Of course there’s only one prize to win in Russia.
The World Cup title is the most sought-after trophy in the world’s most popular sport, and is coveted globally despite the few teams that have actually won it. Armed with the knowledge that only a handful of teams can really win this thing, we’ve got these side awards to highlight outstanding individual performances. These awards can be pretty significant for lesser-known players that make a big splash at a World Cup.
In 2014, James Rodriguez burst onto the scene as Colombia made a run to the quarterfinals. James finished with six goals, enough to win the Golden Boot. After the tournament, James transferred to Real Madrid in a deal worth over $80 million. It wasn’t a particularly good deal for Real Madrid, but it’s an example of how one magical World Cup can change a player’s career.
Let’s take a look at the major awards, and take some stabs at who could take home the hardware:
World Cup Award Winners
The Golden Ball is awarded to the best player in the tournament, but it doesn’t function like the MVP awards we have in America. The winning side have not had a Golden Ball winner at the last six World Cups, but this year could be different. In 2014 it went to Messi, who finished as runner-up with Argentina. Luka Modric has been outstanding for Croatia, and I could see him taking the prize if Croatia pulled the upset. But they didn’t, and after France’s fourth goal, I’m inclined to give the award to Kylian Mbappe. His speed was a major difference maker for France, and his finishing helped them capture their first title on foreign soil.
Our Pick: Kylian Mbappe
Actual Winner: Luka Modric (so close!)
The Golden Boot is given to the top goalscorer. It’s pretty cut-and-dry, and this summer the award goes to England’s Harry Kane. Kane was a force up top for England, doing most of his damage on set pieces. He’s the first player from England to win the award since Gary Lineker in 1986, who also posted six goals. Unfortunately for Kane and England, they fell one goal short against Croatia, and Kane had a great chance at a seventh goal that was just barely saved by Danijel Subašić.
Our Pick: Harry Kane
Actual Winner: Harry Kane
Golden Glove Harry Kane
He was mentioned above, but Danijel Subasic has been an absolute monster in goal for Croatia. He’s made save after save in close games, and has led Croatia through two penalty shootout wins. He may have had a rough time against France, but he did not make any critical errors and was solid for the majority of Croatia’s historic run. Look at this save on Kane again and tell me Subasic wasn’t sensational. This is an award that is usually awarded to the winning team’s keeper, but this is a worthy exception, especially after Lloris’ gaffe in the final.
Our Pick: Danijel Subasic
Actual Winner: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Best Young Player
This one is easy. Did you see his last goal against Croatia? Mbappe has solidified himself as an international soccer star, and he’s only 19. He’s the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele. In fact, there hasn’t been a better teenager in a World Cup since Pele. Given that they are the two youngest to both score in a final and win this award, I’d say that’s a fair assessment. It’s important to note that while Mbappe is in fact very good, Pele accomplished these feats at 17 years old. Wowzers. Mbappe is currently under contract at French club Paris Saint-Germain, but you can bet that his name will appear in transfer rumors as soon as the tournament ends.
Our Pick: Kylian Mbappe
Actual Winner: Kylian Mbappe