04.07.2006 Football News

Gillette Young Player award, All Eyes On Ronaldo, Poldoski

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With the list of final four settled the competition for the awards seem to be also narrowing down.

At the moment, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany's Lukas Podolski will take centre stage in the race for the Gillette Young Player Award.

When Germany 2006 began on Friday June 9, 41 players were eligible to be crowned as the Gillette Best Young Player of the tournament.

So far these young stars, born on or after 1 January 1985, have received over 600,000 votes between them. Now, with voting set to close on July 5, they need your support more than ever before.

After voting closes, the fans' top three choices will be added to another three, selected by members of FIFA's Technical Study Group (TSG).

The TSG will decide upon the eventual winner of the award, who will be presented with the beautifully crafted Gillette Best Young Player Trophy.

A surge of support from his home country has left Ecuador's Luis Valencia currently occupying top spot in the voting, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Lukas Podolski closing in behind.

That order could change significantly in the next few days, however, as prepares to receive a host of votes from around the globe.

Podolski and Valencia were the first candidates on show during Germany 2006 as the hosts defeated Costa Rica 4-2 in Munich and Ecuador earned a 2-0 victory over Poland in Gelsenkirchen.

Two days later, Ronaldo announced his arrival in style. In Portugal's 1-0 win over Angola, the Manchester United player showcased the many facets of his prodigious talent, with the fleet-footed forward only lacking a clinical finish to add to his excellent approach work.

Then Asamoah Gyan entered the limelight. Operating as a lone front man for Ghana against Italy, the 20-year-old showed maturity beyond his years to cause the Azzurri defence all kinds of problems.

A trio of Swiss stars, meanwhile, had the chance to shine in their 0-0 draw with France in Munich on June 13, while the following day, Cesc Fabregas became the youngest player to appear for Spain in a FIFA World Cup.

Friday June 16 was the day that Wayne Rooney made his bow on the world football stage, but his introduction to the proceedings was somewhat overshadowed when a number of his challengers began to hit the goal trail.

In the space of the next 72 hours, Messi, Gyan, Ronaldo and Podolski all scored their first goals in the competition.

In the Round of 16, Ghana's Haminu Dramani and Ukraine's Artem Milevskiy displayed their prowess, but found their teams' progress curtailed by Brazil and Italy respectively.

Meanwhile, England and Argentina's poor fortune in penalty shoot-outs means that out of the original list of 41 candidates, only Podolski and Ronaldo remain in the tournament.

Before the shortlist is revealed both Podolski and Ronaldo have one last chance to shine. Together with Miroslav Klose, the tournamentís leading scorer, Podolski has the arduous task of penetrating an Italian rearguard which has conceded just one goal so far.

Ronaldo on the other hand, will be coming up against a France side full of confidence following their 1-0 win over Brazil.

Chelsea defender William Gallas will be given the uneviable task of trying to stop the flying winger.

The pair know all about each other from their battles on the Premiership stage, but now the eyes of the world will be upon them.

Youth against experience, a country's pride on the line and the greatest players in the world on display. There really is no stage like the FIFA World Cup.

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