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.

[ RELATED: Top five US performers during Group G play ]

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from USA-Germany ]

[ RELATED: Convinced? Klinsmann’s personnel moves keyed US advance ]

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

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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

 

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Giroud is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”