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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 1 day ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jul 7, 2006

Germany's Podolski wins FIFA Young Player honour

Cristiano Ronaldo's antics against England and France cost him the award for young player of the World Cup.

The Manchester United winger won the fans' internet vote easily but FIFA's technical study's group chose Germany striker Lukas Podolski as the tournament's young player ahead of the Portugal star.

Ronaldo was criticised for his behaviour surrounding Wayne Rooney's sending off, after which he winked at his bench, and was roundly booed in the semi-final against France - during which he blatantly dived in the penalty box.

Both Lothar Matthaus, the former Germany international who is the patron of the Gillette-sponsored award, and FIFA's technical chief Holger Osieck said lack of fair play had been an issue.

Matthaus told a news conference in Berlin: 'You will never have 100% fair play and maybe looking at Cristiano Ronaldo he was obviously doing something here.

'He may have accumulated a couple of minus points due to his gesture with Rooney but you sometimes forget what the laws are in the heat of the fight.

'Give the young players a break, give him a chance. Remember Diego Maradona scored a goal with the `Hand of God'. That was not fair play and there are many other examples you can quote.'

Asked if Ronaldo's behaviour had harmed his chances of winning the award, Osieck conceded that fair play was considered.

Osieck said: 'We want to have decent behaviour and I admit we were critical of this. We had a number of criteria but we have to admit players of that age do have their weaknesses and are not fully developed.

'Players should be role models and fair play is a consideration. But we have to admit young players are not always mature tactically and they also have difficulties in handling stressful situations.'

Podolski was named the winner after scoring three goals, one against Ecuador and twice versus Sweden, and for a number of good performances including scoring a penalty against Argentina in the quarter-final.

Podolski, who has just moved from FC Cologne to Bayern Munich, said: 'I would have liked to have taken home another trophy - the World Cup - but it is a great honour for me to get this award and will provide me with great motivation to go on and become more successful.'

Ecuador's Luis Valencia, Argentina's Lionel Messi, Spain's Cesc Fabregas and Tranquillo Barnetta from Switzerland were the other finalists for the award.