As part of the celebration in Zurich to define who the best soccer player of 2013 was, FIFA will also unveil who fans have decided should get the Puskas Award, given to the player who scored best goal of the year.
The best part about the Puskas award is that it limits the conspiracy theorists’ arguments that –for example– arise around the FIFA Ballon D’Or, as the voting takes places online and anyone can go to FIFA.com and push for whom they think should get it.
This, of course, also makes the award a bit more of a popularity contest, since voters could be casting their choice of favorite player rather than focusing on the beauty of the goal. However, since the award was established in 2009, this theory has been proven wrong, as both in 2010 and in 2012, the winners –Hamit Altintop and Miroslav Stoch– beat out more popular players the likes of Messi, Robben, Falcao or Neymar.
For the 2013 award, the three finalists were weeded out of a very competitive list of 10 best goals, which included strikes by Italian Antonio Di Natale and Argentine playing in Mexico, Daniel Ludueña.
The Puskas Award
Nemanja Matic, Neymar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were chosen as the finalists for the award, and a second round of voting was open so fans could decide who would take the glory.
The winner will be unveiled right before the Golden Ball 2013 is awarded, but this is our take on how the finalists for the Puskas Award should be slotted come time for the FIFA Gala.
So who would you give the prize to?
3. Neymar: The Brazilian forward opened up the Confederations Cup last summer with this beautiful goal against Japan.
The tournament, which took place in Brazil and served as preparation for the World Cup, served as a springboard for Neymar as he had to prove he was ready for primetime.
Barcelona and Real Madrid were battling to sign him and bring him to Europe, and Neymar showed the world he was ready for big things helping Brazil keep the trophy at home.
His beautiful shot from the top of the box against Japan was the first goal of the four the Paulista would manage to score in the tournament.
2. Nemanja Matic: Some goals are beautiful because of the nature of the final strike. Others, because of the play that precedes them.
Nemanja Matic’s goal in last season’s O Classico had much of both of these factors, and so we would name it the second best goal of the year.
The fact that it was in one of the key matches of the season in Portugal also adds on to the mix, as it is always harder to do extraordinary things when there is added pressure to perform. Matic’s goal is preceded by a long cross from the left, two different headers inside the box, and the final set up for the Serbian’s perfect strike.
Benfica’s midfielder positions his body perfectly aligned in parallel to the 18 yard box, and pivots on his right leg in order to get the needed power with his left foot to send his volley blazing past all of Porto’s defenders.
The fact that the ball ended up near the upper ninety corner of Helton’s goal simply became the cherry on top of this magnificent strike.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic: If there’s a prize that rewards beauty and acrobatics in goals, then Ibrahimovic should always be in the mix.
A black belt in taekwondo, the Swedish striker is perhaps the best prepared player in the European main stage to perform excellent contortionists acts, and the goal that sees him nominated to the Puskas Award this year shows just that.
In a friendly between England and Sweden, Ibrahimovic stole the show giving his squad the victory 4-2, and scoring all four goals. His fourth goal, in injury time, is poised to take the Best Goal of Year award because of its plasticity in the final strike.
A long ball towards the English box fell short and Joe Hart came out of the area to head it out of bounds. However, the deflection was not strong enough, and Ibrahimovic quickly backtracked and tried an impossibly high bicycle kick, when the ball seemed to be at least 5 feet in the air still.
The shot was so beautiful and precise that it flew over the Solna sky, past Joe Hart as he tried to come back to cover his goal line, and into the back of the net.
The game took place in November 2012, when the voting on the top 10 goals of that year had already started, but it was so wonderful that FIFA had to do the right thing and give Zlatan the chance to win the trophy this year.
We are almost convinced he will.