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Who should have made the 30-man shortlist?

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In August, France Football released its 30-man shortlist for the 2022 Ballon d’Or award. Of the nominees, one player will be crowned the best individual male player over the course of the 2021/22 season during a ceremony in Paris on October 17.

While Karim Benzema is widely-tipped to be taking home this year’s prize, the most notable absence was that of seven-time winner Lionel Messi, who didn’t make the cut after a relatively disappointing debut season with Paris Saint-Germain during which he scored 11 goals and notched 15 assists in all competitions. Mortal numbers by his lofty standards.

It doesn’t seem right for the 36-year-old to miss out on a nomination for the award he has dominated alongside Cristiano Ronaldo for the past decade. His magisterial (thanks Ray Hudson) form so far this season suggests that should Argentina put together a deep run in the World Cup this winter – as many expect them to – Messi will once again be among the favourites in 2023.

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While not as shocking as leaving out the man considered to be the GOAT by any self-respecting member of Generation Z, there are a few other players who can feel aggrieved not to make the shortlist.

Toni Kroos – Real Madrid

Five players from Real Madrid’s La Liga and Champions League double-winning squad were included in the nominations this year in the form of Thibaut Courtois, Casemiro, Vinicius Junior, Karim Benzema and the eternal Luka Modric.

Like his more lauded Croatian midfield partner, Toni Kroos has shown no signs of his quality fading with age and is perhaps a victim of so many of his teammates getting nods – the same can also be said for their centre-back pairing of David Alaba and Eder Militao.

While Kroos’ number of La Liga appearances dropped to 28 last season, largely due to the signing of Eduardo Camavinga, he was an ever-present in the Champions League and appeared in all but the very first group game as Los Blancos won their 14th title.

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His style of play doesn’t exactly lend itself to individual awards and we will probably continue to see less of him as Carlo Ancelotti’s new midfield axis of Aurelin Tchouameni, Federico Valverde and Camavinga slowly emerges, but the German midfielder’s perpetual control, influence and authority (particularly in big games) means he warrants a place among the best 30 players.

Ciro Immobile – Lazio

Ciro Immobile playing for Lazio in Serie A

Ciro Immobile has scored 187 goals in 269 games for Lazio / Paolo Bruno/GettyImages

While his performances for Italy have often left a lot to be desired, Ciro Immobile has carried Lazio’s attacking output squarely on his shoulders since joining the Roman club in 2016.

2021/22 was no different for Immobile as the Neapolitan bagsman scored 27 times in only 31 Serie A games, earning himself his fourth Capocannoniere award as top scorer in the division, along with four goals in seven in the Europa League.

Considering the likes of Darwin Nunez, Sebastien Haller and Dusan Vlahovic made the 30-man shortlist largely due to their goal-scoring exploits – all with less than Immobile’s final tally – the Lazio captain can certainly feel hard done by.

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Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Lazio

So too can his club teammate, Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Yes, I’m aware Lazio only finished in fifth.

The central midfielder combines his imposing physique with serious technical ability and has been one of the best players in Serie A for some time now. In fact, with 11 goals and 11 assists to his name last season he made the case that he is perhaps the single best box-to-box player the league has to offer.

The Ballon d’Or appears to be weighted towards performances in the Champions League so his exclusion is unsurprising. Remove that bias, however, and Milinkovic-Savic would surely have found himself placed firmly among Europe’s elite.

Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich

It’s only right of me to admit that I’m slightly (extremely) biased towards Manuel Neuer as he inspired the only remotely good Tweet I have done or ever will do.

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That being said, he led Bayern to a tenth successive title from between the sticks and was in imperious form throughout the campaign. Neuer conceded a league-low 24 goals, secured a joint league-best 10 clean sheets (that might seem low, this is the Bundesliga, remember) and saved 73 per cent of the shots his opponents dared test him with.

Even more impressively, he replaced Oliver Kahn as the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets in the German record books and became the player with the most league wins.

It proved to be a historic season for Neuer individually but Bayern were dumped out of the Champions League quarter-finals by Villarreal, who we’ll get to later, an upset that blotted his copybook enough to keep him out of the final 30.

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Still, he’ll always have that third place finish in 2014.

Marcelo Brozovic – Inter

Marcelo Brozovic celebrates after scoring a late winner against Torino

Marcelo Brozovic was named the best midfielder in Serie A last season / Giuseppe Bellini/GettyImages

Back to Italy now, which is all James Richardson and James Horncastle’s fault, where it’s about time everyone started giving Marcelo Brozovic the credit he deserves.

