My Balloon Door Rankings. Mine.

FIFA and the French government* has released the list of the 23 players chosen as candidates for the 2013 Ballon d’Or (French for “balloon door,” I believe) award. Below is how I’d rank the candidates on the list and, hence, how I’d vote. Had I vote to cast. Naturally, I don’t. But here’s how my faux (French for “awesome,” I believe) list would look regardless.

23. Eden Hazard (Belgium)
22. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
21. Thiago Silva (Brazil)
20. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
19. Neymar (Brazil)
18. Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
17. Xavi (Spain)
16. Mesut Ozil (Germany)
15. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)
14. Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
13. Manuel Neuer (Germany)
12. Philipp Lahm (Germany)
11. Andres Iniesta (Spain)
10. Robin van Persie (Netherlands)
9. Gareth Bale (Wales)
8. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
7. Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
6. Franck Ribery (France)
5. Thomas Muller (Germany)
4. Radamel Falcao (Colombia)
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
2. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovc (Sweden)

Before you cry foul at my rankings, remember that there really are no criteria for the voting. It’s simply a gut feeling as to who’s the top — or even top-top-top-top — player on the planet within a given year.

So throw your stats and your cups out the window and just go with your heart. In fact, if you’d like to make a balloon door pick yourself, just answer these three simple questions:

1. During the 2013 calendar year, did [Player X] stir strange, awkward feelings within your very innards?

2. Would you be embarrassed to walk into a soccer bar at this very moment and yell, “[Player X] is definitively, without a doubt, the top player on the planet right now! Forza [Player X]!”

3. Would you then have a pint glass whipped at your head for making such a statement?

If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second two, then that should basically be enough to justify your selection.

Meaning I have less than no problem telling you that if the powers that be don’t give Zlatan this year’s balloon door, it will be a grave injustice against all of football — hence, humanity — and I’ll be hella miffed.

(* – The French government wasn’t really involved in this year’s voting. Not so sure about the German government, though.)

Michael Bradley Scores Match-Winner For Roma At Udinese (Video)

Michael Bradley scored the match-winner for Roma at Udinese to keep the Giallorossi’s perfect start to the season — a remarkable nine wins from nine matches — intact.

The goal can be seen above; below is the Guardian’s description of the match-winner. Enjoy. Forza, General!

This was only the American’s third appearance of a frustrating season. Bradley has been out of action since injuring an ankle while warming up for a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in early September, and has since watched Roma excel without him.

Anxious observers in the US had already begun to ask what the player’s prospects would look like when he returned. A midfield trio of Pjanic, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman has arguably been the greatest strength of Garcia’s new-look Roma. Their success left no room for Bradley to force his way back into the starting XI – especially given the new manager’s reluctance to rotate.

Speculation began that the player might seek a January transfer. Such talk was entirely premature. Bradley has shown no interest in leaving, nor his club in selling. Both parties were entirely focused on getting the player fit and back in position to help Roma’s cause.

He did that on Sunday in dramatic fashion, scoring the game’s only goal with less than 10 minutes left to play. Roma had not done much attacking in the wake of Maicon’s sending off but after De Rossi picked out Strootman with a direct ball forwards from midfield, the Dutchman laid it off to Bradley on the edge of the D. From there, he stroked an immaculate first-time finish into the bottom corner of the net.

Messi Free-Kick Golazo Against Ajax (Video)

If Vladimir Weiss’ dribbling exhibition was my fave goal of the first round of CL group play, then I’d have to say Messi’s free-kick golazo off the post against Ajax was my second favorite. Precision, personified. Barca went on to win 4-0, and after the match there was a bit of debate on FOX Soccer as to whether Messi’s or Ronaldo’s Day 1 CL hat-trick was more impressive. To my thinking, it was Messi by a landslide.

Emile Heskey Suffers Brutal Knee Injury Against Melbourne Victory (Video)

England international Emile Heskey suffered a knee injury during a preseason match between his club, Newcastle Jets, and Melbourne Victory.

Skip to the 1:30 mark to see it, but be warned, Heskey’s scream is a bit blood-curdling.

Latest word is that Heskey will be out for six weeks with a grade two medial ligament strain. He’s lucky; looks as though it could’ve been worse.

Vladimir Weiss Scores Nutmeg Golazo Against PSG (Video)

This was my favorite goal of the opening round of CL play. The ex-Man City wunderkind nutmegs one PSG defender then shows some extremely deft footwork to beat a second, all super close to goal. The golazo doesn’t come as a huge surprise, he always showed a good bit of promise in friendlies for City. Despite Weiss’ nice finish, PSG would go on to win the match, 4-1.

Can US Qualify For World Cup Against Mexico?

Si, absolutely. But they still need a bit of help, even if they grab all three points.

If the US wins on Tuesday night in Ohio, then they qualify for the 2014 World Cup as long as Honduras gets a win or a draw at home on Tuesday against Panama. If Panama wins, however, then we have to put the official celebrations on hold for a few more weeks at least.

If the US draws against Mexico, then they clinch a World Cup spot with a win over Jamaica on Oct. 11 in Kansas City. Simple as that. (But there’s no scenario under which the US qualifies on Tuesday with a draw.)

But a loss to Mexico … opens up a whole slew of possibilities in terms of qualifying for Brazil or (wince) not making it to South America.

We’ll cross that bridge if we get there. Which, hopefully, we won’t.

Luis Suarez Scores 2 Goals Vs. Peru In 2-1 WCQ Win (Video)

Luis Suarez gave a vintage Luis Suarez performance in Uruguay’s 2-1 win over Peru on Friday. He dove, he slotted home PKs, he play-acted, he scored a screamer and, most importantly, he led his home nation to a key win over their South American rivals.

Uruguay now have 19 points through 13 matches and are in fifth place in CONMEBOL qualifying with five matches to play. The top four sides make it and the fifth gets a playoff against an Oceania rep. I think I have that right?

Alberto Gilardino Has Peppa Pig Tattoo (Photo)

Alberto-Gilardino-Peppa-Pig

Tattoos ain’t for kids. Unless you’re getting inked up to impress your own kids, it would seem.

Alberto Gilardino, of Genoa and Italian national team fame, apparently has a “Peppa Pig” tattoo on his left bicep, Peppa being a British children’s TV show. Gilardino has two daughters, so there’s every chance the tat is a tribute to his kids’ tastes in TV.

Nice tribute and all, but personally, I would’ve gone with Daddy Pig. Dude plays in a Sunday league on the show, after all.

USMNT-Costa Rica Highlights (Video)

The US dropped this one, 3-1. But then you probably knew that.

Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron will all be out for Tuesday’s match against Mexico due to accumulated yellows. But then you probably knew that too.

Something you might not have known: beIN Sport’s Phil Schoen is speculating that Sacha Kljestan, who’s apparently in the New York area already, could be called up for Tuesday’s match. Stay tuned.

One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson Tackled Hard By Gabriel Agbonlahor In Charity Match (Video)

Aston Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor took One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson down a bit hard during a Stiliyan Petrov charity match over the weekend. But hard enough to warrant death threats? Well, you watch and be the judge.

That said, if Gabby got death threats for taking down Tomlinson, what do you think Teddy Sheringham got for taking out Gordon Ramsay a few years back, as seen below? Roses? Sacks of cash? Sacks of cash filled with roses?

Ramsay apparently had to be stretchered off afterwards.