My Top XI Flops at the World Cup – Who would you choose?

The Top XI flops at Russia’s World Cup Finals by Dan Smith

Having done a World Cup Diary, after the final I will be sharing with you my opinion of the best 11 in Russia, but I think it’s safe to say no French or Croatia players would be considered flops so now is a good time to put together my Worst 11 of the tournament.

Please give me your teams below in the comments…

David De Gea – Spain/Man United
Cabellero made the biggest howler against Croatia but Man City and Chelsea fans wouldn’t have been surprised as he’s always had a mistake in him. David De Gea on the other hand is considered by some as the best keeper in the world, a man who has won his club countless points with his saves. Fumbling Ronaldo’s shot over the line came when Spain were in control and he never seemed to refind his mojo. Even when losing on penalties to Russia, there were 3 spot kicks he got his hand on. Back in his homeland there was talk he should have been dropped for the knock out stages, which would have been unthinkable a month ago.

Jerome Boateng – Germany/Bayern Munich
For the benefit of this team I pick Boateng to play in his old role of left back. It’s fitting really as he seemed to pop up in any position he wanted. There was an arrogance about how the Germans approached this World Cup, with defenders told to bomb forward with a lack of care/awareness to any cover. Perhaps it was a lack of inspiration from those in front of him but Boateng took it upon himself to start attacks from the back, driving through midfield and spraying Hollywood passes across the field. Only problem being he wasn’t very good at either.

Gerard Pique -Spain/Barcelona
For two competive defenders Pique and Ramos were unusually bullied in the group stages but got away with it. The magnitude of his mistake against Russia cannot be put into words. In fact the obsession with the Spanish possession game overshadowed just how big an error it was. For an experienced professional he should of known better then to put his arm up in the air, if the ref didn’t spot it, VAR would have. It’s the only way Russia were ever going to score…

Ahmed Hegazi – Egypt/West Brom
Perhaps Africa’s most disappointing representatives. There was talk of Egypt getting out of the group, not just winning their first ever game at a World Cup.
The injury to Salah proved to be a hammer blow mentally to the country. With their main starter clearly not fit, others who play at the highest level should have stepped up in his place. Clearly playing for a 0-0 against Uruguay they caved in with just minutes to go. In their second outing, Russia scored 3 in quick succession. Arrogance cost them a golden opportunity to record a first ever victory at the final, becoming complacent at 1-0 up to lose to Saudi Arabia.

Joshua Kimmich -Germany/Bayern Munich
Was it his fault or his manager’s arrogance? Both German full backs were told to bomb forward with little regard in terms of if they were being covered or not. Having done that for Bayern Munich the youngster was comfortable being an attacking outlet. Tactically though this played into the opposition’s hands with the Germans victims of the counter attack constantly. Kimmich lacked the footballing brain to notice the danger and change things.

Javier Mascherano -Argentina/Hebel China Fortune
Something both sad and endearing about watching the midfielder play. It echoed Terry Butcher as he ran around against Nigeria with a bandage on his head. While the heart was there it was obvious his legs had gone. His manager should have noticed this but perhaps was pressured by his senior players to start the established names. Either way, the days of Mascherano controlling a midfield are over.

Sami Khedira – Germany/Juventus
The difference between Khedira and Mascherano is where you think Argentina had doubts if age was creeping up with their midfielder, Germany seemed shocked by how off the pace Khedira was. It’s another example of Low’s arrogance, ignoring the opposition’s strengths, thinking their superiority was all they needed. The loss to Mexico should of been evidence enough that Khedira could not protect a defence on his own. At that point the former champions were making things up as they went along and Khedira mistakenly was recalled against South Korea.

Piotr Zielinski – Poland/Napoli
Poland were one of the most disappointing teams at the World Cup, especially compared to their performances when qualifying. By the time they showed any quality, qualification was gone. While the pressure was on Lewandowski to provide the magic, he needed the service. Given his form in Italy the expectation was on Zielinski to carry on his club form but he never got going.

Neymar – Brazil/PSG
The irony is when there was more pressure on him 4 years ago he played a lot better. In fact this could be the World Cup when the world started to fall out of love with the country’s poster boy. For years seen as the man to take Ronaldo and Messi’s place as the best player in the universe, observers left Russia talking more about the aspects of his game they didn’t like. VAR caught him diving to win a penalty while he was criticised for his overacting. Even his own nation turned on him when he cried having scored in the last minuite against Costa Rica. This emotion was translated as the pressure getting to him.