Not only has the 29-year-old been Inter’s most consistent player for the last few seasons, he’s also been their most important. Without him breaking up play and dictating things from the base of the midfield, the Nerazzurri simply don’t tick.

As a result, the Croatian was deservedly named Serie A Midfielder of the Season in 2021/22 even as Inter themselves fell agonisingly short to their rivals in the title race. His influence will never show in the stats but that doesn’t mean Brozovic doesn’t belong.

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And if defensive midfielders aren’t your thing, just imagine I had written this entire section about Lautaro Martinez instead. You’re welcome.

Dani Parejo – Villarreal

It was tempting to finish off this list with one of the best young players in the world, Jamal Musiala, on the basis of… well, have you seen that kid play? Instead, and in the knowledge that Musiala will be a Ballon d’Or ever-present for the rather conservative estimate of the next 12 years, I’ll instead plump for the far more ambitious shout of Dani Parejo.

It’s fair to say Parejo has been around the block a bit and at the age of 33 has already entered the twilight of his career. Even so, his performances in the Villarreal midfield last season were a sight to behold.

The languid playmaker was comfortably Villarreal’s best player as they tore through the Champions League right the way up to the semi-finals and notched 10 assists domestically in La Liga. After missing out in 2021 despite winning the Europa League (when Parejo’s teammate Gerard Moreno did make the cut) it’s unforgivable that such a joyous player has once again been completely forgotten about.

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Then again, he only has four caps for Spain. I’m not sure which is worse.





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Player ratings as Selecao book place in knockout stages

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Brazil made incredibly hard work of their 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Monday evening at Stadium 974.

A thoroughly uninspiring affair came to life five minutes from time as Manchester United midfielder Casemiro popped up with a fizzing half-volley that flew beyond Yann Sommer and sealed Brazil’s place in the knockout stages.

Switzerland made an impressive start, enjoying plenty of possession and pushing numbers forward in an attempt to pin Brazil back.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

The first real sight of goal for either team came shortly before the hour mark. Raphinha’s cross found Vinicius Junior at the back post but he can’t connect properly and sends the ball towards goal with his knee, giving Yann Sommer enough time to get over to make the save.

And that was about as good as it got in the first half.

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A slow start to the second half saw ten minutes pass before the next real sight of goal. Vinicius played an excellent cross in towards Richarlison but, yet again, the ball was inches away from being on target.

The first real moment of quality in the match came in the 65th minute as Vinicius slotted home, but the automated offside system clocked Richarlison had strayed earlier in the move and ultimately ruled it out.

There was no ruling out Casemiro’s strike 20 minutes later. The midfielder waltzed into the box and fired home an excellent half-volley which led Brazil through to the next round.

It was nearly two as Rodrygo got a glimpse of goal but an excellent block from Manuel Akanji ensured Brazil had to settle for just the one goal.

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Vinicius Junior

Vinicius thought he had scored / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

GK: Alisson – 5/10 – Shaky under little pressure but generally didn’t have a lot to do. Has shaved his moustache.

RB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Did a nice job at right-back but was usually central when Brazil were on the ball. Really composed in possession.

CB: Thiago Silva – 7/10 – Some excellent passes as he looked in control of every situation.

CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Had to do a lot of the creating as Brazil’s midfielders struggled to get through.

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LB: Alex Sandro – 6/10 – Some fantastic moments that yielded slow-mo replays, but still needed to do more in attack.

DM: Casemiro – 8/10 – Shielded his defence well and did what he could to try and keep things ticking over in attack. A moment of magic to win the game.

CM: Fred – 5/10 – Not the right skill set for this game. Did a decent enough job defensively but his limited attacking output was a major issue.

CM: Lucas Paqueta – 5/10 – Not on it here. Made a few nice passes but generally couldn’t find the space needed to get through Switzerland’s defence.

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RW: Raphinha – 6/10 – At the centre of nearly everything positive from Brazil, which doesn’t say much.

ST: Richarlison – 5/10 – Starved of service but did manage a few nice passes when he did finaly get the ball.

LW: Vinicius Junior – 6/10 – A few nice runs but sloppy in front of goal. Should have put Brazil ahead in the first half. Came to life after the break.

SUB: Rodrygo (46′ for Paqueta) – 6/10 – Focused on trying to beat Switzerland on the counter. Nice movement.

