It was by the surprise of many to see Germany, 2014 winners of the World Cup, not even get out of the group stages. It was also surprising to see Spain get knocked out by a nation ranked 70th in the FIFA international rankings. Where did it all go wrong for the powerhouses in Europe and South America which allowed for the underdogs to flourish? Continue reading
Here we are, at the World Cup semi-final. Very few people predicted that happening. Many expected the same melodramatic soap opera of England going out early on, and it all being due to Sterling and Lingard being too cocky, or the lack of coaches. While England have only beaten inferior sides on paper, their run of games is an indirect result of how many larger international sides have struggled recently. Italy and Holland, among others, failed to qualify for the tournament; Argentina almost achieved that feat. If anything went differently, even a flinch of the players’ bodies, Spain and Portugal could’ve been knocked out by Iran in the group stage. Germany were knocked out to Sweden and Mexico then.
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Belgium find themselves facing Japan tonight in the round-of-16 having finished top of England’s Group G with a maximum of 9 points, 9 goals scored and only two conceded. For years Belgium have had talent within their ranks but have always failed to gel on the grandest stage (much like England of days gone by). But their golden generation appear to finally be clicking under Roberto Martinez and with many nations faltering, Belgium look to have excelled and their fans have every right to dream about lifting the trophy in Moscow.
Overview of player
Thomas Meunier is a 26 year old right back that plays for Paris Saint Germain in France’s Ligue 1 division. Meunier was brought in to PSG from Belgium side Club Brugge on the 3rd of July 2016 for a fee reported to be 7 million euros. Prior to his move, Thomas had admitted doubts on whether he would lack playing time at PSG. This proved evident during his first season. His first competitive appearance for PSG came on the 6th of August, where he came on to replace David Luiz in the 76th minute of the 2016 French Super Cup. He then unfortunately played a role as an unused substitute for the next few matches until his league debut for the club in a 3-1 loss to Monaco. Since his debut, Meunier found himself competing with Serge Aurier for a starting position, but often found himself on the substitutes bench. Even after Serge Aurier’s departure to Tottenham in August 2017, he still competed for the right-back position with the newly recruited Dani Alves.
Even though Meunier has not yet solidified a starting role at right-back for Paris Saint Germain, he has proven that he has what it takes during his substitute appearances. In 46 games for the club, he has managed to find the back of the net 5 times and has assisted some of the best forwards in football in their scoring endeavours as well. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a call up to Roberto Martinez’ Belgium side for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Overview of Player:
This 24-year old AZ man is the star player, however you look at it. Boasting an insane 8.20 average rating on Whoscored, being Iran’s most valuable player by far according to Transfermarkt, and being linked to numerous Premier League clubs, Iran will rely on him heavily. At his tender age, Jahanbakhsh already has 38 caps; that’s three more caps than 28-year old Kyle Walker, who feels like he’s been around forever.
With most nations, we would avoid picking the star player, by virtue of it being too obvious and click-bait. However, despite Jahanbakhsh’s exploits, including finishing as the Eredivisie top-scorer last season, he isn’t especially well-known. Unless his name alone prevents him from reaching that feat, the World Cup is a great opportunity for him to bank a move to a bigger club and have his talents recognised globally.
The World Cup has just begun and there’s some great players who got on the plane to Russia, such as Harry Kane (England), Thomas Muller (Germany), Fred (Brazil) and many more, however, there are a number of big name players who didn’t catch a plane to Russia for this year’s World Cup. They might not have gone because their nation didn’t qualify or they just didn’t get picked in the World Cup squad… but here we go…
Overview of Player:
English fans probably remember him mostly from his uneventful Leicester days. Signed in the Nigel Pearson era from Rijeka in January 2015, he was perhaps unfortunate that Leicester’s form improved so drastically after he arrived, denying him a regular spot in the team. The next season, when Leciester managed to win the Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri, Kramarić hardly managed to get a look-in, playing a grand total of 22 Premier League minutes. He was then shipped out to Hoffenheim on loan in January 2016.
As Kramarić himself put it, “The other lads took their chances and I had to take the hard road. Again.” He also responded less well to former Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri’s “introverted”, defence-first approach than that of other managers. After Leicester managed to make a profit on the talented forward when the Hannover deal became permanent, he began to show his potential. In 2016-17 he won the player of the year award from Hoffenheim fans; at the end of the most recent season, he made Kicker magazine’s Bundesliga team of the season. On 27th April, it was reported that he had scored 10 goals in his last twelve games, which was only one less than Leicester managed as a whole over that period. This relentless run of form helped propel Hoffenheim into Champions League qualification.
Overview of player
Name: Dawid Kownacki
World Cup influence: 5/10
Overview of Player
Name: Keita Baldé
Nationality: Senegalese (Spanish born)
World Cup Influence: 5/10 Continue reading
Name: Shinji Kagawa
Club: Borussia Dortmund
World Cup Influence: 5/10
Japan finished top of their group with 28 points, picking up a draw and 7 wins. They had a fairly easy group facing Syria, Singapore, Afghanistan and Cambodia. For me it would have been a failure if Japan didn’t finish top of their qualifying group. Smashing Afghanistan twice and beating Syria 5-0 proved for me how strong this Japanese team was in comparison to the other teams.