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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.

John Obi Mikel discovered father was abducted before Argentina match

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Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel discovered that his father, Pa Michael Obi, was abducted just four hours prior to the African side’s Group D finale against Argentina on June 26.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

The former Chelsea midfielder was notified by a family member of the kidnapping while the Super Eagles were en route to the stadium to face the Albiceleste, however, Mikel wasn’t able to discuss the matter with any of his teammates or members of the Nigeria federation due to strict demands from his father’s captors.

Mikel’s father has since been rescued, and is receiving hospital care after being held captive in his native Nigeria.

John Obi Mikel spoke of the experience with the Guardian:

“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel said. “I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened.

“I was emotionally distraught and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused. I did not know what to do but, in the end, I knew that I could not let 180 million Nigerians down. I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I could not even inform the coaches or NFF staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew.

“I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody. I also did not want to discuss it with the coach [Gernot Rohr] because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to him or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. As much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not.

“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon. I thank the police authorities for their rescue efforts and the support I’ve received from friends and family members. Unfortunately, my dad is now in hospital receiving emergency treatment as a result of the torture he received during his capture.”

Nigeria fell to the Albiceleste, 2-1, in their Group D finale, which left the African side a point short of reaching the knockout phase.

Out in the group stage, but up in transfer stock

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Hyeon-woo Jo had an exceptional World Cup.

His South Korean national team did not.

But that will not stop potential suitors from seeking the 26-year-old goalkeeper who was named Man of the Match against Germany.

[ MORE: Knockout round schedule, bracket ]

And there will be many more. The 2014 World Cup saw names like DeAndre Yedlin (USMNT), James Rodriguez (Colombia), and Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) gain plenty of renown.

Here’s a list of names who’ve left the World Cup in the group stage but will certainly have their proverbial tires kicked.

Hyeon-woo Jo, South Korea (Daegu FC)

And he’s humble, to boot. From FIFA.com:

“I’ve never had a perfect game like this before, in my entire career, but I wasn’t saving all the shots by myself today – I thought the other goalkeepers [Kim] Seunggyu and [Kim] Jinhyeon were also giving me a hand.”

Salem Al-Dawsari, Saudi Arabia (Al-Hilal)

Didn’t see much time on loan at Villarreal this season, but clearly is a player not constrained to playing in his home country. The 26-year-old winger scored, averaged key passes per game, and threw in 2.3 interceptions per contest for good measure.

Kenneth Omeruo, Nigeria (Kasimpasa)

The center back registered an assist and played an all-around game for Nigeria. At 24, he should have plenty of suitors.

Lee Jae-sung, South Korea (Jeonbuk Hyundai)

If the 25-year-old midfielder’s status as the 2017 K-League Most Valuable Player hadn’t already raised some eyebrows, his job patrolling the center of the park certainly did the trick.

Ramin Rezaeian, Iran (Oostende)

The 28-year-old right-sided man can play right back or more advanced. He’s a bit longer-in-the-tooth in terms of prospect, but a club could do worse in adding depth.

Moussa Wagué, Senegal (Eupen)

A 19-year-old right back whose name was already popping up in the rumor mill, he’s going to be carrying even more interest after scoring against Japan.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 13 — Messi, Argentina need a miracle

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Day 13 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday, and it’s time to settle Groups C and D, which feature the likes of France, Argentina and Croatia.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

France (6 points) have already booked a place in the knockout rounds, but they need a draw or win against Denmark (4 points) on Tuesday to win the group. Given the volatile state of Group D, where Croatia look poised to finish top and Argentina could finish fourth or second, it’s impossible to determine the benefit of finishing first rather than second. Australia (1 point), who face Peru (0 points), need a win and a Danish loss to sneak into second place.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

In the aforementioned topsy-turvy Group D, Croatia (6 points) will finish top if they draw or win against Iceland (1 point), or if Nigeria (3 points) draw or lose when they take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina (1 point), who themselves need to win and hope Croatia’s backups can also beat Iceland.

Below is Tuesday’s schedule in full.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, June 26

Group C
Denmark vs. France: Moscow, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Australia vs. Peru: Sochi, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Nigeria vs. Argentina: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iceland vs. Croatia: Rostov, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Argentine players likely selecting lineup for Nigeria match

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The Albiceleste entered Russia among the favorites to win the World Cup, but now Argentina is on the brink of disaster and possibly crashing out of the group stage.

Through two Group D matches, Argentina sits on one point, and needs a victory over Nigeria to have a shot at advancing to the knockout phase.

Drastic changes appear to be coming for the CONMEBOL nation, after relations with manager Jorge Sampaoli have soured significantly over the last week-and-a-half.

Rumors have suggested that Lionel Messi and the elder players in the squad will select the starting XI for Argentina’s do-or-die fixture on Tuesday, with Sampaoli simply staying on as manager to avoid further embarrassment to the federation.

Sampaoli is expected to still be on the sidelines for the match, though.

Meanwhile, Argentine television outlet TNT Sports LA revealed a potential lineup ahead of Tuesday’s Group D finale against Nigeria.

The starting XI, if true, would feature four changes from the Albiceleste’s 3-0 defeat to Croatia last Thursday, including the introduction of River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani for Chelsea’s Willy Caballero.