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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.

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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.

World Cup players juggle national team and fatherhood

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MOSCOW (AP) Having a baby is even more important than playing in the World Cup for some.

Three dads-to-be have made trips home from Russia to welcome a child, with the blessing of coaches and teammates.

[ MORE: Real denies Neymar offer ]

On Tuesday, Fabian Delph will likely miss England’s match against Colombia in the round of 16 while awaiting the birth of his third child.

“Some things in life are more important than football,” England coach Gareth Southgate said Monday. “His focus needs to be with his family at this time.”

Southgate echoed a view of parenting that runs through the World Cup.

Switzerland forward Breel Embolo is preparing to face Sweden on Tuesday after dashing home within hours of a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica last week. The 21-year-old Embolo saw his daughter born and described it as “the most beautiful 24 hours” of his life.

The family-friendly trend was started by Denmark’s players, who helped send teammate Jonas Knudsen home in a private jet. Knudsen’s daughter was not due until after the tournament, but the team wanted him to see her right away.

“It’s a bit of perspective in life,” Southgate said. “Everybody says you only get one chance to be in a World Cup but also there’s only one day in your life where your children are born.”

In soccer, players fulfil their family duties at the discretion of team leaders.

Paternity leave is mandated in Major League Baseball. A rule was passed in 2011 allowing teams to place a player on the paid paternity leave list for 1-3 days if he is “the father of a child whose delivery or adoption is imminent or has occurred within the prior 48 hours.”

[ MORE: Kovacic, Plea in PL transfer links ]

The rule did not spare then-New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy in April 2014 from criticism on sports radio for taking two days off with his wife and newborn son.

However, the backlash against radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa – who said Murphy could “hire a nurse” if his wife needed help beyond one day – showed that athletes have public support to be good fathers.

In 2013, golfer Hunter Mahan won praise for leaving a tournament he led by two shots to return home for the unexpectedly early birth of his first child.

“Thanks to all to my sponsors who appreciate what’s important in life and all my fans for being Awesome!” Mahan wrote on his Twitter account.

It was not always so in soccer. A notorious English case in 1989 saw a player with Queen’s Park Rangers fined two weeks’ salary for missing an away game to attend a birth.

The manager who ordered the fine, for England player Trevor Francis, was fired soon after.

The subject is still a dilemma for Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist, who on Tuesday is set to play against Switzerland in what is likely his last World Cup at the age of 33. Granqvist has stayed in Russia with the approval of his wife, Sofie, who is overdue to give birth to their second child in Sweden.

“I’m fully focused on the game tomorrow and my wife is very strong,” Granqvist said Monday.

Southgate acknowledged his decision to release Delph, who played in England’s two previous games, would not always have been approved.

“My father’s generation and those before them would view that differently,” said the England coach, who is building a reputation for smart and thoughtful handling of his players. “But you have got to be there for your family.”

More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Croatia tops Denmark on penalties to move to World Cup quarterfinals

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A furious start devolved into a sporadic chess match that required penalties to make the difference, and it seemed penalties would be required to decide the match. Then Croatia had its moment. Then Denmark snuffed it out. Then Croatia was celebrating anyways.

A wild, roller coaster of emotions sandwiched 100 minutes of forgettable play as Croatia and Denmark draw 1-1, and Croatia goes through in the exciting penalty shootout 3-2. Luka Modric had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel in the 117th minute in what certainly appeared to be the potentially winning moment, but the Real Madrid midfielder came back to score his spot-kick in the shootout on the way to victory.

The match got off to a beautifully sloppy start, and it resulted in a pair of absurd goals. First, it was Denmark to benefit from a stroke of luck as a long throw caused a scramble in the box and Mathias Jorgensen scuffed shot inexplicably found its way through the legs of three different defenders and trickled over the line off the fingertips of Danijel Subasic who will have expected to do better.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Three minutes later, Croatia was level as a beautiful bit of play on the wing saw Ante Rebic threat Ivan Rakitic through on the right edge of the box. The Barcelona midfielder saw his cross cleared, but the boot by Henrik Dalsgaard crashed into the face of Andreas Christensen and fell right in the lap of Mario Mandzukic who finished calmly on the turn.

The game settled slightly with Croatia controlling the majority of possession. Ivan Perisic has a free-kick from a dangerous area in the 12th minute but couldn’t get it past the wall. Mandzukic shouted for a penalty after going down in the box on 20 minutes, but nothing was given and VAR concurred.

Croatia continued to be the more dangerous side, with Perisic flubbing a major chance just before the half-hour mark. The Inter Milan attacker drove his half-volley straight into the ground, and with the ball bouncing straight back to him, he skied the second attempt well over.

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

Denmark’s best chance of the second half came in the 71st minute as Yussuf Poulsen cut into the right edge of the box and found Nicolai Jorgensen in space but his shot was weak and directly at Subosic who collected easily. The game quieted significantly down the stretch run of regulation, with the only looks on net for either an Ivan Rakitic shot from distance that skidded just wide left and a Braithwaite volley that also just missed.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The game progressed to extra time, and Denmark took over as the more dangerous side, but still couldn’t put anything significant together. Then, the moment came where Croatia seemed to have the game by the scruff of the neck. Modric fed a brilliant through-ball to Ante Rebic, and through on goal he’s taken down by the last man Zanka as he rounded Schmeichel. That drew a penalty, although only a yellow card was shown to the Danish defender thanks to the new double-jeopardy rule.

With Croatia on the doorstep of the quarterfinals in the 117th minute, Schmeichel stepped up and saved Modric’s weak penalty, and the game would go to a shootout. Both goalkeepers were fantastic in the penalty shootout, saving a combined five attempts – the first time in World Cup history a penalty shootout featured five saves – but Subasic picked up a kick-save of Jorgensen’s penalty in the final round, and Rakitic scored the decider to put Croatia through.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 17 — Russia vs. Spain; Croatia’s next step

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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Can the host nation topple a giant?

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Russia takes its runner-up finish in Group A to Moscow on Sunday for a meeting with 2010 champion Spain to kickoff a two-match day at the World Cup.

Tournament darlings Croatia is 3-0 and will look to hold off fellow dark horse Croatia in the business end of the day’s matches at 2 p.m. ET.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Sunday, July 1

Round of 16

Spain vs. Russia; Moscow — 10 a.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE
Croatia vs. Denmark; Nizhny Novgorad — 2 p.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE

Bookies odds for 2018 World Cup winners

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Considering Germany have crashed out of the 2018 World Cup, the bookmakers have updated their list of the odds for the favorites to win the tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

And among the top ranked teams, plenty have seen their odds drift out following shaky displays in the group stage with France and Argentina noticeably slipping down the list and the likes of England and Belgium moving up.

Via SkyBet, here are the odds for each team to win the tournament based on the fact that they’re still in the competition at the time of writing.


Odds for 2018 World Cup champions

Brazil – 4/1
Spain – 4/1
Belgium – 6/1
England – 15/2
France – 15/2
Argentina – 12/1
Croatia – 14/1
Uruguay – 22/1
Portugal – 22/1
Colombia – 33/1
Mexico – 33/1
Russia – 50/1
Switzerland – 50/1
Sweden – 66/1
Denmark – 80/1
Senegal – 100/1
Japan – 150/1
Serbia – 150/1