WORLD CUP 2006: And the Golden Ball goes to ...

Berlin, July 6:

Rival captains Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro have been shortlisted for the Golden Ball award ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Italy.

The 34-year-old Zidane, who helped France to the 1998 World Cup title, is ending his professional career after the World Cup and has gradually improved his performance in each of his five outings for Les Bleus here. His penalty kick in the first half of the semifinal led France over Portugal and into the final.

Cannavaro has directed an Italian defence that has conceded only an own-goal in the tournament. Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is also on the 10-man shortlist announced on Thursday along with fellow Italians Andrea Pirlo and Gianluca Zambrotta.

Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, two other veterans from France’s ‘98 winning team, are also nominated for the tournament’s most outstanding player award. The other nominees are Germany captain Michael Ballack and striker Miroslav Klose, who is leading the scorers with five goals, and Maniche from Portugal. The winner will not be announced until Monday.

In a break with tradition, voting by journalists covering the tournament will remain open until midnight Sunday, with the winner announced at 10 am local time (0800 GMT) the next morning.

In 2002, voting closed at halftime in the final, with the winner announced after the match. In previous tournaments, voting closed after the third-place game.

FIFA communications director Markus Siegler said organizers decided to keep the voting open to ensure the entire tournament was reflected in the outcome, instead of just 63 1/2 matches.

German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn won the Golden Ball in 2002. Other previous winners include Brazilians Ronaldo (1998) and Romario (‘94), Italians Salvatore Schillaci (‘90) and Paolo Rossi (‘82) and Argentina’s Diego Maradona in 1986.