Soccer

FIFA extends voting deadline for Ball d'Or

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ZURICH (AP)

Cristiano Ronaldo is now the favorite to win the Ballon d'Or following changes made Wednesday to the voting process.

FIFA reopened the deadline and invited voters to switch their preference on the morning after the Portugal forward's hat trick helped his country qualify for the World Cup.

''Votes which had already been submitted can be changed until Nov. 29,'' FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA said the decision was prompted by ''a low number of responses'' by last Friday's original deadline.

The world's best player in 2013 is chosen by national team coaches and captains, plus a journalist from each of FIFA's 209 member countries.

Ronaldo won in 2008, while Lionel Messi has taken the award for the past four years.

Ronaldo scored all three goals in Portugal's 3-2 victory in Sweden on Tuesday to advance to the World Cup. The Real Madrid forward also scored the only goal in the first leg in Lisbon last Friday, just ahead of the midnight deadline in Europe for the original voting window.

The decision Wednesday follows angry speculation in Portugal and Madrid that FIFA has been biased toward Messi, an Argentine who plays for Barcelona.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter told an audience of students in Oxford, England, last month that he preferred Messi as a nicer, more humble personality compared to Ronaldo, who he suggested was excessively interested in his hairstyle and appearance.

Blatter then stood up to mimic Ronaldo's style on the field, which he described as like a ''commander.''

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