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World Cup Most Disappointing XI players

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With the final around the corner, we here at ProSoccerTalk already put together a list of our World Cup Team of the Tournament. With stars like Luka Modric, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and K’Golo Kante headlining the list of players performing at the highest level on the biggest stage, the summer has no doubt proven as exciting as ever.

[ MORE: PST Writers pick their World Cup Best XI ]

However, there’s always another side of the coin. Many top teams disappointed heavily this summer, and with that comes poor individual performances from those expected to have a major impact. This summer has seen players who may have slipped from stardom to obscurity due to age or poor form. So who was the most disappointing? Some of us here put together a starting lineup of players who have underwhelmed compared to expectations.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Teams such as Germany, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina are heavily represented, as are other European nations like Denmark, Switzerland, and Poland who would have expected to perform better given their lofty FIFA rankings. Finally, the African nations will be disappointed to not reach the knockout phase, and make an appearance as a result.


Without further ado, here are some of our Disappointing Teams of the Tournament:

Kyle Bonn (4-3-3 formation)

GK: David De Gea (Spain)
DF: Alba (Spain), Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina), Gerard Pique (Spain), Lukasz Piszczek (Poland)
MF: Sami Khedira (Germany), Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
FW: Gabriel Jesus (Brazil), Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Thomas Muller (Germany)

Matt Reed (3-4-3 formation)

GK: David de Gea
DF: Joshua Kimmich (Germany), Nicolas Otamendi, Gerard Pique
MF: Bernardo Silva (Portugal), Javier Mascherano, Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Mesut Ozil (Germany)
FW: Gabriel Jesus, Timo Werner (Germany), Robert Lewandowski

Daniel Karell (3-4-3 formation)

GK: David de Gea
DF: Gerard Pique, Nicolas Otamendi, Mats Hummels (Germany)
MF: Marco Reus (Germany), Javier Mascherano, Antoine Griezmann (France), Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)
FW: Neymar (Brazil), Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Nicholas Mendola (4-3-3 formation)

GK: David De Gea (Spain)
DF: Jerome Boateng (Germany), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal), Sergio Ramos (Spain)
MF: Javier Mascherano (Argentina), Sergej Malinkovic-Savic (Serbia), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Bernardo Silva (Portugal)
FW: Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Timo Werner (Germany), Raheem Sterling (England)


The goalkeeper is a consensus pick in Manchester United’s David de Gea, who has won countless awards in the Premier League over the last few seasons with the Red Devils and has been linked for years with a move to Manchester United. His exploits in Russia this summer, however, were far from the standards he has set for himself in England.

In defense, there are also a pair of consensus picks in Argentina’s Nicolas Otamendi and Spain’s Gerard Pique. Otamendi was fabulous for Manchester City in their runaway title chase this past season, while Pique has been one of the best defenders in the world for years with Barcelona. Neither was up to their usual standards as both teams proved leaky at the back. Also appearing is Germany’s Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich, who both failed to meet expectations in a wildly disappointing group stage exit.

In the middle of the pitch, Javier Mascherano is a consensus pick, with the 31-year-old starting each and every game of the Argentina’s World Cup yet failing to cover the back line effectively at an advanced age. Jorge Sampaoli’s faith in him proved to be a big reason for Argentina’s early exit. Germany’s Sami Khedira suffered a similar fate, although at least Jogi Low had the sense to bench him quickly. Others appearing here include disappointing attackers Christian Eriksen, Mesut Ozil, and Alex Iwobi. Eriksen was consistently double-teamed with Denmark offering little else up front, and they were left unable to threaten opposing defenses with any regularity. Ozil has been criticized often over the years at Arsenal, and he failed to provide much for Germany in creativity. Iwobi is a youngster who had been pegged as a potential breakout star at the World Cup, but he failed to deliver and the African teams left much on the table. Even Antoine Griezmann, who some have labeled a potential Golden Ball candidate, makes an appearance as the Frenchman has often struggled with the final ball up front and he occasionally appears unable to operate on the same page as his teammates.

Finally, up front brings us consensus pick Robert Lewandowski, who yet again failed to come up clutch on the big stage. He has gone missing recently in big European games for Bayern Munich, and he was unable to engineer anything special at the head of the attack for 8th ranked team in the world. Brazil youngster Gabriel Jesus makes a pair of appearances, having disappointed mightily up front for Brazil playing the central striker role. There were louder and louder calls to start Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino in his place as the tournament went on, but those fell on deaf ears with manager Tite. Germany’s pair of Thomas Muller and Timo Werner represent other disappointments, with the hero of the 2014 World Cup final and the country’s young new talisman both putting forth forgettable performances. And finally, yes, Argentina superstar Lionel Messi makes the cut. While many claim his team weighed him down, there is no debating Messi’s tournament was one to forget. Altogether, the six strikers that appear here combined for just one goal in the entire tournament, from Messi.

