them drawing level with English Premier League leaders Manchester City. Sanchez set up Mesut Ozil for Arsenal's 30th-minute opener at Carrow Road, but after Lewis Grabban had equalised just before half-time, the influential Chilean left the fray clutching his right hamstring.
Centre-back Koscielny had already departed by that stage, having been replaced by Gabriel in the 11th minute, leaving Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger with seven senior players on the sidelines. Arsenalfinished the weekend two points below City in fourth place, with Leicester City and Manchester United between them, having squandered an opportunity to move level on points with Manuel Pellegrini's side.
Liverpool had much happier injury news to report in their 1-0 home win over Swansea City as they welcomed back English internationals Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturrige from injury. James Milner's 62nd-minute penalty, awarded for a handball by Neil Taylor, lifted Jurgen Klopp's side up to sixth place and increased the pressure on Swansea manager Garry Monk, who has overseen one win in ten league games.
Henderson, Liverpool's captain, made his return after three months out with a heel problem and a broken foot, as a replacement for Roberto Firmino, while Sturridge made his first appearance under Klopp in place of Christian Benteke. Liverpool have lost only once in ten games since Klopp succeeded the sacked Brendan Rodgers and finished the weekend four points below fourth-place Arsenal, who occupy the last of the Champions League places.
Earlier, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho declared that the champions had produced their best performance of the campaign after they drew 0-0 at in-form Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea have had little to shout about of late and although the result served only to move them up to 14th place in the standings, Mourinho, who dropped misfiring striker Diego Costa, was encouraged by what he saw.
"It was the best Chelsea performance of the season, against a dangerous team," said the Portuguese, who saw Eden Hazard impress in an unfamiliar role as a lone striker. "My players did everything to try and interpret my defensive ideas with the ball. I am more than happy with the performance. I am happy with the team collectively."
Spurs went closest in the first half, Son Heung-Min forcing Asmir Begovic into action with a firm header, while Hazard drew a fine stop from Hugo Lloris in the second period with a thunderous left-foot volley. The result extended Spurs' unbeaten run to 13 Premier League games, but they squandered an opportunity to break into the top four.
"They did not do much to win the game. We deserved more. We tried to win it," said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino. "I think Chelsea will be happy with the point. It is more important to them than us."
West Ham United are now without a win in four league games following a 1-1 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion. Mauro Zarate put the hosts ahead in the 17th minute with a pinpoint free-kick, but West Brom equalised early in the second half when substitute Rickie Lambert's shot deflected in off Winston Reid for an own goal.
China PR captain Zheng Zhi on Saturday said the team was facing a "crucial moment", after a disappointing 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying campaign angered fans and left coach Alain Perrin under pressure.
Zheng, who is shortlisted for Sunday's Asian player of the year awards in New Delhi, said China had to pull themselves together and perform in their final two second-round qualifiers next year. The Chinese Football Association (CFA) apologised and announced a review of Perrin's performance after a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong left the team third in their group and struggling to make the next round.
"Indeed our national team has encountered some obstacles and with our ranking in the group stage, maybe we'll have a lot of difficulties in the following games," Zheng said in the Indian capital. "But we still have two matches to go next year so the whole team really hope that we can work together, all the players with the coaches, and we can really make a change in the next two matches."
The veteran Zheng is up against the UAE's Ahmed Khalil and Omar Abdulrahman for his second Asian Football Confederation (AFC) award, after he won it two years ago in 2013. Zheng led Guangzhou Evergrande to their second AFC Champions League title last week - against Khalil's Al Ahli - but the path has not been so smooth for China's national team.
"We cannot deny that we now have some difficulties and our head coach is definitely under certain pressure. To everyone on the team, I think it's a crucial moment," Zheng told journalists.
"Everyone needs to work hard. The spectators and the Chinese fans really want the Chinese team to improve ourselves so we should improve ourselves and play better. I really believe that winning the AFC Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrande could contribute to the (national team) players' performance in the following matches and give encouragement to all the fans and spectators."
While the mop-haired Abdulrahman, known as "Amoory", was absent because of playing commitments, Khalil is hoping winning the award will boost his club after last week's 1-0 loss to Guangzhou. The 24-year-old said he still harboured hopes of making the leap from UAE club football to Europe, a move which would emulate Zheng's stints at Celtic and Charlton Athletic.
"Every player dreams of playing for big teams that he used to follow on TV...I have big hopes, big ambitions. I will do my best to achieve those ambitions," the striker said.
However, both players were lukewarm on the prospect of playing in India, where football has a foothold with two professional leagues, the I-League and the two-year-old Indian Super League. "I don't think Indian clubs will be interested in me because I'm too old," smiled midfielder Zheng, 35. "I think I may retire at Guangzhou Evergrande."
History was on the horizon. Either Iraq or Syria would be heading to their first FIFA World Cup™ if they emerged victorious from their showdown in Taif, the second leg of a Mexico 1986 qualifier that was wide open after a goalless first match. Ahmed Radhi, who would go on to captain Iraq and be regarded as one of the country’s finest ever players, was a raw 21-year-old forward hoping to etch his name into history.
“We were ready for that match,” Radhi told FIFA.com in an exclusive chat. “We prepared for a week in Saudi Arabia before playing the second leg. We didn’t feel that it was going to be a tough task for us and when we took the lead, things opened for us.”
The Iraqis led at the interval thanks to Hussain Said Mohammed’s strike, and Mahmoud Shaker doubled their advantage just after the break. Despite Walid Abou El-Sel pulling a goal back, Khalil Mohamed made sure of the result, and the Iraqis’ passage to Mexico, with his side’s third.
“The dream of each player in the world is to play in the World Cup and to be honest we couldn’t believe it,” Radhi recalled. “There were a lot of positive things that happened for us after reaching the finals.”
With the region in the midst of a war that consumed a number of gulf states for most of the 1980s, the process of playing the qualifiers was difficult for Radhi and his team-mates, with Iraq (along with Iran and Lebanon) playing their ‘home’ matches at neutral or away venues.
“Obviously it was very hard to travel to Syria [for the first leg] as we travelled to Jordan and from there, we moved to Damascus,” Radhi remembered. “There was a big tension that surrounded the match.”
That pressure, on the playing side at least, from the first leg was slightly eased by their three-goal winning performance in Saudi Arabia. Radhi would indeed go on to write his own name into the history books by scoring his country’s first, and so far only, World Cup goal against Belgium the following summer.