Zidane short-listed for Golden Ball award

July 6, 2006

BERLIN, July 6 (Reuters) - France playmaker Zinedine Zidane, who will end his glorious career in the World Cup final against Italy on Sunday, has been short-listed for the prestigious FIFA Golden Ball award.

The winner of the prize, which is given to the most valuable player in the 32-team tournament, will be announced on Monday.

The nominations were dominated by Italy and France with hosts Germany earning two spots and Portugal one.

Four Italians were nominated by FIFA's Technical Study Group - keeper Gianluigi Buffon, central defender Fabio Cannavaro, midfielder Andrea Pirlo and fullback Gianluca Zambrotta.

France, who face Italy at the Olympiastadion, had three players short-listed - Zinedine Zidane, striker Thierry Henry and midfielder Patrick Vieira.

Germany's playmaker Michael Ballack and striker Miroslav Klose were also selected along with midfielder Maniche of Portugal, who play the hosts in Saturday's third-place match.

OLDER PLAYERS

'It's going to be difficult to pick a winner this time,' Franz Beckenbauer, Germany's organising committee president, said after the nominations were announced.

'The one thing that can be said is this is the first time there are not any new names. I'd say one of the older players... will take it -- I liked Henry and Zidane and Figo, even though he isn't on the list.'

The winner will be picked by FIFA accredited journalists and announced the day after the final at the end of the month-long tournament that began with 32 teams on June 9.

In 2002, Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn won the Golden Ball, an honour presented six times since 1982.

Italy's Paolo Rossi won the first award before it went to Argentina's Diego Maradona (1986), Italy's Salvatore Schillaci (1990) and Brazilians Romario (1994) and Ronaldo (1998).

The nominations are: Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Maniche (Portugal), Michael Ballack (Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy), Thierry Henry (France), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Patrick Vieira (France), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Zinedine Zidane (France)