FIFA WC

Published on March 28th, 2018 | by Vieri Capretta

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International winners and losers: Super Spain and awful Argentina

While Spain showed that once again they are true contenders for the World Cup crown, Argentina proved to be even worse than expected without Lionel Messi 

Winners

Spain

Six goals put past Argentina. Exposing all the flaws of the opponents, but also unleashing a massive dose of quality, the same quality we’ve been used to for a decade now with Spain. Another message to all those who thought Spain was over at this level after the 2014 World Cup debacle and the subsequent 2016 Euro failure, with the ending of the golden generation. A new breed of fantastic midfielders has settled in to run the show, and by the looks of it they’ll want to smash it in Russia.

Jamie Vardy

He’s having a party. Yet again. Outshone by Harry Kane’s statistics and by Marcus Rashford’s recent run of form, Vardy has turned into one of those old-fashioned strikers the England manager can always rely on. The truth is a lot deeper than that: he offers a different option, is deadly on the counter, and takes his chances. Kane was injured, Rashford was benched, and the Leicester City man smashed home the opener against Italy.

Gabriel Jesus

It really seemed like it was the Manchester City forward’s time to shine at the start of the season, but being injured and in competition for a place with Sergio Aguero isn’t exactly the easiest situation to be in. Gabriel made the most of the international opportunity, getting Brazil’s winning goal in Berlin to gain a small revenge for that 1-7.

Kylian Mbappe

Another player who really needed to reignite the fire to his season after a disappointing run of results at club level. There you go. A brace against hosts Russia to reiterate something no one should forget: after losing the Euro 2016 final, France are still one of the most talented sides at the World Cup and will be aiming for the big prize in Russia.

Losers

Argentina

The same old story. It really is no excuse that Lionel Messi wasn’t playing, even though it is the explanation for the spectacle Argentina gave in Madrid. Demolished by Spain, unable to score up front and horrendous at the back. Gonzalo Higuain disappeared – as he often has done throughout his career – the back line is simply not at the level of the attack, and the midfield struggles to cope with quick and technical opponents. Messi is needed. Always.

Russia

A second consecutive international friendly defeat. And for a team that did not have to go through qualification, this is the only barometer of the current state and form of the squad. Not great to say the least. France are obviously one of the best sides on the planet, but if Russia don’t want to be just the host nation, they’ll have to wake up as quickly as possible.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Simply unnecessary. If losing 3-0 to one of the worst Holland sides in history is poor, tripping over the ball, diving and then complaining for a non-penalty is frankly comical. Just not in the style of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose nine-game scoring streak came to an end. The Real Madrid man has won our trust with hard work off the pitch and performances on it: no point ruining his reputation with some ridiculous displays.

Saudi Arabia

For many, conceding four against Belgium would be considered absolutely normal. And it would surely would be expected from Saudi Arabia. The point is: with the World Cup around the corner, many expected a bit more from this side. Instead, the risk is having yet another Saudi Arabia squad just there for a trip, ready to be torn apart by opponents.

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About the Author

mm

A freelance journalist and broadcaster focusing on European soccer and currently featuring on Uefa.com, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Marca in English and more.



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