FIFA 2018 World Cup: The Flop XI of the tournament
FIFA 2018 World Cup: The Flop XI of the tournament
The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup came to a close yesterday with France triumphing over Croatia in an epic final that did justice to an equally epic tournament.
But not everything was memorable about this World Cup. Some players would like to banish it to the dustbin of history as soon as they can, for their Russian sojourn was disappointing to say the least. Here’s the creme-de-la-crud of the tournament in a combined XI:
Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Spain)
The Spanish shotstopper has established himself as one of the best ever to grace the Premier League, but his performance at the World Cup would suggest anything but. De Gea looked out sorts in goal for Spain and has a long way before replicating his predecessor Iker Casillas on the international stage. He also made an error leading to a direct goal when he miscued Ronaldo’s shot into his own net in the opener against Portugal.
RB: Yannick Carrasco (Belgium)
A winger by trade, Carrasco was majorly deployed in the wingback position on the right for Martinez given the sheer amount of attacking options at his disposal. Whilst the move wasn’t a disaster as such, but the former Atletico Madrid man struggled to make an impact. Defensive duties never really suited him as he was constantly found out of position and barely made any contribution at the back.
CB: Jerome Boateng (Germany)
Boateng’s stock has plummeted dramatically since winning the World Cup in 2014, but it hit an all-time nadir in Russia. The Bayern centre-back looked out of his element as he was comfortably beaten by Mexico in the opener while the Swedes also harried him constantly. He was sent off in that second game, perhaps which was a blessing in disguise as it prevented him from putting another disaster-class in the final group game that Germany anyway lost to South Korea.
CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)
One of the biggest issues that plagued Argentina during the qualifiers was the leaky defense, and they paid the price for not heeding to it as the Albiceleste conceded more in the tournament proper. And Otamendi shoulders majority of the blame for the same. He was caught out on numerous occasions and left acres of space at the back that the attackers duly exploited.
LB: Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal)
Portugal relied heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo in the group stages, but that wasn’t the only issue plaguing this side. The fullback position was the biggest pain-point for the Selecao, especially the left-back where Guerreiro was a disaster waiting to happen. He gave away the ball cheaply and also left gaps behind that allowed the opposition attackers to run into. The Valencian fullback was also constantly harried on the ball while Morocco’s Nordin Amrabat made him look like an amateur.
CM: Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
Mascherano swedged to his last drop of sweat in helping Argentina reach the finals in 2014, but in Russia, he was a poor imitation of his former self. The 34-year was well out of pace and often misplaced passes. He was easily beaten on the ball too as Argentina looked completely imbalanced in the midfield due to his tactical ineptness.
RM: David Silva (Spain)
Silva was a creative force behind Manchester City’s dominant Premier League triumph last season, but couldn’t replicate even an iota of that incredible form for Spain in the World Cup. He looked very exhausted, his passes were laboured and uncharacteristically inept at creating chances. He neither scored nor assisted in 4 appearances as La Roja bowed out with a whimper.
LM: Angel Di Maria (Argentina)
Di Maria wasn’t so bad, but disappointed nonetheless. The PSG star offered little to no nothing going forward in the group stages while he ran out of the creative juices in the tank, leaving Messi to do all he heavy lifting. Much to his respite, he did score a belter of a shot in the last 16 game against France, but even that wasn’t enough as Albiceleste eventually lost out.
RW: Thomas Muller (Germany)
Muller was supposedly on his way to surpass compatriot Miroslav Klose’s all-time record, or at least, edge within a stone’s throw distance given his prolific record of having scored 10 times in the World Cup since 2010, but he drew a plain blank in Russia. He lacked the usual attacking flair and mustered a grand total of zero shots on target. He did not lay a single key pass either as Germany crashed out in the group stages having scored only twice.
LW: Ousmane Dembele (France)
French players would rather find themselves in the team of the tournament, but Dembele is one exception. The 21-year old was anonymous in the opener against Australia while his return to the starting lineup in the final group game to Denmark produced nothing of note either as he once again disappointed. He became one of the most expensive players when Barcelona signed him from Borussia Dortmund last year, but his season was blighted by recurring injuries and the aftereffects of the same showed in the World Cup. He played just two minutes in the knockout rounds. Yes, just two. And not a single minute after the quarter-finals.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
There were many strikers who failed to fire at the 2018 World Cup, but the most marquee name to stand is that of Lewandowski, who didn’t score even a single goal as Poland were knocked out in the group stages with a whimper. The Bayern Munich hitman was the most prolific in the qualifiers with 16 goals, but was uncharacteristically off the pace and offered little threat in the attacking third. He managed only three shots on target in three appearances, but none were good enough to even trouble the goalkeepers.