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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.

Mexico’s quinto partido curse isn’t particularly ‘cursey’

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Far be it from me to defend Mexico, but let’s talk about this fifth round “quinto partido” curse for a minute.

And it really shouldn’t take much longer.

[ RECAP: Brazil 2-0 Mexico ]

There’s obviously no denying that Mexico continues to lose in the Round of 16, and that 2002 was an absolute nightmare.

For them. Let’s be clear: It was pretty much the best day in American soccer history.

But if anything, look at the wonderful below graphic assembled by our beautiful NBC Sports Soccer crew.

Mexico has lost to better teams more times than not, and their only crime of this World Cup, one in which they beat Germany, is that they didn’t win the group and play Switzerland instead of Brazil.

[ MORE: Kovacic, Plea in PL transfer links ]

[ MORE: Real denies Neymar offer ]

But that Dos a Cero aside, look at the teams that knocked them out and the margins. Mexico scored in the majority of the contests. And they mostly lost to giants.

The curse scales runs from level 1 (no shame) to level 10 (Come on, Mexico).

1994: A team largely devoid of superstars came up against Hristo Stoichkov and Bulgaria. Both teams scored inside of 20 minutes, and Mexico blew it in penalties. Bulgaria, for what it’s worth, then took eventual finalists Roberto Baggio and Italy to the wire in a 2-1 quarterfinal lost. Curse level: 6

1998: This one feels a bit curselike, but only on account of how the match played out. A Luis Hernandez goal put El Tri ahead just after halftime. But Germany, led by Jurgen Klinsmann, scored in the 74th and 86h (Oliver Bierhoff) to win it. Those are a pair of German legends on a team with fellow legends Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Moller. Curse level: 2

2002: Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Curse level: 100

2006: Given a group with Iran, Angola, and Portugal, El Tri had four points before losing to favorites Portugal in the finale. That led to Argentina, who had emerged unscathed from a group with Serbia, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. Rafa Marquez and Hernan Crespo traded goals inside of 10 minutes, and extra time saw a 19-year-old Lionel Messi touch the ball twice in the build-up to this outlandish 98th minute Maxi Rodriguez goal. Curse level: 1

2010: Hopes were high thanks to an upset of chaotic France, but Mexico again drew an Argentina side that went 3-0 despite the absence of a single Messi group stage goal. He didn’t score in the Round of 16 either, but losing to two goals from Carlos Tevez and a Gonzalo Higuain goal shows just how loaded the Argentine contingent was in South Africa. Curse level: 2

2014: El Tri was feeling great under Miguel Herrera, as Piojo oversaw wins over Croatia and Cameroon along with an impressive draw with hosts Brazil. Tiebreakers meant a meeting with eventual semifinalists Netherlands, and Giovani dos Santos scored to give Mexico a 48th minute lead. This one, however, carries a bit of curse for how it ended; Wesley Sneijder scored in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty won… well… controversially by some clown Arjen Robben. #NoEraPenal. Curse level: 8

Which brings us to 2018: Is losing to a tournament favorite in any way considered a curse? No. Not at all. Is losing to the third-best player in the world while he dives around like the worst example of a soccer stereotype cursey enough to go past curse level zero? Sure, but you did step on the dude’s leg with an immense amount of cameras around. If Casemiro did the same to Javier Hernandez, the little pea would still be rolling on the ground as you read this. Curse level: 1

Sampaoli leaves his post as Argentina manager

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The 2018 World Cup body count has risen.

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli has been relieved of his duties after he oversaw their departure in the Round of 16 with a loss to France. According to multiple reports, first by Hernan Castillo of TNT Sports, the decision was made after Sampaoli met with Argentina FA chief Claudio Tapia on Sunday.

Sampaoli began as Argentina manager only last June with the team struggling in World Cup qualification. He saw them qualify in the final guaranteed CONMEBOL spot with three draws and a win in his four matches in charge, but the team was far from solid.

[ MORE: Sampaoli is this World Cup’s biggest group stage loser ]

The World Cup for Argentina was a disaster, and Sampaoli was at the heart of their failures. Lionel Messi was left on an island for nearly the entire tournament, and Sampaoli had no answers, chopping and changing the starting lineup hoping that something would stick. He took numerous tactical risks, and changed things significantly with each game.

The results spoke for themselves. After an opening round draw with Iceland where the Argentina attack was almost completely stifled, they were comprehensively walloped by Luka Modric and Croatia. With qualification on the line, they required a late winner from defender Marcos Rojo to save them from group stage elimination. Still, they were overwhelmed by France in the Round of 16, beaten 4-3 in a game where the scoreline flattered them somewhat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

After the loss to France, Sampaoli admitted he wasn’t able to support Messi with the help he needed. “On a personal level it is a great frustration,” Sampaoli said. “We had the best player in the world and we tried to put him in a position to score. We tried to surround him with the right players to take advantage of that talent, it is a talent that no other team has.”

While Sampaoli will still be a highly coveted manager thanks to his success with Chile, his most recent stops at Sevilla and with Argentina will give some prospective employers reason to consider other options.

Sampaoli is the second manager to depart his post after defeat in the 2018 World Cup, following Egypt boss Hector Cuper.

France tops Argentina behind Mbappe brilliance

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La Albiceleste had everything going their way early in the second half, but a quick flip of the switch turned the tides in favor of their European foe.

France topped Argentina, 4-3, in Kazan on Saturday behind a second-half Kylian Mbappe brace.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

The Monaco man was dangerous throughout the match, and played an important role in three of the four French goals.

Les Bleus took the lead after 13 minutes when Antoine Griezmann stepped up at the penalty spot and buried the game’s opener.

The chance came just a minute after Mbappe made a striding run through the Argentina backline and was taken down by Marcos Rojo in the area.

With both sides aiming to get ahold of the match before the halftime break, Angel di Maria gave La Albiceleste a moment of brilliance in the 41st minute with a long-range strike that beat goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

The goal is Di Maria’s second-career World Cup finish, after previously scoring in 2014 against Switzerland.

The second half kept the pace at a maximum, with Argentina taking the lead less than three minutes after the halftime whistle.

Lionel Messi gathered the ball after a corner kick, before firing a shot towards a goal that was deflected in by teammate Gabriel Mercado.

That lead was short-lived though, with right back Benjamin Pavard firing a shot into the top-left corner off of a cross from the left wing.

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Pavard’s effort was followed by Mbappe scoring his side’s third and fourth goals of the match to restore the France lead.

Second-half substitute Sergio Aguero pulled a goal back in stoppage time for Argentina with a brilliant near-post header, but it was too late for the CONMEBOL side to complete a comeback,

France will now progress to face the winner of Saturday’s Round of 16 match between Uruguay and Portugal.

Video: Mbappe, Pavard restore France lead

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And just like that, France is back in front.

Les Bleus have scored three goals in 12 minutes to pull ahead against Argentina, 3-2, behind goals from Benjamin Pavard and Kylian Mbappe.

Pavard netted one of the goals of the tournament, with a slicing volley from the right side of the box into the top-left corner.

Meanwhile, Mbappe weaved his way through the Argentine backline following a failed clearance from the South Americans.