January 7, 2017 12:05:49 pm
Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world’s best player on Monday.
A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich.
Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA’s top individual prize.
However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine’s prestiguous Golden Ball.
FIFA will also name the best women’s player, and the best coaches in men’s and women’s soccer.
Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and _ for the first time _ an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points.
Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony:
After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo’s turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition.
He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann’s Atletico Madrid.
But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage.
Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship _ two weeks after Messi’s Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile.
Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo’s two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales.
In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as _ with his knee strapped _ he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win.
For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed.
Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007.
Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona.
Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss _ a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring _ and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico.
Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi’s prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo’s season record of 17 _ set in 2013-14 _ is within his sight this year.
Griezmann’s goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016.
In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout.
Griezmann’s six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice _ including a coolly taken penalty _ against favored Germany in the semifinals.
However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time.
Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal?
Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide.
Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run.
Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes.
Germany’s Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards.
Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil.
All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year’s winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden.
FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European.
Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You’ll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games.
A fans’ vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women’s Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang.
FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players’ union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team.