William Carvalho- (Portugal)
Following the outbursts labelling Sporting “a group of cretins not worth the air they breathe” from former president Bruno de Carvalho, it is all but sealed William Carvalho will seeking a different destination to be playing his football next season.
His final group stage fixture against Iran was his standout performance of the tournament so far, showing a lot more confidence in possession amounting for 9.9% of Portugal’s 73.3% possession.
Of his 93 touches, 74 of those were successful passes, including a wonderful lofted ball over the top of all 3 lines of Iranian defence to Joao Mario- who flicked the ball on to Cristiano Ronaldo who fired straight at the keeper.
The game in itself was action packed, with spectacular & contentious moments in equal measure, from a spectacular trademark trivela from Ricardo Quaresma at his first ever World Cup, to an off the ball elbow from Ronaldo & a poor VAR call- Spain top group B, with Portugal in second place thanks to Spain scoring more goals.
Domagoj Vida- (Croatia)
Recent reports insinuate that Everton have matched Besiktas’ €13m valuation of Domagoj Vida & a move for the Croatian centre-half will occur after the World Cup has come to it’s end.
As far as Croatia are concerned, already champions of their group with 2 wins in 2, they went into their final group stage game against Iceland with the majority of regular starters rested; Vida included.
From a Blues point of view, it was fantastic to see Gylfi Sigurdsson convert from 12-yards with confidence following his penalty miss against Nigeria, but Zlatko Dalic’s side weathered Iceland’s first half storm, where chances came the way of the Icelandic. Croatia went on to overturn the 1 goal deficit to a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Milan Badelj & Ivan Perisic.
Croatia top Group D with 3 wins from 3 & second place belongs to Argentina thanks to the tenacity & inspiration of newly appointed manager Lionel Messi.
Hirving Lozano- (Mexico)
The final matchday in Group F was possible one of the most memorable days in the history of the World Cup. With Hirving Lozano’s Mexico looking clear winners in the group thanks to 2 wins from 2 were up against Sweden- Germany were in need of 3 points to qualify in second against the winless South Korea.
To say the World was say the World was shocked by the eventual 2-0 win to the Asian side would be an understatement. The result of the other fixture in the group was pretty unexpected too.
The Swedes put on a clinical showcase against the Mexicans, coming out 3-0 victors. Lozano, other than teeing up an effort squandered by Carlos Vela, had a rather off day, despite completing 6 out of 4 of his daring runs with the ball, only 1 of his 4 shots were on target- he did receive a high foot to the mid-section from Seb Larrsson 25 minutes in though, which looked a sore one.
Thanks to there high-scoring performance, Sweden pip Mexico to top spot in Group F with a +3 goal difference to Mexico’s -1 in second. The Germans bottom.. Who’d have thought?
Reuben Loftus-Cheek- (England)
In the battle for second place in Group G between England & Belgium’s B teams, Reuben Loftus-Cheek only enhanced his value with another good performance.
Completing 100% of his 5 attempted dribbles, Loftus-Cheek was one of the few that looked to impose themselves on the game, as eloquently put by former Blues manager Roberto Martinez: “we want to perform but the priority is not to win.” (just like a soundbite from the 14/15 season?)
As part of his involvement in the game, Loftus-Cheek was caught in possession 4 times, indicating there is room for improvement when it comes to keeping hold of, or releasing the ball at the right time.
Following the unjustified battering Jordan Pickford took from the ITV panel, I’m sure you’re aware that the game finished 1-0 in Belgium’s favour, however, the result ultimately favoured the English, who finish in second place in Group F- facing Colombia in the last 16, then either Switzerland or Sweden if they’re to make it to the quarters.
Max Carlyle (@Max_Carlyle)