Belgium headed to World Cup semis after beating Brazil

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Belgium are headed to a World Cup semifinal for the first time since 1986 after knocking off Brazil, a side which hadn’t lost a game — competitive or otherwise — in nearly 13 months, in Friday’s thrilling quarterfinal clash in Nizhny Novgorod.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Kevin De Bruyne scored the latest stunner in a 2018 tournament full of them (WATCH HERE), to add to an early own goal, before Brazil fought back valiantly but ultimately fell in the end, 2-1.

Fernandinho opened the scoring, into the wrong goal, in the 13th minute (WATCH HERE). Vincent Kompant, Fernandinho’s teammate at Manchester City, rose above the scrum to get his head to Nacer Chadli‘s corner kick, but didn’t make the cleanest of contact. The ball appeared headed across the six-yard box, until it made contact with the arm of Fernandinho and eluded a flailing Alisson in goal.

The 1-0 scoreline didn’t last long, as Belgium doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark. Romelu Lukaku picked the ball up inside his own half and surged forward, past a handful of defenders, before the ball was knocked away but fell to De Bruyne to Lukaku’s right. Three touches later, De Bruyne had the ball on his right foot with far too much sight of goal. The laser which ensued was un-savable (WATCH HERE).

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

For the ensuing 45 minutes, the Belgian defense appeared impermeable, thwarting anything and everything Brazil through at them. Even a pair of penalty-kick claims, from Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, fell on deaf ears.

Everything changed in the 76th minute, when Philippe Coutinho curled the perfect ball toward te penalty spot where Renato Augusto was waiting and anticipating. The Beijing Guoan midfielder applied every bit of contact and power he could muster with his head to beat Thibaut Courtois inside his left-hand post.

Fewer than five minutes later, it was Augusto who had Brazil’s first golden opportunity to draw the five-time world champions level, but he dragged his shot wide from just outside the box, letting the Belgian backline off the hook for a failed clearance.

Coutinho badly skewed Brazil’s next chance high and wide. Neymar beat his man to the endline and cut back inside before laying the ball back for the late-arriving Barcelona man, but Coutinho got his first-time effort all wrong and Belgium again went unpunished.

Once more, Brazil threatened in the 94th minute, but Courtois made a seemingly impossible save to tip Neymar’s curling shot just over the crossbar.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Up next for Roberto Martinez’s side will be a highly anticipated semifinal matchup with their southern neighbors, France, the last remaining pre-tournament favorite still breathing.

Tite faces first true tactical test as Brazil meets Belgium

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With the Round of 16 complete, Brazil is one of the few favorites in the 2018 World Cup to have earned that nomenclature thus far. Germany slumped out in the group stage, Spain looked lost without its manager and bowed out in the Round of 16, and France still seems yet to put together a truly complete performance.

Now, staring down a quarterfinal date with Belgium’s “Golden Generation” on Saturday, Brazil faces its first true test. Manager Tite has yet to find himself truly challenged tactically over his two-year tenure with the national team, breezing through CONMEBOL qualification in a South American confederation that appears weaker than usual given its combined performance in the World Cup thus far.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Brazil sailed through qualification with a week one loss the only blemish along entire way, and to this point in the big dance they’ve done enough to push by Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia, and Mexico with few truly shaky moments. Now, Tite finds himself tasked with halting the seductively free-flowing Belgian attack that has multiple strengths with which to threaten an opposition.

In a vacuum, Tite wouldn’t have much to think about, his first-choice Brazilian side built well to handle an attacking juggernaut like Belgium. However, the numerous circumstances surrounding Saturday’s quarterfinal make this an exceedingly difficult prospect for Tite – his first truly mountainous trial.

The biggest concern Tite must to overcome is the loss of central midfielder Casemiro to yellow card suspension. The World Cup’s excessively strict yellow card policy sees players who accumulate a second caution before the semifinal suspended for the subsequent match, and thanks to Casemiro’s booking in the 59th minute of the 2-0 win over Mexico for a foul on Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Brazil is without the Real Madrid rock.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Casemiro is essential to Brazil’s structure and shape, and protects a back line better than any number 6 in the world. His performance against Mexico was as stout as any, but it’s not a good illustration of his true abilities given how Mexico intentionally targeted Brazil’s flanks as their preferred outlet of attack. Instead, one should look to Brazil’s comfortable 2-0 win over Serbia to discover Casemiro’s true worth. Against the big, physical presence of Serbia’s attack, Casemiro was vital in preventing them from circulating through the middle. The 26-year-old completed six of eight tackles attempted, contributed four clearances, recovered nine balls, and went toe-to-toe with Serbia’s exceptionally physical presence winning three of his seven defensive aerial duels. He effectively forced Serbia’s attack out wide, where they are not nearly as dangerous. Below is their attacking dashboard, where you can see the void in the middle as opposed to the traffic out wide.

Serbia attacking dashboard vs. Brazil in Group E play of 2018 World Cup (dashboard via StatsZone app, statistics via Opta).

As you can see, they were completely neutralized in the center of the pitch. With this in mind, Serbia was forced to take a mammoth 26 crosses, of which they successfully connected on just four.

Casemiro’s suspension will be a massive loss for Brazil against Belgium’s impressive attacking assualt. In the Red Devils’ 5-2 demolition of promising African nation Tunisia, they were relentless down the middle. Roberto Martinez has Kevin De Bruyne playing in a deeper midfield role with Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens ahead of him in the attacking midfield, and the Manchester City playmaker has been able to marshal the Belgian buildup from deep. Against Tunisia he created five chances and was given free reign through the middle of the field to control the pace of play. That ultimately saw Belgium’s attack bask in plenty of sunlight through the central areas.

 

Kevin de Bruyne’s complete dashboard in Belgium’s 5-2 win over Tunisia in Group G play (dashboard via StatsZone app, statistics via Opta).
Belgium’s attempted take-ons in the 5-2 win over Tunisia in Group G play.
Belgiums attacking third passes in the 5-2 win over Tunisia in Group G play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this in mind, Tite will be forced to counter the loss of Casemiro. With Paulinho deployed next to Casemiro thus far throughout the World Cup, it’s unlikely Tite would want to leave him on an island against Belgium. The most likely scenario is the addition of Fernandinho in Casemiro’s place, with the Manchester City holding midfielder a fitting selection to deputize against his Belgian club teammate with the Premier League title winners. Fernandinho was fabulous last season for his club, a big reason why Manchester City was able to win a championship in record-setting fashion. He was the 12th best player in the Premier League last season according to Squawka Statistics as he executed Pep Guardiola‘s tactics to perfection. However, the biggest weakness for Fernandinho is his defensive ability, with the 25-year-old making 5.3 defensive contributions (tackles, interceptions, clearances, blocks) per 90 minutes in the Premier League last season compared to Casemiro’s 9.1 in La Liga play.

Instead of Fernandinho, we could see the likes of new Manchester United signing Fred or veteran Renauto Augusto if Tite wants to be more aggressive, which may be a preferable tactical choice given Belgium’s weak defensive midfield that Japan exploited in the first half of their Round of 16 meeting, before Roberto Martinez shored things up with the introduction of Marouane Fellaini.

Another conundrum Tite must solve is the looming question up front: what to do with Gabriel Jesus. The 21-year-old attacker impressed in his first season in England, but has proven underwhelming in Russia this summer. He has been upstaged by Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino late in World Cup games, most recently watching from the bench as Firmino iced the Mexico game with a late goal. There are calls to replace Jesus with a more centrally inclined striker like Firmino in the starting lineup, and it is Tite’s job to deduce whether Firmino is a fitting replacement for Jesus from the get-go, or if his success is molded by his use as a late sub against tired legs. If his Champions League performances are any indication, Firmino is more than capable of causing problems for opposition defensive structure for an entire 90 minutes at a high level, and his World Cup performances seem to suggest he has a better understanding with Neymar than Jesus has shown.

Finally, Tite has issues to solve on the back line as well. Injuries have decimated the Brazilian full-back ranks, and while it appears those injured may be somewhat subsiding, there are still lingering questions. Danilo was reportedly fit for the Mexico game, but Tite stuck with understudy Fagner at right-back, who was subsequently torn to shreds by Carlos Vela early and Lozano as the game progressed. Vela created four chances throughout the match – three in the first half – while completing 13 of 16 pass attempts in the attacking third. Lozano, meanwhile, completed six of 10 take-ons including five of his first seven before Brazil’s pressure became too much for Mexico to handle. Meanwhile on the left flank, Filipe Luis was troubled by Mexico’s wide attack as well – although not to the extent of Fagner – and while Marcelo’s presence in the Brazilian lineup would seem a given if healthy, some believe Filipe Luis has performed well enough to keep his place in the eleven.

