Revisiting our Top 100; Who are the Top 100 knockout round players?

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I love getting yelled at, and you guys sure gave it to me over the course of ProSoccerTalk’s four-part “Top 100 players of the World Cup” series before the tournament began. How could we possibly have Bastian Schweinsteiger, a guy who ended up starting one group stage game for Germany and played 20 minutes in another, at No. 77? Just absurd!

Oh, you mean you were saying that was too low? Oh, okay.

Anyway, we wanted to take a look at who remained. And I’m a glutton for punishment, so I figured I’d fill in the back end with players who are still active in the World Cup’s knockout rounds.

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A remarkable 45 players have been either eliminated or injured, so we’ll bump all our pre-rankings forward and add in 45 newcomers.

100. Jasper Cillessen, Netherlands

99. Fabian Johnson, United States

98. Joel Campbell, Costa Rica

97. Ogenyi Onazi, Nigeria

96. Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

95. Dimitris Salpingidis, Greece

94. Hector Herrara, Mexico

source: AP

93. Olivier Giroud, France

92. Teofilo Gutierrez, Colombia

91. Islam Slimani, Algeria

90. Ahmed Musa, Nigeria

89. Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria

88. Sergio Romero, Argentina

87. Stefan De Vrij, Netherlands

86. Gary Medel, Chile

85. Marcelo, Brazil

84. Pablo Armero, Colombia

83. Granit Xhaka, Switzerland

82. Andres Guardado, Mexico

81. Daniel van Buyten, Belgium

80. Gonzalo Jara, Chile

79. Kevin de Bruyne, Belgium

78. Mathieu Valbuena, France

77. Matt Besler, United States

76. David Ospina, Colombia

75. Jan Vertonghen, Belgium

74. Fred, Brazil

73. Fernando Gago, Argentina

72. Chares Aranguiz, Chile

71. Eduardo Vargas, Chile

source: AP70. Dries Mertens, Belgium

69. Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria

68.  Javier Mascherano, Argentina

67. Mamadou Sakho, France

66. Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

65. Juan Cuadrado, Colombia

64. Memphis Depay, Netherlands

63. Claudio Bravo, Chile

62. Jermaine Jones, United States

61. Giorgos Karagounis, Greece

60. Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

59. Angel Di Maria, Argentina

58. Mats Hummels, Germany

57. Daley Blind, Netherlands

56. Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

————————————-

55. Rafa Marquez, Mexico

54. Diego Benaglio, Switzerland

source: AP53. Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

52. Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Greece

51. Madjid Bougherra, Algeria

50. Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

49. Clint Dempsey, United States

48. Ezekial Lavezzi, Argentina

47. Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland

46. John Obi Mikel, Nigeria

45. Fabio Coentrao, Portugal

44. Thomas Muller, Germany

43. Diego Forlan, Uruguay

42. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany

41. Diego Godin, Uruguay

40. Vasilis Torosidis, Greece

39. Jackson Martinez, Colombia

38. Stephan Lichsteiner, Switzerland

37. Blaise Matuidi, France

36. Thibault Courtois, Belgium

35. Gokhan Inler, Switzerland

source: AP34. Oribe Peralta, Mexico

33. Michael Bradley, United States

32. Mario Gotze, Germany

31. Dirk Kuyt, Netherlands

30. James Rodriguez, Colombia

29. Paul Pogba, France

28. Marco Reus, Germany

27. Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina

26. Tim Howard, United States

25. Hugo Lloris, France

24. Oscar, Brazil

23. Javier Hernandez, Mexico

22. Per Mertesacker, Germany

21. Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

20. Dani Alves, Brazil

19. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

18. Karim Benzema, France

17. David Luiz, Brazil

16. Pablo Zabaleta, Argentina

source: Getty Images15. Neymar, Brazil

14. Radamel Falcao, Colombia

13. Toni Kroos, Germany

12. Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands

11. Mesut Ozil, Germany

10. Arturo Vidal, Chile

9. Thiago Silva, Brazil

8. Manuel Neuer, Germany

7. Edinson Cavani, Uruguay

6. Philipp Lahm, Germany

5. Vincent Kompany, Belgium

4. Arjen Robben, Netherlands

3. Eden Hazard, Belgium

2. Robin van Persie, Netherlands

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina

 

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

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Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

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BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.

FA Cup: Sheffield Wednesday into 5th round; Derby headed for replay

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Sheffield Wednesday became the first club to reach the fifth round of the 2019-20 FA Cup by beating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Friday.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

The Owls took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Morgan Fox squeezed his shot past the goalkeeper from a tight angle, and Sam Winnall put the EFL Championship side 2-0 up by slotting the ball home just before full-time. QPR pulled a goal back through Nahki Wells just moments later, but it wasn’t enough and the game finished 2-1.

It’s the second time in three seasons that Wednesday has reached the fifth round after doing so just twice in their previous 17 seasons.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

Elsewhere, fellow Championship side Derby County, featuring Wayne Rooney who played all 90 minutes, couldn’t see off League Two side Northampton Town and will be forced into the dreaded replay after struggling to a scoreless draw away from home.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.