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FIFA World Cup 2018: Five Stars Who Flattered to Deceive

Football’s biggest showpiece event – the FIFA World Cup is two matches short of completion, and unlike most editions, the current one in Russia has been full of surprises. Many pundits’ predictions have gone haywire due to scintillating team performances, while some were made to eat humble pie on more than one occasion. Leading into the World Cup there was a lot of talk about how Russia was possibly one last platform for the trio of Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to shine together for their nations, unfortunately though that wasn’t to be as the South American contingent went home far earlier than they would have liked.

Abhimanyu Sen | News18 Sports

Updated:July 13, 2018, 4:38 PM IST
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Five Stars Who Flattered to Deceive
Lionel Messi. (Image: FIFA)
Football’s biggest showpiece event – the FIFA World Cup is two matches short of completion, and unlike most editions, the current one in Russia has been full of surprises. Many pundits’ predictions have gone haywire due to scintillating team performances, while some were made to eat humble pie on more than one occasion. Leading into the World Cup there was a lot of talk about how Russia was possibly one last platform for the trio of Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to shine together for their nations, unfortunately though that wasn’t to be as the South American contingent went home far earlier than they would have liked.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest names who failed to light up the Russian summer.

Neymar (Brazil)

Brazil's Neymar in tears after they beat Costa Rica (Image: FIFA) (Image: FIFA)

There were questions raised about the fitness of the world’s most expensive footballer, but nonetheless he ensured that he wasn’t sitting in the dugout. But beyond that, he scored twice and assisted once in five games for Brazil who crashed out in quarter-final against Belgium. The star striker was expected to be the talisman for his country, but at the most crucial moments his selfish nature and a penchant to try and do it all by himself could not help produce the magic Brazil badly lacked. Neymar, among the most fouled in the tournament, was also noted more for his antics and attempted simulations than footballing brilliance.

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

(Image: FIFA) (Image: FIFA)

After the so-called debacle of 2014 against Germany at the Maracana all eyes were expectedly on Messi who had the weight of more than just his nation on his shoulders. The left footed wizard looked a far cry of his usual busy self, as the supporting cast failed to stick to their roles. Having single-handedly carried the Albiceleste to Russia after almost missing out of qualification, Messi managed to score only once, delightfully though, and assist twice along with only six attempts to score in his four games. Very simply, Messi failed to inspire his average teammates and looked more out of the mix than in it for the better part of his stay in Russia.

Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

Poland's Robert Lewandowski in action with Senegal's Salif Sane. (Reuters) (Reuters)

The Bayern Munich forward was nowhere close being as prolific or menacing for his country as he generally is for his club. Tasked with the huge responsibility of bring the goals for Poland, Lewandowski only managed to make up the numbers like the rest of the squad. The hitman was out of form and seemed bereft of ideas when his team needed him to fire the most. Poland lost all their games at the group stage leading to elimination, and Lewandowski similarly returned home with no goals and no assists to his name. For a striker of his ability three attempts on target in 270 minutes of football is shocking and unacceptable to say the least.

David de Gea (Spain)

File image of David de Gea in training. (AFP Image) (AFP Image)

Regarded as among the best goal-keepers in the world alongside the likes of Manuel Neuer and the veteran Gigi Buffon to name a few, de Gea shouldered great responsibility for the national team, just like he does for Manchester United. Even though Spain’s World Cup kicked off with shocking news from within their camp 48 hours before their first game, the mighty side survived as long as they did only by the skin of their teeth before Russia sorted that out in the round of 16. De Gea faltered under pressure right from the first day when he let a Cristiano Ronaldo shot slip through his hands and into the goal. The English Premier League’s best keeper faced seven shots, managed to make one save and conceded six goals. Not at all the World Cup anyone thought he would have.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)

Mesut Ozil (Image: Germany/Twitter) Mesut Ozil (Image: Germany/Twitter)

One of the shining stars of the victorious campaign in Brazil four years ago, Mesut Ozil’s luck and form dipped alarmingly in Russia, to the extent he may never play for Die Mannschaft ever again. Ozil, the classic playmaker that he is went completely missing in midfield against Mexico as they ran the defending champions ragged before being dropped against Sweden. In his two outings, the second being against Korea Republic, Ozil failed to provide any sort of creativity as the Germans found the going hard. Ozil, criticized heavily for his poor performances before the World Cup with Arsenal as well, had a grand total of seven deliveries into the penalty box with nothing in the assists column.

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| Edited by: Arjit Dabas
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