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World Cup: Podolski Named Best Young Player
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In an award overshadowed by debate over the merits or otherwise of runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo, Germany striker Lukas Podolski was presented Friday with the trophy for best young player at the World Cup.

Almost one million people voted through the Internet in the competition, open to the public for the first time, choosing three finalists. FIFA's Technical Study Group added another three candidates and then selected the winner based primarily on technical factors including time spent on the field and goals scored as well as the impact the player had on the team.

"I would have very much liked to take another trophy home, but I'm very very glad to have this," Podolski said. "It is a great honor for me to be given this award."

Germany lost in the semifinals to Italy and will play Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates in the third-place match Saturday.

Ronaldo was lambasted in the British media for his part in the ejection of Wayne Rooney _ his teammate at Manchester United _ in Portugal's quarterfinal win over England.

He approached the referee, asking him to pull the red card against Rooney after the England striker stomped on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho. Ronaldo was shoved by Rooney and later winked to his dugout.

That and accusations that Ronaldo faked injury and simulated fouls likely cost the talented winger the World Cup award.

While Podolski is a steady forward and formed a good combination with Miroslav Klose up front for the Germans, he lacked the star qualities that Ronaldo and the likes of Argentina's Lionel Messi ooze.

The TSG chief Holger Osieck said Podolski has played a combined 565 of a possible 600 minutes for the hosts and contributed important goals.

Ronaldo has been on the field for 395 minutes of Portugal's 575 minutes of match time.

Osieck conceded that Ronaldo lost marks on the "Fair Play" factor, and that his overall contribution to the World Cup was not as great as Podolski.

"This award is not an award to the best and most talented player, but to the (young) player who delivered the best performance in the tournament," Osieck said. "Together with Klose, he (Podolski) constituted an attack duo that was to be feared and Germany was the last team playing with two strikers.

"The efficiency of the player has been taken into account and the facts here are very much in favor of Lukas Podolski."

Osieck said the TSG did make some judgments on the episode involving Ronaldo and Rooney.

Lothar Matthaeus, who played a record 25 World Cup matches and was patron for the award, said the Bayern Munich-bound Podolski was a good choice.
"He is a street footballer. You can see he loves the sport and for this reason, I'm overly pleased that the jury decided to give this award to Lukas Podolski."

Matthaeus said it was a shame that Messi got limited game time with Argentina and Rooney came into the tournament injured.

"Two great talents were not able to showcase their talents and present themselves the way we had expected," he said.

Other finalists were Messi, Luis Valencia of Ecuador, Tranquillo Barnetta of Switzerland and Cesc Fabregas of Spain.

Messi, Ronaldo and Valencia made the shortlist by finishing in the top three of fan voting via while Barnetta, Fabregas and Podolski were nominated by FIFA. Podolski finished fourth in the fan vote.

Podolski, who turned 21 on June 4, has three goals in six matches.

The Gillette award goes to "the player born on or after January 1, 1985, who makes the biggest impression at the FIFA World Cup ... criteria for the award include "style, charisma, fair play and appetite for the game, as well as pure technical skill."

(AP via China Daily July 8, 2006)

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