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The few good men

Thomas Mueller could ensure Germany take home something more than a possible medal for minor placings from South Africa. He has been shortlisted along with Ghana's Andrew Ayew and Giovani dos Santos of Mexico for the best young player award for the 2010 WC, reports Dhiman Sarkar. On top of the world

sports Updated: Jul 10, 2010 00:39 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Thomas Mueller could ensure Germany take home something more than a possible medal for minor placings from South Africa. He has been shortlisted along with Ghana's Andrew Ayew and Giovani dos Santos of Mexico for the best young player award for the 2010 World Cup.

If Mueller does win, it would underscore the success of Germany's youth development programme. One that coach Joachim Loew has already spoken about after taking their youngest national squad since 1934 to the semi-finals. One that had Mueller's Bayern Munich and Germany teammate Lukas Podolski winning the same award four years ago.

On Friday, FIFA also announced the nominations for the Golden Ball or player of the tournament. With Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa among the nominees selected by the FIFA Technical Study Group, Spain beat Holland 3-2 as Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder are the only Dutch on that list.

Also on the shortlist to succeed Zinedine Zidane as the World Cup's best player are Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Asamoah Gyan (Ghana). Mueller, 20, scored four goals in the finals including two against England and the first of Germany's four against Argentina. But like Ayew --- son of Ghana great Abedi Pele --- Mueller was suspended for the knockout round match their teams lost.

Mueller had to sit out the semi-final, which Germany lost 0-1 to Spain, for a second booking against Argentina. And Ayew, adjudged Man of the Match in the pre-quarter final against the USA, missed Ghana's heartbreaking elimination by Uruguay in the next round. Christian Karembeu, a World Cup winner with France and FIFA Technical Study Group member, defended the inclusions saying they weren't suspended after a straight red card but two yellows. “And just because he has been suspended, doesn't mean you ignore his achievements,” Karembeu said.

Part of the Mexico team that won the world U-17 championships, Dos Santos also had an excellent U-20 world championship before making his senior team debut in 2007. He is a product of La Masia, Barcelona's youth academy. Sidelined by Tottenham, Dos Santos even played for Ipswich Town before moving to Galatasaray on loan for regular first-team berths.