Stock rising, falling: Which World Cup sides are heading in opposite directions?

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After the World Cup ended on Sunday, all 32 teams have now returned home after a sizzling summer of soccer.

Many are experiencing contrasting emotions at the moment.

[ RELATED: Story of the 2014 World Cup ]

Plenty of sides under-performed in Brazil, but plenty of teams overachieved too.

Here we take a look at three teams whose stock is on the rise after their World Cup performances, plus three teams who return with their tails in-between their legs.

Momentum means a lot in soccer. Let’s see who has got it.

Top 10 goals | PST’s best XI | Story of the WC | Top moments  | Grades

STOCK RISING 

USA – With Jurgen Klinsmann’s side getting out of the “Group of Death” they could do no wrong heading into the knockout stages. A brave battle against Belgium resulted in defeat, but there was plenty to be positive about. Key players like Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey came up big when it mattered, while youngsters DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green showed they are stars of the future. An entire nation is hopeful ahead off Russia 2018, as the U.S. gained plenty of respect from around the globe for their gritty performances. The next two summers provide a good chance for more tournament experience, as the Gold Cup and Copa America Centenario await.

FRANCE – The French lost 1-0 to eventual champions Germany in the quarterfinals and were so close to sending the game into extra time with the final attack. Didier Deschamps’ side stumbled into the World Cup via the UEFA playoffs, but left Brazil with everyone raving about their potential to lift the European Championships on home soil in 2016. Raphael Varane (despite being bullied by Mats Hummels for the deciding goal in the quarters) impressed, Paul Pogba won the Young Player of the Tournament award and the duo of Karim Benzema and Matheiu Valbuena were live-wires up top.

NETHERLANDS – Dutch courage prevailed, as the Oranje produced some superb soccer and went for broke in Brazil. Louis van Gaal’s side smashed Spain 5-1 in the opener and were a breath of fresh air throughout. Now LVG has stepped down to take charge of Manchester United, legendary Dutch coach Gus Huddink will take over this summer. Sure, guys like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are getting older, but there are plenty of talented youngsters like Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum who will shine  bright. The future’s bright. The future’s Oranje….

Honorable mention: Colombia

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What next for Spain?

STOCK FALLING

SPAIN – The end of an era? It could well be. After their embarrassing title defense in Brazil, Spain could see several legendary players bowing out. Xavi, Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Xabo Alonso, David Villa… they could all make way. Will Vicente del Bosque still be in charge for the 2016 European Championships? Will Spain qualify? Is this the end of tiki-taka? So many questions have arisen after a truly disastrous World Cup.

ITALY – Another European giant and former World Cup winner is floundering after being knocked out in the group stages of the World Cup. Veterans Andrea Pirlo, Gigi Buffon and others failed to patch up a pragmatic and rather dull Cesare Prandelli side. Mario Balotelli scored in their opening win against England then disappeared for the rest of the tournament, while a lack of true attacking talent must be worrying. Prandelli is no longer in charge, could Antonio Conte be the man to restore the Azzurri’s pride?

BRAZIL – We will see what life after Luis Felipe Scolari will look like for the Selecao but it appears they have plenty of issues to address. Neymar aside, they have no superstar talents and with their monumental collapse during the 2014 World Cup, there is some serious work to be done. First they need a new manager, find out the contenders here. Then the real work can begin. Defensively they need to be more organized, in midfield they need structure and up top they need another top forward to ease the burden on Neymar. Yes, they made the semifinals on home soil this summer… but the home crowd urged them on against Colombia and Chile in tight knockout wins that only papered over the gaping cracks.

Dishonorable mention: England

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

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Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.