Spaniards lead nominations

Spaniards lead nominations

Xavi, Villa and Iniesta vie for the prestigious player of the World Cup award

Barcelona midfield duo Andres Iniesta and Xavi -- voted the player of Euro 2008 -- along with leading scorer David Villa, who joined Barca from Valencia prior to the tournament for 40 million euros, are the trio nominated from the World Cup finalists’ team. Their opponents the Netherlands, by contrast, provide two in the form of Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben and Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder, joint top-scorer along with Villa at the finals with five goals.

They are joined by Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, scorer of four goals as the South Americans flew the flag for their continent in reaching the semifinals, and also Ghanaian forward Asamoah Gyan.

Gyan scored three times for the African giants as they reached the last eight, but were deprived of a place in the semifinals after a goalbound effort was illegally punched off the line by Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. Gyan missed the ensuing penalty with the last kick of the match and the South Americans won the penalty shoot-out.

Barcelona’s Argentinian playmaker Lionel Messi features on the list despite failing to score here, but he was at the heart of most of their creative play up to their humbling by Germany in the quarterfinals. Young German star Mesut Ozil and team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger round off the list. The list reflects the dominance of European teams at the tournament with two in the final -- which will result in Europe triumphing for the first time outside their continent -- and three of the four semifinalists.

The winner in 2006 was somewhat controversially French star Zinedine Zidane, who was anointed despite having been sent off in extra-time of the final for head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi. His successor will be announced after Sunday’s final at Soccer City.

The young player of the tournament will also be announced after the final whistle, with three nominees in the fray. One is German attacking midfielder Thomas Mueller -- who has scored four times in the finals and was sorely missed in the semifinal defeat by Spain -- and another is Ghanaian Andre Ayew, son of former African player of the year Abedi Pele, who was badly missed by the Black Stars in their quarterfinal as he was suspended.

The third nominee is Mexican Giovanni Dos Santos, on loan at Turkish side Galatasaray from Premier League outfit Spurs, who played in all four of his country’s games at the finals. The three nominees were selected from a list of 35 players born after January 1, 1989.