Random notes from Monday’s FIFA ceremony in Zurich

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Leave it to FIFA to create an hour of needless content around two revelations that could have been zipped up in about four minutes – and that’s with both acceptance speeches!

But never mind that. Abby Wambach won her first FIFA Women’s player of the Year honor (congrats!) and Leo Messi claimed his unprecedented fourth Ballon d’Or.

Yup … dancers, weird mascots, bad speeches (along with a few worthy moments, if should be said) all to find out that Messi had outdistanced Cristiano Ronaldo (the only real competition, it should be said) for the 2012 world honor.

(MORE: No suprises, as Leo Messi wins at unprecedented fourth)

Here are some other memorable moments and facts to consider (of the completely random nature):

Messi was not listed on 52 of the 508 official ballots. Fools. Just fools.

For the record, Ruud Gullit is the only former MLS manager to ever host a FIFA Ballon D’Or ceremony.

Sepp Blatter’s speech to open the ceremony would have raised indignant cries of “hypocrisy” or even “ignorance” … if it wasn’t just so comically bad.

If you’re interested, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann voted Messi first, Andrea Pirlo second and Cristiano Ronaldo third. All the ballots are here.

If I find the man or woman who said, “Dancing! We need more dancing at the ceremony! … Maybe even some shirtless men throwing fake kung-fu!” … we are going to have words.

So as not to sound like a total FIFA basher, the video mash-up of former player of the year winners, which included some wonderful, old footage, was pretty sweet.

In case you were wondering, the man conducting interviews for FIFA’s official feed on the red carpet before Monday’s announcement thought U.S. women’s national team players Alex Morgan and Hope Solo were beautiful and were wearing beautiful dresses. He didn’t feel the need to say something similar about the handsome, fit and well-dressed men he interviewed. It seems that the sexist attitudes around world soccer’s governing body trickle down from the top.

I’m not quite sure what to say about Messi’s seriously fancy outfit. Polka dots, yo!

Speaking of wardrobe, here’s what blogger-funny man-good dude Shawn Francis said about Brazil’s Marta, who was up for Female Player of the Year: “Marta wearing Tina Turner’s dress from the Private Dancer tour, I see.” Good one, Shawn!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunning goal against England wasn’t even among the nominees for FIFA Goal of the Year … which delegitimizes the award in my mind. No reason to even talk about it.

Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque was named Men’s Coach of the Year.

Former U.S. manager Pia Sundhage was named Women’s Coach of the Year.

Singing! Of course, there had to be singing!  At least one tune was of the unscripted variety, as Sundhage sang out a nice, quick little tribute to Alex Morgan and Wambach in the audience, essentially saying she was there because of players like them. A very nice touch. And very, uh, “Sundage.”

source:  Someone said the song was Olivia Newton John’s “If Not For You.” I cannot confirm this. And if I could, I certainly would not admit it.

Two-time Ballon D’Or winner and former Brazilian great Ronaldo (pictured) is only 36, but he has added so much weight, he is nearly unrecognizable.

Gullit, 49 minutes into the ridiculously, overly long ceremony: “The tension is mounting!” Uh, no … it really wasn’t. Whatever tension might have been linked into this one (truly, not so much) leaked about around the time the Brazil 2104 mascot went bouncing around on the stage. Or when Gullit put on a Gullit wig. (He really did that.) Or when some lady nobody knew sang a song nobody knew. Or when … oh, you get the message.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE