The Russia 2018 World Cup has been so full of surprises that hardly anyone has guessed right in all the forecasts. Most of the favorites stayed on the road; meanwhile, not a few of the big stars that shine in the club competitions in Europe were off in this event. What were the biggest disappointments in the most followed contest on the planet? In PanamericanWorld we propose to approach five teams and players who didn’t meet the enormous expectations raised around them.
FIVE TEAMS THAT WANT TO FORGET THE 2018 WORLD CUP
THE SINKING OF THE GERMAN SHIP
Germany was considered among the three teams with the most options to raise the FIFA Cup again. The team was very similar to the one that triumphed in the previous World Cup, in Brazil; in addition, they had the same coach on the bench and in the last four years, they had achieved encouraging results: semifinalists at Euro 2016 and champions of the Confederations Cup 2017. What happened, then, in Russia? Nothing worked for the German team and the fissures were very evident from the first match against Mexico. Then, a formidable goal in time of discount by Toni Kroos avoided, temporarily, the farewell of the World Cup, against Sweden; however, the worst was about to happen. Not even the most inveterate fans of South Korea could imagine that their team, already eliminated, could surpass the world champion, whose permanence in the Cup was in game. The South Korean “miracle” happened and, for the first time in its rich soccer history, Germany was left out in the first phase of the contest. Thomas Müeller didn’t even score a goal, goalkeeper Manu Neuer, after several months without playing, because of an injury, wasn’t ready to be a starter; meanwhile, Özil gave so little that he ended up as a substitute. Germany was undoubtedly the biggest disappointment in Russia 2018.
Argentina was very close to not even qualifying for the World Cup; however, in a last effort it achieved the direct pass for Conmebol. Despite the setbacks, the changes in the bench, the instability in the lineup, many considered that the Argentine team had a payroll with enough talent to advance in Russia. The field showed the opposite. Jorge Sampaoli never found a way to get his team moving, Lionel Messi went back into “hibernation mode” in a big tournament and Higuain kept his divorce with the goal. Croatia made a fool of the Argentine team and France gave the coup de grace. The best player of the 21st century —a position he discusses with Cristiano Ronaldo— will definitely never win a World Cup.
SPAIN GOES BACK IN TIME
The times in which Spain was, precisely, Fury and very red, it seems that they were, definitely, in the past. Before they moved the first ball in Russia, and the Spanish team had received the first “goals against”, translated into the team’s total instability, by the sudden dismissal of coach Julen Lopetegui. It was the beginning of the end. Then, in the field, ideas were lacking. Many passes, very long possessions and few chances to score. To make matters worse, the goalkeeper De Gea was one of the worst in the World Cup. Russia endured what they could in the round of 16 duel and, in the penalty shootout, became the great surprise of the Cup and position Spain’s ratified among the most disappointing selections of the event.
PORTUGAL WITHOUT ITS ALTAR, CRISTIANO
The champion of the Eurocup 2016 came with many pretensions to this World Cup, which would be the last of its best player of all time; but from the group stage, it was clear that the Portuguese would not survive the round of 16. Cristiano Ronaldo started inspired against Spain, by achieving one of the two hat-tricks of this Cup and then scored the winning goal against Morocco; however, later he disappeared, drowned mainly by Uruguay’s iron defense of.
AFRICA BACKS DOWN
None of the five African teams managed to advance to the second round of the World Cup. Among them, the most disappointing was, without a doubt, Egypt. That selection was included in one of the most affordable groups; but it ended at the bottom of the scoreboard, with three setbacks. Its great star, Mohamed Salah, although he scored one goal, wasn’t the unbalancing player that many expected to see. Morocco showed a better level; but also finished in the last place of group B. Nigeria and Senegal went to the final challenge with real options to pass; however, both failed, against Argentina and Colombia, respectively. Meanwhile, Tunisia still laments the goal scored by Englishman Harry Kane, in the 95th minute. The triumph against Panama served little consolation.
FIVE STARS THAT DISAPPOINTED
Argentina was one of the World Cup’s disappointments and the lineup wasn’t exempt from criticism. Messi, as is often the case —and with good reason— received the most negative criteria. The “Pulga” [“Flea”] will continue to be demanded to show the same performance with the Argentine uniform has as shown with Barcelona. This is impossible and there Messi has a point in is favor; but, at the same time, the long runs, the lack of leadership at key moments (for example, after the 1-0 of Croatia) and the failed penalty against Iceland were clear signs that the captain didn’t have the maximum performance.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (POLAND)
Poland showed a very poor image in the World Cup. One of the causes of the team’s debacle was the low level of its great star, Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich striker, who has gotten tired of scoring goals in the Bundesleague; however, now, in Russia, he didn’t find the goal.
MESUT ÖZIL (GERMANY)
Joachim Löw chose Özil as a starter in the match against Mexico; but the Arsenal midfielder was so weak that the coach left him on the bench for the duel against Sweden. Then he placed him again against South Korea and it was more of the same. There were few who pointed to Özil as one of the causes of the German lost in Russia. Five years ago, this player was considered one of the greatest talents in world soccer. That talent has been diluted.
DAVID DE GEA (SPAIN)
De Gea was one of Spain’s lowest points in the World Cup. After his great season with Manchester United, many were surprised by the lack of confidence shown by this goalkeeper in Russia. The second goal by Cristiano Ronaldo came after a serious blunder of his; In addition, throughout the Cup he only made one stop and, in the penalty shootout, against the Russians, couldn’t stop not even a pitch.
MOHAMED SALAH (EGYPT)
After his formidable season with Liverpool in the Premier League, the Egyptians expected their best player to help the team move to the second phase; however, Salah was injured in the final match of the UEFA Champions League, against Real Madrid and could not even play the first challenge in Russia. Then he was a starter and scored a penalty goal; but this didn’t help much. The two weeks without training and the little accompaniment received in the field, influenced Salah to have a disappointing performance.