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World Cup 2022 Expert Picks: Golden Boot, Golden Ball and Young Player


You never know who’s going to shine at the World Cup. Yes, you can bet that Lionel Messi and Neymar are going to put on a show, but it’s harder to predict who the next Diego Forlan and James Rodriguez will be.

Ahead of the tournament, we asked 12 FOX Sports soccer analysts to choose their favorites to win the most prestigious individual awards: the Golden Boot, Golden Ball and Young Player Award. 

Here’s who they landed on:

Young Player Award

1. Jude Bellingham (3)

2. Jamal Musiala (2)

3. Vinicius Junior (2)

Others receiving votes: Ansu Fati, Gavi, PedriKylian Mbappe, Dušan Vlahović

Doug McIntyre: Pedri. The 19-year-old Spaniard is one of the brightest lights in the global game, and the heir apparent to undersized Barcelona attackers of yesteryear like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and yes, Lionel Messi. Pedri hasn’t quite broken out with Barça just yet, and he has just 14 caps (and no goals) for Spain. I still think he’s capable of a breakout performance for a team that could go deep into the knockout round or even win it all. 

Martin Rogers: Kylian Mbappe. Still young, and there is no one more electrifying that the French forward when he is running at pace.

Landon Donovan: Dušan Vlahović. Serbia is in an incredibly tough group but have the ability to advance if Vlahovic continues his hot form.

Serbia’s Dusan Vlahovic

Vlahovic is known for his finishing, movement and aerial ability,

Carli Lloyd: I have three I am excited to watch: 1. Gavi. At the age of 18, he is special. He is solid on defense and on offense he is so good with the ball at his feet and can score goals. 2. Pedri. He’s versatile, he wants the ball, he’s world-class at finding and making space, and he’s technically gifted. 3. Phil Foden. I was able to see him play and train when I played at Manchester City and was told he was going to be special. His confidence has grown a ton, he has become clinical with his finishing ability and able to unlock defenses, putting players on their heels.

Aly Wagner: This is the most exciting question because there are many! But I’d have to go with Musiala. He just entertains: He’s tactical, he’s fearless, he takes risks. I like his style. He’s got the flair to go with the technique. He’s electric when he’s on. He can be an incredible breakout star in the World Cup.

Stu Holden: Jamal Musiala. Having an incredible season for Bayern, the sky is the limit for Musiala. He can score, assist and has an all-around game on a good German team.

Chad Johnson: Ansu Fati. He just turned 20 and is widely regarded as one of the most talented young footballers on the planet.

Kelly Smith: Vinicius Junior. He’s become an absolutely key element of Real Madrid’s team and has the potential to ignite this World Cup. I’m also really excited to see Aurelien Tchouameni and Jude Bellingham, already two of the best central midfielders in the world.

Maurice Edu: There are quite a few but Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham. At just 19, both players have shown they are true stars in the making. The talent level and ceiling is incredibly high for both of these players, and I’m excited to see them thrive on the biggest international stage.

Cobi Jones: I’m glad the question was to watch. It’s easy to say Vinicius Junior. He’s been spectacular at Madrid. So obvious. Then I would give another Brazilian in Antony. If he gets the playing time.

Brazil’s Vinicius Junior

Vinicius Junior is known for his speed, technical ability and finishing.

Eniola Aluko: Jude Bellingham for England has been exceptional for Dortmund and for England so far this season. He is pretty much played himself into the starting line up before the start of the World Cup. Without the likes of Haaland at the World Cup, I can’t see another young player who has the level of statue and influence for their country as Jude Bellingham does for England.

Warren Barton: Bellingham. I think he’s getting a lot of attention. They speak of him as the next $100 million man that’s going to come out of [Borussia Dortmund]. And listen: Pep Guardiola said he’s the best 19-year-old he’s ever seen — I think that speaks volumes.

Golden Boot

1. Kylian Mbappe (4)

2. Lautaro Martinez (3)

3. Neymar (2)

Others receiving votes: Karim BenzemaHarry KaneRicharlison 

McIntyre: Lautaro Martínez. Every World Cup features a breakout star, and the Argentine striker is poised to take that role in Qatar. Martínez is a prolific scorer for Inter Milan in Italy’s uber-defensive Serie A. He doesn’t need a lot of chances, and playing alongside Lionel Messi for his country will both open up space that he can exploit and provide service from one of the best playmakers in the history of the sport.

Rogers: Harry Kane. Because you can expect him to account for a huge percentage of the goals to come from a decent — and optimistic — England team.

Wagner: It’s hard not to say Kane since he’s just so incredibly consistent. And with their pathway, I think they can do the distance. Plus he takes their penalties. But I might land on Ricarlison.

Smith: This is so tricky: [Robert] Lewandowski plays for a Polish team who may struggle, while Kane’s link-up play means he may assist more than he scores. If France fire, I’d have to go for Kylian Mbappe.

[World Cup 2022 odds: Messi, Neymar, Mbappe lead Golden Ball futures lines]

Lloyd: Anyone’s guess as games are getting tougher. I’m going to put up Lautaro Martinez. Argentina is likely to go deep in the tournament and give more opportunities and they have some potential games to pass the stats early on.

Aluko: I think this could go to Mbappe. The France group is one I see them dominating and Mbappe is likely to rack up goals in the group and continue the form into knockout stages. He is a big game player.

Barton: Neymar. I think the way they’re playing, Brazil, and the chances that he creates, the set pieces, the group that they’re in; I think they get off to a great start.

Golden Ball

1. Lionel Messi (9)

Others receiving votes: Gavi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe

McIntyre: Lionel Messi. If Argentina go on a deep run – and I expect them to reach the semis, at the very least, and Messi carries his lights-out recent club form into Qatar, there’s no way the player most consider the greatest of all time won’t get the vote in his final World Cup appearance.

Lionel Messi’s Miracle:

Starting off at No. 101 on the 101 most memorable moments in FIFA World Cup history, Jenny Taft breaks down Lionel Messi’s goal for Argentina against Nigeria in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Rogers: Gavi. An 18-year-old? Really? Just consider this; if Spain goes deep, it will be because Gavi and his young pal Pedri have run the midfield with the brilliance they are capable of.

Wagner: Let’s go Messi. Let’s give him some love.

Smith: Lionel Messi: this Argentina team looks really good and Messi is the key cog and still the best all-round player in the world.

Jones: Lionel Messi. I think this may fall to Messi for various reasons. Maybe a bit of history. But Argentina will not be solely dependent on Messi for everything so it will allow him to be more influential to others. He will create the game.

Aluko: Lionel Messi. As this is his last World Cup, and he has found his groove for PSG and Argentina, I think the World Cup could be an amazing last dance for Messi.

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