By Brian Homewood
Germany dominated the FIFA Player of the Year shortlist, with six nominees among the 23 candidates announced on Tuesday, while the 10-man coaching shortlist was full of anomalies and controversy.
Jurgen Klinsmann was included among the coaches after leading United States to the last 16 of the World Cup but Jorge Luis Pinto and Jose Pekerman, who took Costa Rica and Colombia respectively to the quarter-finals, were overlooked.
Jorge Sampaoli, whose hugely entertaining Chile side knocked out defending champions Spain on their way to the last sixteen, and Vahid Halilhodzic, who took an inspirational Algeria to the knockout stages, were also ignored.
On the other hand, there was room for Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola, even though his team’s most important match of the year, a Champions League semi-final at home to Real Madrid, ended in a 4-0 defeat.
Almost inevitably, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho also sneaked in despite failing to land a trophy on his return to Stamford Bridge.
The players’ list showed similar anomalies and appeared to be based more on European club football than FIFA’s flagship tournament.
Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger were six players from world champions Germany to be included and beaten finalists Argentina had three, Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano.
Last year’s winner Cristiano Ronaldo was duly named along with his Real Madrid team-mates Gareth Bale (Wales) and James Rodriguez
Manchester City and Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure was the only African player short-listed, Neymar was Brazil’s sole representative, and there were none at all from CONCACAF region or Asia.
Notable absentees included United States goalkeeper Tim Howard and Costa Rica stopper Keylor Navas, both outstanding in Brazil, and Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, who many critics saw as one of the tournament’s most influential players.
FIFA, who organise the award jointly with France Football, said the final three candidates for both awards, officially known as the Ballon d’Or, would be announced on December 1 with the award ceremony in Zurich on January 12.
“The list of 23 male candidates has been drawn up by football experts from the FIFA Football Committee and by a group of experts from France Football,” FIFA said.
“The list of ten coaches has been drawn up by the committee for Women’s Football and FIFA Women’s World Cup and by the FIFA Football Committee, as well as by a group of experts from France Football.”