Soccer:Pirlo, Balotelli, Buffon among Ballon d'Or hopefuls

Euro 2012 campaign stars face Spanish seven, Messi, Ronaldo

Soccer:Pirlo, Balotelli, Buffon among Ballon d'Or hopefuls

Paris, October 29 - Three stars of Italy's fine run to the final of Euro 2012, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli and Gianluigi Buffon, were named Monday among 23 contenders for this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or World Player of the Year award. The Spain side that beat Italy 4-0 in the final dominated the short list with seven nominees including Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Iker Casillas. But the competition is again seen by many as a two-horse race between Real Madrid's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Argentine ace Lionel Messi, who is bidding to become the first player to win the award four times. In the coaches' competition, Italy's Cesare Prandelli is up against Spain's Vicente del Bosque and eight others including Real's Jose' Mourinho, Chelsea's Roberto Di Matteo, Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, Manchester City's Roberto Mancini and Barcelona's ex-coach Pep Guardiola. Here are the nominated players, in alphabetical order: Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Karim Benzema (France), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Sergio Busquets (Spain), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Didier Drogba (Cote d'Ivoire), Radamel Falcao (Colombia), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Gerard Pique' (Spain), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Yaya Toure' (Cote d'Ivoire), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Xavi (Spain). Here are the coaches (in alphabetical order, first nationality and then team): Vicente del Bosque (Spain/Spain national team), Roberto Di Matteo (Italy/Chelsea FC), Alex Ferguson (Scotland/Manchester United FC), Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Barcelona former coach), Jupp Heynckes (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Germany/Borussia Dortmund), Joachim Low (Germany/Germany national team), Roberto Mancini (Italy/Manchester City FC), Jose' Mourinho (Portugal/Real Madrid CF), Cesare Prandelli (Italy/Italy national team). photo: Balotelli (left) and Pirlo

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