It’s over. The memes and the screams, the cheers and the tears, the tweets and the feats (of brilliance). The FIFA Men’s World Cup has packed up and gone away for another four years (plus five months, but who’s counting?)
We loved almost every minute of it (sorry Panama/Tunisia). And chances are—if you’ve sought out soccer news on our special page—you did too. But what would a World Cup be without a little bit of accountability. After all, managerial heads have rolled for those who disappointed. Transfer fees have soared for those who surprised. And accordingly, we too should be evaluated.
In a series of daily videos on the Fifty Five One Facebook page I offered recaps, previews, dumb jokes, and the occasional adorable baby/bar plug. But most importantly, I researched and reviewed all the players in action to spotlight players I thought would be viable and valuable Loons of the future. So, how did I do at picking out clearly talented players? Could I have a future as a scout? How did the players themselves perform?
In case you were too busy to both watch the daily videos or re-watch every match, we can walk you through all the details. What follows are the grades that teacher me would give analyst/scout me on the players who filled our spotlight in the World Cup Daily Videos.
*Note all player ratings are taken from impartial third party source: The Guardian Newspaper online
Obviously, we can’t really take any credit for the three spotlighted players who never made it on the pitch. I mean…unless they have great club seasons then I really should have been consulted by these FAs.
|Costa Rica||Yeltsin Tejeda||26||DM||2.5|
Start with this: Yeltsin Tejeda’s defensive midfield cameo against Brazil offered neither defense nor midfield control—hence the two goals ceded in short order. Otherwise, to be fair, being rated “adequate” at the World Cup may well make you superb on a Saturday in Salt Lake City. However, if we’re going to spotlight players and predict greatness for them, it would be helpful if they were—you know—great. Khalil, Djourou, Urretaviscaya, and Diaz got single run outs to prove their adequacedy…that’s not enough.
I’m also lowering my grade for two players who, unfortunately, made multiple performances. That includes Bouhaddouz because, despite his solid substitution performances, his Cup is also marked by an own goal that ended the Atlas Lions’ dreams before they even got to the good part. As for Mario Gomez, well, his placement in this list tells you as much about Germany’s cup as his performance.
|Costa Rica||Cristian Gamboa||28||RB||5.3|
This is the crew that more or less held their own. Kharaba was an able sub. Gamboa’s defense protected Costa Rica from an all out assault. Manuel Fernandes remained reliable when Portugal needed him. Braithwaite’s speed threatened to change the game for Denmark. Ultimately though their performances didn’t hurt their sides badly, but they didn’t really impact much. (Note: that’s also why Kurzawa fits here. He had a fine game against Japan, but Poland was already eliminated, so again…he didn’t impact much.)
|Saudi Arabia||Salem Al Dawsari||26||RW||5.7|
Just to address the outlier first, Biglia had a great first match, but his fitness and Argentina’s chaos meant he didn’t get another run out…hence, his lower grade. All of the other players here had moments of individual brilliance for sides that would have been less effective without them. (You have to believe Panama’s Goal Difference would have been worse than -9 had it not been for Torres). Of particular note are Al Dawsari’s winner against Egypt and the efforts of Wilmar Barrios and Lamine Gassama. Both defenders kept their sides level in vital elimination games up until the very end. Each one suffered a heart breaking end to their World Cup. I maintain that each one deserves and will see much better days ahead.
|South Korea||Woo-Young Jung||28||DM||6.5|
These players weren’t just good, they were impressive in vital ways. Caceres was an iron man for Uruguay. Alvarez was impressively athletic, offering both solid tackles and effective passes. Teenager Moussa Wague was a real threat on the right wing and put Senegal up (briefly) against Japan. Sainsbury, Gunnarsson, and Woo-Young Jung were vital defenders for their sides in shocking near wins (Sainsbury v. France), draws (Gunnarsson v. Argentina), and victories (Woo-Young v. Germany). As for Badelj, he served a valuable role as a defensive substitution for the extra-time kids: Croatia. All in all, these were critical (but not terribly flashy) performances.
These players could reasonably take a bow as stars for their sides. And they are the players I’ll be preening about picking for the next four years. Even though they were eliminated at the group stage, Advincula and Pouraliganji,were critical to their sides’ performances. Pouraliganji was tasked with marking both Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo, but was only beaten once off the dribble. Meanwhile Advincula was a credit at both ends of the field with speed to stretch the opposition and strength to block the attack.
The other three all were crucial to surprising Quarterfinal runs: Zhirkov’s age-defying defense, Ekdal’s invaluable link-up play, and Cheryshev’s sudden explosion made them impressive to watch and boosted their teams. Maybe this is needless self-congratulations, or maybe I really am this awesome…
Okay self-congratulations over. I can’t give myself a great grade for pointing out these talented players who are nearing their emeritus years. Yes, they all fit the Rooney/Zlatan/Schweinsteiger model of DP. Yes, they performed well in Russia and would probably perform brilliantly in St. Paul. But c’mon…saying: “watch out for Olivier Giroud from France” is a little like saying “watch out for a great performance from Meryl Streep, that woman is going places!” So, just as we’re not taking a beating for the guys who never made the field, we won’t take a pat on the back for these guys. (I could give it a little extra credit because, to be fair, I’m taking an F for Mario Gomez).
So, what’s our grade? I highlighted 40 players, 37 of whom saw the field. Turn each player’s performance into a percentage grade (as we just finished doing) and we’d have earned a 73%. (70% if you take off points for players who never saw the field, 78% if you count extra credit for the big names we called out.) A C isn’t shabby, but I’m not sure it justifies a career change. And hey, the fact that I created a grading rubric that highlights how average I am at scouting proves that I definitely ought to be a teacher. Still, I’ll take the pass.
Here’s a special FiftyFive.One World Cup Spotlight Starting XI. It’s even a 4-2-3-1! (Though I did have to add a keeper, in my case it’s my favorite keeper of the cup, 19-year-old Francis Uzoho from Nigeria…because why not?)
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