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Old July 6, 2006, 09:05 AM
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Short Profile of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Adidas Golden Ball Candidates

Thierry Henry (France):
France provides a trio of aspirants, led by their lithe, graceful and lightning-quick striker, Thierry Henry. There had been question marks about the Arsenal captain’s performances for Les Bleus leading into the tournament, but Henry has answered his critics emphatically with a series of excellent and often-selfless performances in the lone striker role, performances that have thus far yielded three precious goals.

Patrick Vieira (France):
Also in contention from Raymond Domenech’s camp is the powerful Patrick Vieira, another player who has emerged from a hail of criticism to prove that, at his best, there are few midfielders in the world capable of dominating and dictating a game so expertly.

Zinedine Zidane (France):
The last but certainly not the least of the French candidates is Zinedine Zidane. Already a legend in his own time, this most elegant of footballers continues to amaze with his near-balletic brilliance, and there can have been few individual performances at Germany 2006 to match that produced by the 34-year-old in France’s quarter-final win over Brazil.

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy):
There will be no great surprise, certainly, at the sight of Gianluigi Buffon’s name in there, and the Juventus goalkeeper will hope that his agile, commanding and reliably inspirational performances for the Azzurri have been sufficient to see him follow in the footsteps of 2002 winner Kahn.

Fabio Cannavaro (Italy):
Italy’s captain, Fabio Cannavaro has, however, been just as important in establishing Italy’s remarkably frugal defensive record – just one goal conceded, and an own goal at that – and the 32-year-old’s faultless marshalling of the Italian rearguard is sure to make him a strong contender.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy):
The composed, creative midfield play of Andrea Pirlo has also been recognised, with the AC Milan playmaker shortlisted for his telling contribution to Italy’s attacking play from a deep-lying position.

Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy):
Another player who has contributed to the Azzurri cause both defensively and offensively is Gianluca Zambrotta, a dynamic overlapping full-back who has popped up on both the right and left flanks to score and create goals in vital matches.

Michael Ballack (Germany):
Michael Ballack, the captain and a player whose workrate and driving influence in midfield earned him the apt tag of Germany’s lokomotive by coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Miroslav Klose (Germany):
Joining Ballack in the reckoning is the man currently leading the race for another of the FIFA World Cup’s most illustrious honours, the adidas Golden Shoe. By anyone’s standards, Miroslav Klose has enjoyed a vintage tournament, with his strength, courage, eye for goal and link-up work with strike partner Lukas Podolski among the most impressive aspects of Germany’s play.

Maniche (Portugal):
This player can lay claim to having scored a couple of the tournament’s most spectacular goals against Mexico and the Netherlands. Maniche’s contribution has extended far beyond those eye-catching strikes, however, with his biting tackles and forceful running in the midfield engine room a key factor in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team's march to the semi-finals.

Source: FIFA
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