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Russia plan squad purge for World Cup

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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Lionel Messi wins Golden Ball award

Argentina captain Lionel Messi has won FIFA's Golden Ball award, despite being unable to inspire his side to World Cup glory.

Germany won the tournament thanks to a 1-0 victory over the Albiceleste -- with Mario Gotze scoring the winner -- yet it was Messi who was named the competition's best player.

The Barcelona forward beat off competition from Die Nationalmannschaft's Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm and Thomas Muller, international teammates Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano, as well as Brazil's Neymar, Netherlands winger Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez of Colombia, who were all named on the shortlist.

Messi tried his hardest at the Maracana but fell short vs. the stronger Germans.
Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball but was unable to get his hands on the World Cup.

Messi scored four goals and created another in Brazil to help his nation to their first World Cup final since 1990.

His win, however, may come as a surprise to some, given that only his one assist -- to set up Angel Di Maria's winner in the round-of-16 clash against Switzerland -- came in the knockout stages of the competition.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella defended the choice of Messi after Sunday's final.

"He deserves it," said Sabella, who on Friday reported via his agent that he would resign after the World Cup. "He played an extraordinary World Cup and was a fundamental factor in the team. Messi has always been one of the greats."

"The World Cup is a highly demanding tournament," Sabella said. "As far as his reputation is concerned, he was there before and has been there for quite a while, in the pantheon of greats."

Despite missing out on the Golden Ball, Rodriguez held on to win the Golden Boot thanks to his six goals in five games for Colombia.

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Muller had the chance to get his hands on the top scorer award for the second World Cup running, yet failed to find the back of the net in Sunday's final, meaning he finished on five goals.

Elsewhere, Germany's Manuel Neuer took home the Golden Glove award after being voted as the best goalkeeper of the tournament.

Neuer, who kept four clean sheets, saw off competition from Keylor Navas of Costa Rica and Argentina's Sergio Romero.

France midfielder Paul Pogba, 21, claimed the Young Player Award after beating compatriot Raphael Varane and Memphis Depay of Netherlands to the prize.

Colombia received the Fair Play Award for completing the tournament with the best disciplinary record.

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