WORLD CUP DIARY: Players who failed to live up to their lofty reputations
While fans lauded players who lit up the World Cup group stages‚ there were also some noticeable failures who failed to live up their big reputations.
Some have already left the tournament‚ but for others, the chance of redemption remains as we pick our flops of the first round.
JÉRÔME BOATENG (GERMANY)
Boateng was all at sea in the opening 1-0 loss to Mexico and was then red carded in the victory over Sweden‚ denying Germany side their first-choice right-back for the crucial clash with South Korea.
Boateng has been a superb performer over many years for Germany but looked well below his best in what was a disappointing World Cup showing.
DAVID DE GEA (SPAIN)
De Gea has been such a steady hand for so many years that when he does make an error it stands out like a sore thumb.
His horrendous mistake against Portugal proved not too costly in the end for the Spanish‚ who still topped the group‚ but De Gea looked uncertain‚ edgy and low on confidence all through the group stages.
ÁNGEL DI MARÍA (ARGENTINA)
Di Maria can add a touch of magic at times‚ but he has been running around like a headless chicken for Argentina in the competition so far.
Taking wrong options‚ running the ball out of play‚ not tracking back to defend‚ he has been a liability in his two starts so far against Iceland and Argentina. He is a quality player‚ the Last 16 will be the time to show it.
MOHAMED ELNENY (EGYPT)
A number of the Egyptians did not perform as well as they might have in the competition‚ but with the experience and quality of Elneny‚ his is perhaps the most disappointing display.
The Arsenal man should have been running the show in the midfield for the Pharaohs‚ but instead was tentative and lacking in authority.
KELECHI IHEANACHO (NIGERIA)
Iheanacho made three appearances for Nigeria‚ two from the start against Iceland and Argentina‚ but failed to lead the line as many Super Eagles fans would have hoped.
He looked too easily brushed off the ball and out-muscled by defenders‚ while when the opportunities did come he wasted them. The Leicester City man is a far better player than that.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (POLAND)
Lewandowski was the top scorer in qualifying for the World Cup with a hugely impressive 16 goals‚ but he fired blanks once in the finals in Russia. Poland‚ who were tipped to make it out of their pool‚ dropped out with a whimper despite their victory over Japan in their final game.
He played every minute for Poland‚ but failed to find the back of the net.
Harsh? Maybe‚ but given the high expectations of Neymar coming into the tournament‚ he has been a shadow of his usual self.
To be fair he has not been fully fit‚ but he has still looked tetchy and has failed to spark Brazil into life as an attacking force.
In fact‚ he has been completely over-shadowed by teammate Philippe Coutinho‚ who so far has been the star man of this side.
M'BAYE NIANG (SENEGAL)
Did we expect too much of Niang coming into the tournament? Maybe‚ as he is certainly not a player of the quality of teammate Sadio Mane.
But still he put his big frame about‚ starting all three games for Senegal‚ but aside from a goal against Poland‚ failed to provide a killer touch up front‚ especially in their final game against Colombia.
BERNARDO SILVA (PORTUGAL)
Silva was a key part of the Manchester City side that romped to the English Premier League title this past season but has not been able to transfer that form into the World Cup.
Just how much Portugal rely on Cristiano Ronaldo has been laid bare again in these finals and it should be up to the likes of Silva to ease that burden.
So far he has not pitched up though‚ but he might say he is warming up for the knockout stages. Ronaldo cannot do it all on his own.
TIMO WERNER (GERMANY)
To be fair to Werner‚ it was a big ask of the 22-year-old to lead the German line‚ but he was thrust into that role by a side that has yet to find a replacement for Miroslav Klose.
No goals from seven shots on goal in the tournament‚ he looked devoid of confidence and failed to find the right touch for a desperate German side. He is still young and will learn from this experience.
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