Gabriel Jeaus- Brazil/Man City
Some will say this is harsh as he’s obviously very young. However you can’t help but compare the impact he had to say a Mbappe and not be disappointed. Starting as one of the favourites to win the young player of the tournament, the Man City striker didn’t display the confidence he does for his club to be the main man for his nation. By the end of the first game It was suggested Firminho would bring better balence to an attack who often played as individuals.

Robert Lewandowski -Poland/ Bayern Munich
As an old fashioned number 9 he relies on service and was let down by several of his teammates. Despite this, for years he has carried the expectation for both club and country. Perhaps it was the amount of time he has made a difference with linked chances that we kept waiting for him to explode into life. This might be his last ever World Cup..

Dan Smith


  1. Andrew E says:

    Good list. I would add Tony Kroos to it, he should have got a lot more stick than Ozil, he was consistently poor.

  2. mohawk says:

    Your list is reasonable. For me, Boateng tops the list. He was a true disaster.

    (Only I did not think Kimmich’s performance was so poor)

    But I can also add a list of other German players who disappointed greatly. For example: Mueller, Draexler, Goretzka, Gomez.

    In fact only a very few Germans played well. Mostly a great team failure.

  3. Regula says:

    Why would you put Boateng out here. He was one of Germany’s better players.

  4. tony says:

    who wrote this article unbelivable. boeting,kimich,neymar flop?wtf!!!
    boeting did everything right execpt that red card challange dont forget Germany always play risky attacking football which is better than being p##sy n sit back.
    kimmich was amaizing his speed,dribble,discision making everything was good.
    neymar did some drama doesnt mean he flopped! he was consistant threat from left, it was him who won the match againest maxico

  5. Hugh says:

    How about ‘golden boots wonderboy Kane. As soon as the pressure came on after the group matches he was worse than usekess. Add Delli Ali to that too.

  6. Gifted says:

    The whole German team flopped badly…I think its high time they drop the old unmotivated players such as Muller, Khedira, ozil etc and focus on the emerging talents

  7. Adajim says:

    Germany should have stuck with d 2nd team that won confederation cup. He trusted so much in old and tired legs who were flop/benched/tired in their respective clubs last season. Football is not magic. D reality is, most German players aren’t Dia club main men anymore

  8. Break-on-through says:

    Bad tournament overall. France Belgium Japan are the only sides I enjoyed watching, maybe Croatia too but only some of their players. England were massively lucky with fixtures, but they were as poor as any of the so called big flops. I think there is too many who disappointed to make up one first team, sure nation after nation disappointed.

    1. Someone says:

      Did you watch Japans’ game with Poland ?!!! they were a disgrace and an insult to football , the only reason they looked good against Belgium despite only having 3 or 4 shots on target was because of Belgium’s lack of fullbacks and the center backs tendencies to go forward , on another day with more pragmatic approach Belgium would destroy Japan 6-0 or 7-0.

  9. kumssa says:

    for ppl who say sell mustafi ur just idiots he will iprove under emery give him chance dnt just complain its a new era at arsenal #coyg

    1. nonny says:

      And I think he kept 5/6 clean sheet In his 1st 6 games For us too

      it can’t be a mistake

      1. kumssa says:

        ur right its just crazy ppl want him to leave so eagerly

  10. nonny says:


    Multi-Billionaire Fan Claims He Will ‘Definitely’ Try to Buy Arsenal Football Club
    Owning a football club is a dream for many fans, and it appears as though one ​Arsenal fan is planning on making a substantial offer in order to make his dream a reality.

    The report comes from the ​Financial Times, who claim that Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, is set to lodge a huge offer with the club. Dangote is valued by Forbes at around $14.1bn, meaning he may well have what it takes to convince Arsenal’s current majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, to part ways with the club.

    The Nigerian businessman values the club at around $2bn, which is similar to the valuation of the club by Forbes in 2016, who listed the Gunners at $2.017bn.

    He has made no secret of his passion towards Arsenal, and plans to buy the club to reward himself for completing a huge oil refinery near Lagos. He told the Financial Times: “I love Arsenal and I will definitely go for it.”

