Navas was spectacular throughout the Ticos’ improbable run and Neuer showed why he is regarded as perhaps the best keeper in the world. Romero’s selection is a head-scratcher; aside from the penalty kick tiebreaker with the Netherlands, he did not stand out.
Every finalist for the Golden Ball award, honoring the best player in the tournament, is also from teams that made deep runs in the competition:
Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria
Germany defender Mats Hummels
Germany midfielder Toni Kroos
Germany defender Philipp Lahm
Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano
Argentina forward Lionel Messi
Germany forward Thomas Mueller
Brazil forward Neymar
Netherlands forward Arjen Robben
Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez
Hard to argue with any of those choices, other than Di Maria.
My top three are Messi, Rodriguez and Mueller.
The finalists for the young player award (born on or after Jan. 1, 1993) are also from quarterfinalists or better:
Netherlands midfielder Memphis Depay
France midfielder Paul Pogba
France defender Raphael Varane
There is some question as to whether the quarterfinals are a prerequisite for a player to earn recognition. Some say yes, some say no. FIFA did not immediately respond to an email about the guidelines used by FIFA’s technical study group, which submitted the lists.
UPDATE: FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer says: “There is no specific rule, performance evaluated by the FIFA Technical Study Group is the criterium.”
FIFA will announce all of the award winners following Sunday’s final between Germany and Argentina at Maracana stadium (3 p.m. ET, ABC, Univision).
*FIFA appointed Italy’s Nicola Rizzoli as the referee for the final. Compatriots Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani are the assistants. Carlos Vera from Ecuador is the fourth official.
Rizzoli has already worked two Argentine matches: Nigeria in the group stage and Belgium in the quarterfinals. He also handled the Spain-Netherlands group game.
Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s referee chief, dismissed concerns about Rizzoli’s previous matches involving Argentina, saying the choice of the referee is about “quality. … It doesn’t matter if you officiated before, one or two times. It probably could also be a benefit because you know exactly the team.”
*FIFA anticipates capacity for the final will be about 74,200. Each of the participating teams will have 13,000 visiting supporters.