Recent articles on the 2018 Ballon d’Or award have indicated that the World Cup is likely to have a big impact on who will be voted the winner later this year. None of us could have anticipated what has happened in the first week of the tournament as Cristiano Ronaldo hits peak form and is now odds-on to win the award.
Betting had been relatively close before the World Cup began with Ronaldo favourite at slightly better odds than Mo Salah with Lionel Messi third favourite. However, two games into the tournament everything has changed and Ronaldo has shortened to 6/17 at 888sport to win a record sixth Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo Surges Ahead
Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or for the past two years and shares the record of five wins with his great rival Lionel Messi. Not since 2012 has any other player beaten the stranglehold that the Portuguese and Argentinian players have held over this coveted award.
The Real Madrid star had already put in a massive claim to win his third straight Ballon d’Or award. He may have missed some games due to injuries and suspension but he still won the Champions League and World Club Cup tournaments with his Spanish giants.
He still managed to score 26 goals in 27 La Liga games and overall scored 44 goals in 44 games for Madrid including 15 in the Champions League. No one can forget the incredible bicycle-kick goal against Juventus but little did we know that he had, even more, up his sleeve at the World Cup.
Free Kick of the Year
It’s not just for Real Madrid that Cristiano Ronaldo has enjoyed great success. 2016 saw him help Portugal to the European Championship title and he followed that up with 15 goals in the World Cup qualifiers.
So much pressure is heaped on the top players at World Cups and many times they wilt. Not Ronaldo though, he had already scored twice for Portugal in their opening World Cup game against Spain but his side were still 3-2 down. With minutes to go, Portugal were awarded a free-kick and up stepped Ronaldo to score a wondrous goal, complete a hat-trick and earn Portugal a vital point.
More success followed just four minutes into Portugal’s second group game against Morocco, Ronaldo headed in from a corner to score his fourth goal of the tournament. There were no more goals but he has already made his mark on the tournament and even if Portugal don’t go on to win the World Cup, Ronaldo is favourite for the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball and now clear favourite for the Ballon d’Or award.
His Rivals Struggle
While the World Cup has been glorious for Ronaldo, it’s been the exact opposite for his closest Ballon d’Or rivals, Mo Salah and Lionel Messi. Salah didn’t get on the pitch for Egypt’s opening loss to Uruguay and made little impact when playing against Russia. He’s now out to 7/1 with Unibet to win the Ballon d’Or.
As for Lionel Messi, he has failed to score in his two games for Argentina. Missing some good chances in the opener against Iceland was bad enough but then he missed a vital penalty. Another disappointing display followed against Croatia and he could even face an early exit. The five-time winner is now available at 9/1 with 888sport to be voted the Ballon d’Or winner.
All, therefore, seems to be pointing towards a comprehensive win for Ronaldo and who knows what he could do in the rest of the 2018 World Cup, particularly with Iran up next.