Top 5 Candidates to Win Golden Ball Award at 2014 World Cup

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Gauging the Race for the Golden Ball Award at 2014 World Cup

2014 world cup
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Every four years the World Cup tournament takes the soccer and sporting world by storm as it pits the best teams and players in a month long tournament that is decided by will, toughness and ultimately skill. In only 31 days the tournament sees 64 games get played out, and the likes of England, Brazil, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Argentina and France all battle for the vaunted FIFA World Cup Trophy and subsequently supremacy on the world soccer stage.

One of the best parts about the tournament is seeing top players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben and Wayne Rooney out of their respective club uniforms and representing their countries. There is simply something different about watching players give their all for the nation they grew up in rather than for a big paycheck, and it is clear that the intensity of games is upped because of this and the short time span that the World Cup is played in.

Each of the best players in the world look at the World Cup as an opportunity to not only win the most valuable trophy in the world for their nation, but also as a resume and legacy builder personally. After all, in order to legitimately be considered the best player in the world and the best of a generation, it is often required that a player both wins the tournament and takes home the Golden Ball Award as the player of the tournament. In past incarnations of the World Cup players like Pele, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane have all won the Golden Ball Award, and the race for the award in 2014 will likely be incredibly exciting.

Keeping this in mind, I have formed a list of the top five candidates to win the Golden Ball Award at the 2014 World Cup with each of the candidates being chosen based on historical performances, prospects of a deep run in the upcoming tournament and current form.

Tyler Leli is a Washington Capitals writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter, "Like" him on Facebook or join his network on Google.

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5. Andres Iniesta

andres iniesta 2014 world cup
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Spain will be searching for an unprecedented second straight World Cup title and fourth consecutive major tournament championship at the 2014 World Cup, and Andres Iniesta will play a huge role in determining their success. With Xavi Hernandez growing a bit gray in the hair, Iniesta is now the man who makes Spain run through his innate ability to maintain possession, great dribbling ability, eye for an incisive pass and tireless work rate. Iniesta won't wow people on the stat sheet, but he did just win the player of the 2012 Euro Championships and could sneak up on people to win the Golden Ball Award at the 2014 World Cup.

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4. Eden Hazard

eden hazard 2014 world cup
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Belgium winger Eden Hazard is one of the best young players in the world, as he possesses strength that belies his limited stature, is incredible dribbling the ball, can sprint by any defender in the world and even has an eye for the net. During the current club season he has 12 goals and seven assists for a surging Chelsea side in the Barclays Premier League, and it is hard to imagine this not translating to the 2014 World Cup. Belgium have a favorable group draw alongside Russia, South Korea and Algeria in Group H, and Hazard has the potential to put the country on his back to win a couple of knockout stage games.

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3. Cristiano Ronaldo

cristiano ronaldo 2014 world cup
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Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo just won the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or as the best soccer player in the world and set Portugal's all-time goal record, so it is clear he is in fine form. At 29 years of age this could be Ronaldo's last chance to dictate play in a World Cup campaign, and it is clear his mix of brute force, track star speed, free-kick ability and open play trickery will make him a nearly unstoppable force at the 2014 World Cup. If Portugal make a deep run in Brazil it can be all but assured that Ronaldo will at the very least be amongst the finalists for the Golden Ball Award.

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2. Lionel Messi

lionel messi 2014 world cup
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Despite being the best soccer player in the world for the last half decade for Barcelona, Lionel Messi has strangely struggled on the world stage with Argentina. In five games at the 2010 World cup he didn't score a single goal, although in recent times it looks like Argentina has finally realized how to get the diminutive forward on the stat sheet. During CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying, the 26-year-old picked up 10 goals, finishing second behind Luis Suarez. Messi is the complete package on the field, and the Golden Ball Award would give him every major individual award a soccer player could ever want.

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1. Neymar

2014 world cup
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The 2014 World Cup is being staged in Brazil, and all eyes will be on hometown golden boy Neymar. The 22-year-old has adjusted to a move to Barcelona in fine fashion, compiling seven goals and eight assists in La Liga to date. The tricky forward has the mix of blazing speed, mystifying dribbling ability and jaw-dropping shooting ability that all forwards dream of. After winning the Golden Ball Award at the 2013 Confederations Cup, all eyes will be on Neymar to repeat this performance in 2014. And if Brazil wins the World Cup it can be assured the youngster will take home the Golden Ball Award.

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