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16 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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world cup tops and flops

Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric at different ends of their careers have dazzled in Russia to help propel France and Croatia to World Cup final. Four years ago Germany were in the same position, but the holders were sent home in the group stages, while another chance of World Cup glory for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo slipped by. Here are the biggest emerged names and let downs in the month-long festival of football in Russia …
world cup tops and flops

Tops

Kylian Mbappe

Hardly an unknown following a 180-million-euro ($210-million) transfer from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain, Mbappe became a global phenomenon after tearing Argentina apart in a thrilling 4-3 last-16 win. In scoring twice, Mbappe, 19, became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score multiple times in the same World Cup game.

Luka Modric

Fresh from winning a fourth Champions League in five seasons with Real Madrid, Modric boosted his case to be considered the world’s best midfielder with three man-of-the-match awards before the final. Modric’s stunning strike was the highlight as Croatia announced themselves as contenders by thrashing Argentina 3-0 in the group stage. He bounced back from missing a penalty in extra-time against Denmark to make amends in penalty shootout wins against the Danes and Russia.

Eden Hazard

It was another case of what might have been for Belgium’s ‘golden generation’, who lost their semi-final defeat against France by the finest of margins. But unlike four years ago and at Euro 2016, Hazard showed his full range of skills on the international stage. The Chelsea forward scored three times and was instrumental in both a spirited fightback from 2-0 to beat Japan 3-2 in the last 16 and then victory over Brazil in arguably the game of the tournament.

Flops

NEYMAR

After Neymar’s tiresome theatrics throughout Brazil’s World Cup campaign, it’s no longer about becoming as popular as his former Barcelona team-mate; it’s about losing his status as the most disliked player in world football.  

With his play-acting, Neymar achieved something never previously thought possible: making Brazil unpopular. So many football fans didn’t want to see everyone’s favourite second team win the World Cup because they couldn’t stomach the thought of the No.10 lifting the trophy.

Lionel MESSI

There are those that actually believe that Lionel Messi was responsible for Argentina’s last-16 exit. Granted, the Albiceleste’s No.10 was not at his best in Russia. But one could only attribute the Albiceleste’s failure to the captain if he actually had been picking the team. But he wasn’t; Sampaoli was, and he should be held accountable. He didn’t once pick the same side or formation to give Messi the opportunity to flourish at the World Cup. Sampaoli seemed to be arrived in Russia without any coherent strategy.

SPAIN

When Sergio Ramos arrived for his first pre-game press conference in Sochi on the eve of the game against Portugal, he was all smiles as he posed alongside new coach Fernando Hierro. Less than 20 minutes later, after being grilled on Lopetegui’s dismissal, he announced, exasperated, "I’m going to leave now because it feels like a funeral in here when, in fact, tomorrow we’re going to play in the World Cup, which is a marvellous event."

The only thing marvellous about Spain’s campaign, though, was their 3-3 draw with Portugal. It would be their only decent performance. La Roja won just one game, against Iran, and only scraped through as group winners thanks to an injury-time equaliser from Iago Aspas against Morocco.

In the last 16, against hosts Russia, they passed their way into oblivion and were eliminated on penalties. They were all possession, no penetration.

MESUT OZIL

Mesut Ozil being made the scapegoat for Germany’s shock first-round elimination in Russia was as inevitable as it was unfair.

The backlash began the moment he and Ilkay Gundogan were pictured with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan the day before Joachim Low named his World Cup squad.

Despite being booed in Germany’s penultimate warm-up match, against Austria, Ozil was included in the starting line-up for Germany’s opener against Mexico but he was then left on the bench for the subsequent meeting with Sweden – the first time he had ever been dropped for a match at a major tournament since making his debut at South Africa 2010.

The Arsenal attacking midfielder returned for the crucial clash with South Korea but, despite being his nation’s most dangerous player, he was widely slated for his performance in the shock 2-0 loss. Ozil, though, created 11 chances in just 180 minutes of game time, only one fewer than Belgian winger Eden Hazard (12), who has played in three more matches at the time of writing.

Mohammed SALAH

Before the World Cup had even begun, there was the unseemly squabble over Moahammad Salah’s image rights. Then came the calamitous campaign itself, which was overshadowed by claims that Salah, who should have been left alone to focus on his recovery from a shoulder injury, had instead been used as a pawn in a game of politics and public relations run by his own FA.

There were even reports that his precious down time at the team hotel was being interrupted by requests to perform meet-and-greets with visiting celebrities and dignitaries from Egypt. Whereas Salah’s fitness should have been the only issue for the nation’s fans during their first World Cup since 1990; instead the winger’s state of mind became far more worrying.

DIEGO MARADONA

For many, Diego Maradona remained a humorous character going into the World Cup. There were fears for his health in Russia long before pictures emerged of him requiring medical attention after Argentina’s dramatic and decisive group-stage win over Nigeria. His behaviour, his outbursts, have become increasingly erratic.

The sight of him gesturing inappropriate gestures towards Nigeria fans after Marcos Rojo’s late winner against the Super Eagles has created quite backlash. Also His subsequent claim that Colombia had been the victims of a "great theft" against England was farcical.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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