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SUB: Bruno Guimaraes (59′ for Fred) – 7/10 – Changed the tide of the midfield battle. An impressive showing.

SUB: Antony (73′ for Raphinha) – 6/10 – Had the odd dangerous moment.

SUB: Gabriel Jesus (73′ for Richarlison) – 6/10 – Didn’t have long to strut his stuff but did involve himself in a few nice moves.

SUB: Alex Telles (86′ for Sandro) – N/A

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Manager: Tite – 5/10 – Clearly exploring ways to cope without Neymar but didn’t really find one. A thoroughly uninspiring showing saved by a moment of magic.

Nico Elvedi

Solid from Elvedi / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

GK: Yann Sommer – 6/10 – Made a nice save to deny Vinicius.

RB: Silvan Widmer – 6/10 – Some early fouls on Vinicius set the tone. Made the winger uncomfortable and did a nice job. Saved by the offside flag for the disallowed opener.

CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Impressive positioning to keep Richarlison at bay.

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CB: Nico Elvedi – 7/10 – Did a very solid job of controlling Brazil’s attackers alongside his mathematician teammate.

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez – 6/10 – Didn’t have a whole lot of defending to do but looked a little too cautious in attack.

DM: Remo Freuler – 6/10 – Good energy and desire to keep closing Brazil’s midfield down. Faded as the game progressed.

DM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Similarly, led by example in midfield as he pressed with real energy and enthusiasm. Unsettled Brazil.

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RM: Fabian Rieder – 6/10 – Handed his first international start in an unfamiliar position and did a solid job, but wasn’t always comfortable. A little too aggressive at times but nothing to really complain about.

AM: Djibril Sow – 5/10 – The odd nice run but couldn’t find any way through Brazil’s experienced defence.

LM: Ruben Vargas – 5/10 – Played a little narrower to try and being Rodriguez into the game but it didn’t always work.

ST: Breel Embolo – 5/10 – Put a shift in but had very little joy against high-level opposition. Can’t fault the effort.

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SUB: Edimilson Fernandes (59′ for Vargas) – 5/10 – Red hot in the minutes after he entered but soon faded away.

SUB: Renato Steffen (59′ for Rieder) – 5/10 – Didn’t offer mich down the right.

SUB: Michel Aebischer (75′ for Sow) – 5/10 – Barely got involved.

SUB: Haris Seferovic (75′ for Embolo) – 5/10 – Chased shadows during his short time on the pitch.

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SUB: Fabian Frei (86′ for Widmer) – N/A

Manager: Murat Yakin – 6/10 – It’s not easy to keep Brazil this quiet but Yakin’s decision to start Rieder over Xherdan Shaqiri helped add more steel. Just a shame about the non-existent attacking threat.

Player of the match – Casemiro



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Rangers appoint Michael Beale as new manager

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Rangers have confirmed the appointment of Michael Beale as the club’s new manager, following Gio van Bronckhorst’s sacking.

The former QPR manager has signed a contract which runs until 2026 at Ibrox, returning to the Gers having previously worked as an assistant manager at the club under Steven Gerrard.

90min revealed on Sunday that Beale’s appointment was imminent, and a club statement has confirmed his return to the club: “Michael Beale is the 18th manager of Rangers with the club delighted to confirm his appointment today.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“Signing a contract to 2026, the 42 year-old joins from his role as manager of Queens’ Park Rangers in West London having previously worked as first-team coach at Ibrox from 2018 to last November. It is an exciting appointment for the club, with Beale undoubtedly one of the most sought-after young managers in British football.”

Speaking about his return to Rangers, Beale said: “It is fantastic to be back and to see everybody this morning, there are some new faces but some people that I know really well so it is great to see everyone. 

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“I am hugely proud, it is a wonderful, wonderful football club, it is an institution. For everyone that works here it is a huge privilege, but to be the manager of this football club, that is extremely special. Some wonderful people have sat in this chair prior to me, and I am hugely proud to be the person sat here now.”



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Portugal vs Uruguay: Confirmed lineups

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By defeating Uruguay in Lusail, Portugal will be hoping to advance to the World Cup’s last 16 in 2022.

During their first match, Cristiano Ronaldo and company defeated Ghana in a five-goal thriller, while Uruguay and South Korea drew 0-0.

Line-up

Portugal XI: Diogo Costa, João Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, R. Guerreiro, Rúben Neves, William, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, João Félix, Ronaldo.

Uruguay XI:

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