- 21 of 24 The Best Men’s Player candidates featured in preliminary matches
- Two of The Best Men’s Coach candidates were on the touchline during WCQ
- Eden Hazard helped his side qualify for Russia 2018
Out of the 24 candidates for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2017, 21 showcased their exceptional talents during the latest round of FIFA World Cup™ qualifying over the past week. Two of The Best FIFA Men’s Coach nominees – Joachim Low and Tite – were also on the touchline during the qualifiers.
FIFA.com takes a look back over the week in World Cup qualifying, to see how The Best got on.
Thursday 31 August
Antoine Griezmann and Ngolo Kante both played pivotal roles in France’s 4-0 defeat of the Netherlands – the Atleti man opened the scoring while the Chelsea midfielder was at his industrious best. Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show in his side’s 5-1 demolition of the Faroe Islands, scoring a hat-trick in Porto to take his qualifiers tally to 14 goals. Eden Hazard was also on the scoresheet in a 9-0 rout of Gibraltar which edged his Belgium side closer to Russia 2018.
Later, in South America, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal had an evening to forget, with the latter scoring an own goal in a 3-0 defeat against Paraguay. Uruguay’s Luis Suarez came face-to-face with Paulo Dybala and club teammate Lionel Messi against Argentina – but none of the stars on show could break the deadlock in a goalless draw. Marcelo and Neymar had more luck – coached by Tite - in their 2-0 win over Ecuador which stretched their advantage atop the CONMEBOL standings.
Friday 1 September
Another European quartet had mixed evenings on the second day of qualifying in Europe. Germany’s Toni Kroos – coached by Joachim Low – put in a superb cross to set up the late goal by teammate Mats Hummels which secured victory in the Czech Republic. Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will want to forget a shock 4-0 defeat in Denmark, while England’s Harry Kane scored in a win by the same scoreline in Malta.
Later, in the CONCACAF region, an inspired performance by Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas helped his side inch ever closer to Russia 2018 – he emerged with a clean sheet in his country’s 2-0 win over USA.
Saturday 2 September
Just one full game involved The Best candidates on Saturday night, but it was a clash between two of Europe’s heavyweights. Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon – joined by former Juventus teammate Leonardo Bonucci in defence – made his 170th international appearance, a record for a European player. Neither could prevent Spain easing to a 3-0 victory though, with Dani Carvajal and Andres Iniesta featuring and Sergio Ramos setting up Alvaro Morata’s goal.
Sunday 3 September
Luka Modric started a game on Saturday, but finished it on Sunday – with Croatia against Kosovo abandoned after 21 minutes on its original date due to inclement weather. When the game resumed a day later, the Real Madrid man was influential, with Domagoj Vida heading home his free kick to secure a 1-0 win. Eden Hazard was no doubt the happiest of The Best candidates on Sunday evening, coming off the bench to help Belgium win 2-1 in Greece and clinch Russia 2018 ticket.
Antoine Griezmann and Ngolo Kante were stunned in Paris, as Luxembourg held France to a 0-0 draw – avoiding defeat against Les Bleus for the first time in 103 years. Cristiano Ronaldo had a much quieter evening than usual, but his Portugal side still overcame Hungary in a 1-0 win.
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) August 31, 2017
Monday 4 September
Harry Kane failed to get on the scoresheet as England laboured to a 2-1 win over Slovakia at Wembley, while Robert Lewandowski had a much happier evening, scoring his 12th goal of qualifying in Poland’s 3-0 defeat of Kazakhstan. Germany hit Norway for six, moving to within touching distance of Russia 2018, with Toni Kroos excellent in the centre of Joachim Low‘s midfield.
Tuesday 5 September
It was another mixed evening for The Best candidates on Tuesday. Gianluigi Buffon kept a clean sheet on his 171st appearance for Italy in his side’s 1-0 win, while Luka Modric‘s Croatia slipped to a 1-0 defeat in Turkey.
In South America, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal once more tasted defeat – 1-0 to Bolivia in La Paz – while Paulo Dybala and Lionel Messi‘s Argentina could only draw 1-1 with Venezuela. Neymar featured in Brazil’s 1-1 draw with Colombia in Barranquilla, while Luis Suarez helped his side to a 2-1 victory in Paraguay.
Keylor Navas and Costa Rica almost secured their Russia 2018 ticket, but a 1-1 draw with Mexico in San Jose was not quite enough to see them confirm their fifth global finals appearance.
— Keylor Navas (@NavasKeylor) September 2, 2017
Note: The period to be taken into consideration when voting for The Best FIFA Football Awards – for Men’s Player and Coaches – is 20 November 2016 to July 2 2017.