From Ronaldo to Neymar: winners and losers of World Cup’s first week

first_imgGood weekDenis CheryshevRussia have been the surprise of the tournament so far and many are still sceptical as to how. If you put the phenomenal running stats to one side (Russia have covered more ground per match than any other team in the tournament) one good reason is the form of Denis Cheryshev, who has spent the majority of his life in Spain and plays for Villarreal. The winger has offered strength and flair from the left side but most importantly has shown calm and confidence under pressure. His three goals have come at crucial moments and he looks comfortable on this stage. Rashford for Sterling would be sensible and a sign Southgate runs a meritocracy Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn World Cup 2018 Hirving Lozano celebrates after scoring for Mexico against Germany. Photograph: David Ramos/Fifa via Getty Images Pinterest Pinterest Facebook Colombia’s Carlos Sánchez was sent off for this handball against Japan. Photograph: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS Russia Read more Egypt football team Dominic Fifield Cristiano RonaldoNot so much comfortable on the stage as believing he owns it, Ronaldo has made sure the spotlight is always on him in Group B. The hat-trick against Spain may not have been the best of the 51 he has scored but in terms of generating headlines it was spot-on; his 88th-minute free‑kick truly kickstarted the World Cup. A poacher’s header subsequently took care of a progressive Morocco side, putting Portugal on the verge of the last 16 and Ronaldo at the front of the chase for the Golden Boot. What would the limelight do without him?Gareth SouthgateOn the other end of the attention-seeking spectrum, England’s manager has been making headlines this past week. First he was profiled in the American magazine the New Yorker, described as being a one-man antidote to England’s footballing malaise with his “radical sensibleness”. This quality appeared to have transmitted itself to his team as England astonishingly stuck to a gameplan in securing a late win over Tunisia. Southgate, and the Football Association, are doing things differently this year and, currently, it’s working. That’s good news for everyone, including the country. Just a shame about that dislocated shoulder.Aliou CisséSenegal’s 2-1 win against Poland stands them in good stead to qualify from Group H. Both goals had an element of fluke about them but the Teranga Lions earned their luck. Theirs was a victory built on defensive discipline and intelligent use of space; qualities that don’t fit the lazy stereotypes of African football. Cissé claimed the victory, the only one for any African side so far, on behalf of the entire continent. The only black manager at the tournament also took the opportunity to speak up for African coaching. “You see lots of African players in European clubs,” he said. “Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead.” Cissé, whose touchline moves have also entertained, is doing his bit for the cause. Germany Topics Senegal football team Share on Messenger World Cup England Hirving LozanoOf all the players listed as potential new World Cup stars, few have shown up so far. Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech played well in a defeat by Portugal, Rodrigo Bentancur has had one good half for Uruguay. Only Mexico’s Lozano has really made people sit up and pay attention. The goalscorer in El Tri’s upset win over Germany, Lozano seized his moment, calmly getting off a shot just before Toni Kroos could shut him down. But he was a menace to Germany throughout thanks to his pace, directness and ability to act out Juan Carlos Osorio’s smart tactical plan. Now the PSV Eindhoven forward has to do it again against South Korea.Bad weekMorocco’s medical staffFootball has a complacent attitude towards concussion and it was embodied in the actions of Morocco towards one of their own players, Nordin Amrabat. Injured in a clash of heads with Iran’s midfielder Ehsan Hajsafi during their opening game, Amrabat was floored and withdrawn from the game, albeit after being slapped around the face by the coaching staff. He spent the night in hospital and has admitted to having lost his memory for six hours. Fifa’s official guidance is that a concussed player should not take the field again for a minimum of six days. Morocco suggested they would follow this protocol only to select Amrabat against Portugal, five days later. Manager Hervé Renard called Amrabat “a warrior”. The players’ union Fifpro described Renard’s decision to select him as “alarming”. Twitter Share on Twitter Reuse this content Twitter Carlos SánchezIt might be described as an unwritten rule: don’t deliberately handle the ball in the box three minutes into a match. Don’t deliberately handle it at any point, some might say, but certainly when the game is in its opening moments and you will almost certainly incur a red card. Yet that was what the 32-year-old Sánchez did against Japan, putting Colombia at a considerable disadvantage. He was sent off and conceded a penalty, which the Asian side duly scored. Colombia played well with 10 men and drew level but they were overwhelmed in the end and find themselves in a precarious place in the tournament.Sami Khedira Tactically, Mexico did a number on Germany but they also exploited weaknesses in the world champions. Some of these were structural, such as Joshua Kimmich playing in spaces more familiar to a No 10 than a full-back, but some were down to personnel. Khedira has 15 major honours in his career, including titles in the past three Serie A seasons. But the 31-year-old could not compete with the athleticism of Mexico’s midfield. He was ineffective in possession too and all too easily bypassed when out of it. As Germany clambered to get back into the game he was withdrawn with 20 minutes to go.Mo SalahHe scored, a consolation penalty thumped into the roof of the Russia net on Tuesday, so the Egyptian King has a World Cup goal to his name. But that is the only consolation in what has been the biggest anticlimax of the tournament. After dislocating a shoulder during an Act of Ramos in the Champions League final, Salah was not judged fit enough to play in Egypt’s opening defeat by Uruguay. Starting against Russia, this bright flame of a player was reduced to a flicker. He wasn’t helped by his position, stationed wide right and away from the action, but each time the ball came to his feet exasperation was not far behind. No player was the subject of greater expectation before this World Cup; those hopes have not been met.NeymarAnother superstar carrying the weight of the nation on his shoulders, another pre-tournament injury, a whole host of question marks. Against Switzerland Neymar draw the ball towards him like a magnet. He also drew the physical attention of his opponents, which may have had something to do with it. But while Brazil’s play was unfailing channelled through the Paris St-Germain superstar, his end product flattered to deceive. He was dispossessed seven times in a match from which Switzerland scraped an unexpected point. Since then he has not trained fully for the Seleção, citing pain in an ankle. There are questions to be answered against Costa Rica on Friday. features Share via Email Share on WhatsApp Share on Pinterest Facebook last_img


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