Brazil has passed every test to this point, but in a World Cup full of chaos and upsets, Tite cannot afford to underestimate any personnel choice or tactical decision, no matter how small. His conclusions over the next few days will shape the 2018 World Cup’s first true heavyweight bout.

Brazil battle past Mexico as Neymar stars

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  • Brazil has never lost to Mexico at World Cup (scoring 13 goals, conceding 0)
  • Seventh-straight World Cup quarterfinal for Brazil
  • Mexico out at last 16 round in seven-straight World Cups

Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup on Monday in Samara, with the five-time champions battling past a stubborn El Tri side.

Neymar scored one and assisted Roberto Firmino for the other as Mexico ran out of steam after a fine first half performance.

Brazil will play the winner of Belgium v Japan in Kazan on Friday in the quarterfinal.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Mexico started the game superbly as a cross from Andres Guardado on the left was only half cleared by Alisson and Lozano’s shot was blocked.

El Tri continued to threaten on the break and Carlos Vela was enjoying plenty of the ball on the left, as that set up another chance but Hector Herrera’s shot was blocked.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Brazil finally got going in the first half as Neymar cut in from the left and his shot was smothered by Guillermo Ochoa at the near post. Soon after both Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho got shots off but Brazil were second best as the half time whistle blew.

Jesus then danced through Mexico’s defense but his shot was saved by Ochoa and then another effort was blocked by the El Tri defense. Neymar went down theatrically to win a free kick but he curled the resulting free kick way over.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

At half time 39-year-old Rafael Marquez came off and Miguel Layun replaced him in a reshuffled for Juan Carlos Osorio as Layun went to right back and Edson Alvarez moved into holding midfield.

Ochoa saved well from Coutinho as the playmaker was allowed to dribble inside easily from a corner kick and get a shot off. Then on the break Jesus Gallardo then drove forward and then curled inches over with Lozano free on his right.

Neymar scored the opener after fantastic work from Willian who turned on the jets to glide past his marker and then cross to the back post for Brazil’s talisman to tap home.

Paulinho then forced Ochoa into a fine stop at the near post as he curled in a powerful effort, while Casemiro was then booked, meaning he will miss Brazil’s World Cup quarterfinal.

On the break Raul Jimenez, on as a sub for Javier Hernandez, played in Lozano who found Vela and his shot was pushed over by Alisson. Ochoa then tipped over brilliantly from Willian’s shot as Brazil pushed hard to get the killer second goal late on.

Neymar received plenty of rough challenges from Mexico’s players throughout, despite some embellishment, and Layun was shown stepping on him on the sidelines but no VAR review was sanctioned.

Brazil’s star man had the last laugh as he ran free down the left and his shot was saved by Ochoa but substitute Firmino tapped home to wrap up the 2-0 win and the Selecao into the last eight.

Transfer rumor roundup: Ings on the move; Godin to Man United

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Danny Ings looks set to leave Liverpool this summer with multiple outlets reporting he has agreed with Jurgen Klopp to move on to find regular action.

Ings, 25, has been hit with two major knee injuries during his three seasons at Liverpool and battled back to make 14 appearances last season off the bench for the Anfield club.

However, it doesn’t appear that regular minutes will be upcoming for Ings with Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Dominic Solanke ahead of him in the pecking order.

Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Inter Milan are all said to be interested in signing the England international and many more clubs will be sniffing around Ings as he’s been linked with Burnley, Newcastle and West Ham in the past.

He is a poacher in the box, works the channels superbly and is hungry to regain the form which saw him score 11 PL goals in 2014-15 for Burnley. A sharp Danny Ings is a danger to any defense in the Premier League.


Diego Godin, 32, has been linked with a move to Manchester United.

Uruguay’s captain has been a monster so far for La Celeste at the World Cup, as the Atletico Madrid center back has led them to three victories in the group stage to set up a last 16 clash with Portugal.

Per a report from Spanish outlet AS, Godin could be available for just $23.8 million this summer as he has just one year left on his current deal at Atleti. Although contract talks are expected with Atleti, the Uruguayan is said to be contemplating a move with both United and Juventus interested.

Jose Mourinho wants to add extra steel to his defense and with United already signing Fred and Diogo Dalot this summer, the Red Devils aren’t messing around when it comes to rebuilding their squad.

Godin’s no-nonsense style of defending will certainly slot in with Mourinho’s love for combative play and you can see him being one of his generals at Old Trafford.