    He also insisted that he would like to be actively involved in the transfer dealings of the club, should he manage to buy the team. “When I buy it, I have to bring it up to the expectations of our supporters,” he said, whilst also suggesting he would be ‘chipping in [his] own advice’ when it comes to potential transfers.
    Arsenal v Chelsea – The Emirates FA Cup Final
    Kroenke has shown no intention of selling Arsenal, or even entertaining any offers for the club. Whilst Forbes estimated that Dangote’s wealth eclipses that of Kroenke by around $4bn, Kroenke does not need to sell the club to maintain his wealth, despite being in line to make a significant profit on his initial investment.

    This is not the first time that Dangote has hinted at buying Arsenal, and Nigerian newspaper ​Pulse believe that Dangote is not serious about buying the team, instead simply wanting the publicity.

    They quote Dangote as having previously said: “The issue is that if I buy all the Nigerian clubs, the Nigerian flags will continue to remain here. Buying Arsenal will take the Nigerian flag worldwide.

    “Just like whenever (​Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovich is mentioned, the name of his country comes up. Everyone knows he’s Russian.”

    Pulse believe that this is proof that Dangote is not truly interested in owning a football team but, with an estimated $14.1bn at his disposal, Dangote certainly has all the tools to make a serious offer.

    1. ks-gunner says:

      I remember him saying such a thing way before. We should ignore such news as they seem to be very dishonest.

      1. Declan says:

        Dangote or whatever his name is just wants the publicity, he will never buy Arsenal. There are lots of informed articles on the internet that explain why. Google it and you will see.

        1. Mobella says:

          He yet doesn’t have money to buy arsenal. Maybe when he finishes his refinery that is when he can have the money.

  11. ks-gunner says:

    I was expecting more from Messi to be honest. The hype of him being the greatest player the world has ever seen is a joke to me.

  12. stubill says:

    Oh god I hope not. All we need is some African megalomaniac taking pver the club and start picking the players that come to the club.

    Anyway, $2 billion won’t get him the club, Usmanov offered that a couple of years ago, and Kroenke wasn’t moved in the slightest.

    1. stubill says:

      That’s in response the nonnys post.

    2. Lance says:

      Stubill, you call Dangote an African megalomaniac? A bloody racist you are. I doubt if you would call a prospective European or American investor a megalomaniac.

  13. stubill says:

    The biggest flop has to be the Croatian Nikola Kalinic, refused to go on as a sub in the group stage game against Nigeria, and was promptly sent home, his team is now in the World Cup final.

    Now that’s what you call a loser and flop.

  14. nonny says:

    correct and croatia only came with I think two strikers him and zugic

  15. deejaybee says:

    Most of the England players were a waste of space. They would normaly be expected to beat every team they played against. The captain and his sidekick didn’t bother too much against Belgium. Sweden were very poor. England underperformed. The manager didn’t pick and good creative midfield options. They were an embarrasment. It was on a plate. Kane showed no leadership. England’s football was at best ‘pedestrian’. A shambles. How on earth did they get to the semi finals. extremely boring to watch

  16. ks-gunner says:

    This is written only towards mr. lucas which i had no chance to respond too, so skip it as it has nothing to do with football.

    If you read this then do understand that there are people in Germany who besides being the 5th generation in the country still lack the skills to speak proper German, some dont even understand the basics . Its a well known fact that the integration policy have failed miserably with the Turkish community ( England it loots better as far as i could understand). Ozils and his friends (public figures ) attitude are not helping much as the German government try to do their best to turn this problem around, knowing also all to well that with the refuge crises coming along and the tension going sky high, him fooling around with a Terrorist as Erdogan is very discouraging to the work they try to do. Footballer are ambassadors as well, and its important to them what they do outside the pitch, so the criticism towards our Ozil is well deserved. You cant eat at the same table while trying to sit on two chairs at the same time and call foul whenever you get cought doing so.

    1. Oscar says:

      Yet the World Cup was hosted by Russia. You hypocrites should let Ozil be .

  17. Nayr says:

    the flops will be france after they bottle up the final.

    the same way they bottled euro 2016 against portuagal.

    1. Declan says:

      France winning, numpty.

  18. Innit says:

    France will WIN

  19. Tom says:

    Forgot the biggest two – Messi and Ronald!

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