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..