While a Croatian became the best midfielder in the world, a Brazilian’s star fell to miss out on the Ballon d’Or race – here’s the World Cup quarter-final winners and losers
Simply the best midfielder in the world. And it’s not like we needed a World Cup performing at this level to know that. But, of course, it’s always great to have the Croatian reminding us all of his talent. And he is doing it on the biggest stage. What a player.
It is coming home, isn’t it? If not the trophy, if not “football”, at least the enthusiasm is. After several disappointments from the ‘Golden Generation’, the English can now sing-a-long and celebrate with Gareth’s team. A team that he moulded, with three at the back, the combination of power and speed, the passing game from the defence, with the mentality, key to getting passed the penalties with Colombia, and not bottling it against Sweden. A truly successful campaign for the Three Lions, regardless of what happens now.
The most solid, and easily the best team left in the competition, at least in terms of individuals. They’ve shown a consistent growth throughout the tournament, reaching the semi-final with a great performance over Uruguay, never suffering and calmly cruising past what was a frightening opponent.
Technical and charismatic when needed the most. A true leader, able to dribble past Brazilian defenders and also protect possession and suffer fouls. Fundamental for Belgium, key in their win over one of the great favourites. Hazard won the duels of the number 10s with Neymar.
The favourites are out. Who would have thought it? Of course, Belgium are a great side, and no one can deny it. But so are Brazil, and most people expected them to eventually beat the Belgians and go on to lift the trophy. Many chances were wasted, but it simply wasn’t good enough. A team that could boast all that talent should have gone further in the tournament. But football is like this, and Brazil can only blame themselves. And the quality of Belgium, of course.
It’s not just his fault, obviously, and he did create chances that with a bit of luck could have given Brazil the semi-finals. But this was his opportunity to reach the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and a chance to go for the Ballon d’Or. The PSG-man wasted it.
Everyone had struggled to play good football against them, and we expected England to have more difficulties. It wasn’t the case. The couple of chances created by the Swedes were cancelled by Jordan Pickford’s saves, whilst on the other side of the pitch, England could have scored a lot more than the 2-0 final result suggested. The Scandinavians left the competition as the big surprise nonetheless, but with a disappointing final game.
In a Loris Karius like manner, Muslera’s mistake in Antoine Griezmann’s goal was decisive. Uruguay would have probably lost anyway, but that killed the game. And for how the World Cup had gone until then, Uruguay really didn’t deserve this.