Luka Modric favorite to end Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or domination

Updated 03 December 2018
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Luka Modric favorite to end Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or domination

PARIS: The winner of the 2018 Ballon d’Or will be revealed at a glittering ceremony in Paris on Monday evening, with Croatia’s Luka Modric and a host of French World Cup winners all hoping to finally end the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the award for the last decade, claiming it five times each, but the expectation is that a new name will be read out as this year’s winner at just after 21.00 GMT at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs-Elysees.
While Ronaldo won another Champions League with Real Madrid in a typically prolific year, and Messi continues to mesmerise for Barcelona, both are now in their 30s and neither really stamped their authority on the World Cup in Russia.
That could be crucial. As FIFA president Gianni Infantino said recently: “You could give the Ballon d’Or to half the France team for what they did at the World Cup.”
Six members of the France side that triumphed in Russia are among the 30 nominees for the award, which is organized by France Football magazine and voted for by 180 journalists from around the world.
Among them are Paris Saint-Germain’s dazzling teenage forward Kylian Mbappe, Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann and Madrid’s Champions League-winning defender Raphael Varane. Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante are also in the running.
The last Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or was Zinedine Zidane in 1998, on the back of France’s World Cup victory on home soil that year.

NEW WOMEN’S AWARD
But perhaps the lack of one standout French candidate has cleared the path for Modric, who heroically helped drag his country to the World Cup final before being beaten by France in Moscow.
The 33-year-old was also brilliant in the Real side that retained their Champions League crown for the second year running, and the Spanish club would love to see him succeed 2016 and 2017 winner Ronaldo, who has since left the Bernabeu for Juventus.
Club influences aside, Modric would be a worthy winner, even if he lacks the incredible statistics of Ronaldo and Messi.
Recent evidence also goes in favor of the little playmaker, who won the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup before claiming UEFA’s prize for player of the season and FIFA’s best player award in September, beating Mohamed Salah and Ronaldo to the latter.
“Modric is an exceptional player. He has shown that throughout his career, not just at Real but also at his former clubs and with his country,” said Real coach Santiago Solari of a player who grew up during Croatia’s independence war.
“He must have grown up in a very hard context and I wonder if that helped him to have the character he has.”
With Modric emerging as the most likely winner, France coach Didier Deschamps was even asked this weekend if his country’s World Cup triumph could be somehow devalued by the lack of a Ballon d’Or to go alongside it.
“I don’t want to get into that debate. I don’t vote. I just hope it is a Frenchman. Whoever wins it will deserve too,” he said.
In any case, the gala — which will be presented by a former France player in David Ginola — will include a prize for the best player aged under 21, the Kopa Trophy.
Mbappe, who turns 20 later this month, seems a certain winner of that award, voted for by 33 living former Ballon d’Or winners.
There is also now a women’s Ballon d’Or prize, voted for by 45 journalists. The 15 nominees include seven players from Lyon, the Champions League winners, and Brazil great Marta, who won the recent FIFA prize.


River edge out Boca after extra time to win Copa Libertadores

River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after the first leg finished 2-2. (AFP
Updated 10 December 2018
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River edge out Boca after extra time to win Copa Libertadores

  • River Plate came from behind to beat bitter Argentine rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 in extra time
  • The fixture postponed on three occasions and then relocated from Buenos Aires to Madrid

MADRID: River Plate won the Copa Libertadores by beating their fiercest rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 after extra time on Sunday, bringing an end to a final tainted by violence and moved more than six thousand miles away from Argentina.
Boca took the lead through Dario Benedetto but Lucas Pratto equalized before Juan Quintero and Gonzalo Martinez scored in extra time, aided by Wilmar Barrios being sent off, to win a fittingly dramatic contest for River.
It means River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after the first leg finished 2-2 and the club reclaim the trophy they had last won in 2015, lifting it for the fourth time in their history.
“The only thing I feel is sadness for not winning the cup and giving it to the people of Boca,” Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said.
“It is difficult to say to people that we haven’t won, especially those that made so much effort to come from Argentina.”
Postponed on three occasions and then relocated from Buenos Aires to Madrid, the supporters of these two great clubs showed in the Santiago Bernabeu why this fixture had been billed as one of football’s greatest ever.
Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin were among the 62,200 in attendance.
But, despite the bouncing huddles in the streets, the plumes of blue and red smoke, the swinging scarves, fluttering flags and fans that were chanting in their seats three hours before kick-off, there was nothing to extinguish the lingering sense of regret.
There was no repeat of the scenes that cast a shadow over Argentinian football and saw the original game at River’s El Monumental on November 24 postponed, when around 50 fans attacked Boca’s team bus and left some of their players injured.
Madrid, which will also host the Champions League final in June, was chosen in part because of its record of hosting major events and the security, which included around 2,500 police officers, did its job before kick-off.
Fans were separated into zones either side of the stadium and had to go through checks even to enter the area immediately surrounding it.
The shame was only that the operation was not as thorough 15 days ago and that a minority decided to take advantage.
Both clubs were allocated 25,000 tickets, with 5,000 of those reserved for residents of Argentina. The fear had been most of those buying would be tourists and neutrals, but the atmosphere suggested different.
Both teams had initially refused to play in Spain’s capital but as the losers, Boca’s sense of grievance will now become more entrenched.
They felt River were responsible for the chaos two weeks ago and should have forfeited the trophy. They took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the appeal was rejected on Saturday.
When the players shuffled out two hours before kick-off to inspect the pitch, they held up their phones to capture the thousands already inside and the view of a stadium most of them had never played in before.
The cheers grew louder when they came out for kick-off. Then there were whistles as the teams swapped ends and each were greeted by their opponent’s fans behind the goal.
Jonatan Maidana was playing for Boca when they last won the Copa Libertadores 11 years ago and, now in the red and white of River, he almost gave his former club an early lead, slicing just over his own crossbar.
The game lacked quality but came alive one minute before half-time. Nahitan Nandez’s superb pass split two River defenders and Benedetto kept a cool head, guiding into the corner, before taunting the beaten Gonzalo Montiel.
River had been inferior but improved. Their first real attacking move was also a brilliant one as Leonardo Ponzio and Quintero exchanged passes before the latter pulled back for Pratto to sweep home.
The game meandered toward full-time and seemed destined for penalties until Barrios was shown a second yellow card for a tackle on Exequiel Palacios and soon after, Quintero struck.
It was a goal worthy of winning the tournament, as he collected 25 yards out, glanced up and whipped the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.
Leonard Jara almost snatched a late Boca goal but his shot nicked the outside of the post. Then, with Boca’s goalkeeper Esteban Andrada up for a corner, River added the final touch.
Martinez ran the ball into the empty net and River’s substitutes and staff were already pouring onto the pitch to begin the celebrations.