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World Cup 2018

World Cup Flop XI: Including Paulinho, Thauvin and Aspas

Players from Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle, West Ham and Sunderland’s past all feature.

Mathew Nash



The best of the best are preparing to face off this summer with the World Cup in Russia now just hours away.

But whilst there will be a host of Premier League stars in action at the competition some names will pop up leaving fans wondering how they are performing on the world stage.

That is because a heap of players at the World Cup this summer have previously flopped in English football.

Fans of Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle, West Ham, Sunderland, Southampton, Manchester United, Chelsea and even Nottingham Forest will be wondering how some of these players are playing at a World Cup this summer.

So here it is, the World Cup Flop XI…

(xxxx during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and Nottingham Forest at Ashton Gate on October 1, 2016 in Bristol, England.

GK: Vladimir Stojkovic

The Serbian has had two spells in English football. Whilst both Wigan Athletic and Nottingham Forest fans will admit he has a penchant for the odd spectacular save, he is also as reliable as British summer time.

Nonetheless, he will be tending goal for Serbia at this year’s competition. The Partizan keeper will hope to add to his 81 caps in Russia.

DF: Martin Caceres

The Uruguay defender spent just six months at Southampton. He seemed an excellent free transfer signing last February. But he played just once before leaving.

After a spell at Verona, he is now at Lazio and will be a crucial part of the Uruguay defence this summer.

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

DF: Manuel Da Costa

Arriving at West Ham as part of a deal that saw the ultimate flop Savio Nsereko leave the Portugal youth international struggled for regular football at Upton Park.

He struggled with an ankle injury in London and never made a big impact.

After a move to Turkey with Sivasspor in 2013, his career has been on the up. Now at Basaksehir, he will hope to line up in the Morocco back-line this summer.

DF: Jerome Boateng

A pillar of Germany and Bayern Munich’s defence, it did not quite happen for the defender in England.

He played just 16 Premier League games for Manchester City after joining the club from Hamburg in 2010 and left one year later.

MC: Paulinho

One of the players brought into Tottenham with the Gareth Bale to Real Madrid money, the Brazilian failed to capture his best form at Spurs.

Now a regular with Barcelona after a stint in China he will be a likely starter for Brazil this summer.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)

MC: Ola Toivonen

Aston Villa fans are probably wondering why Morocco’s Karim El Ahmadi or Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez are not picked in central midfield. However, it is hard to look past former Sunderland loanee Ola Toivonen.

A regular for Sweden, the Black Cats tried to send him back to Rennes halfway through his 2015-16 loan spell. That about sums his time at Sunderland up.

RM: Juan Cuadrado

The Colombian wing-back thrived at the last World Cup. Couple with his form for Fiorentina he caught the eye of Chelsea, who spent big to sign him in 2015.

However, Chelsea did not use wing-backs and Cuadrado struggled further forward in a right-winger role.

Now at Juventus, the irony is he would have been perfect for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea system.

(Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

LM: Angel Di Maria

A British transfer record signing for Manchester United in 2014 he spent just one season at Old Trafford.

After four goals and 32 appearances, he joined Paris Saint-Germain where he remains today. Expect to see him out wide for Argentina this summer.

FW: Iago Aspas

Perhaps the most shocking turnaround is that of the little Spanish forward. A complete dud at Liverpool he has been in fine form since returning to Celta Vigo in 2015.

Now the diminutive forward looks set to start for Spain at a World Cup.

(during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James’ Park on August 29, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

FW: Florian Thauvin

In fact, this might be a bigger turnaround. Newcastle fans could not believe how underwhelmed they were with the impact of the French attacker after his arrival at St James’ Park.

But after scoring 26 goals for Marseille this season the 25-year-old is with Les Bleus in Russia, leaving Toon fans rubbing their eyes.

FW: Radamel Falcao

Two seasons, two clubs, just five goals. The tale of the tape from Colombia’s leading goal-scorer in English football.

Recovering from a knee injury it appeared the striker was past his best at both Manchester United and Chelsea.

However, he has scored 54 goals since heading back to Monaco and will look to fire his nation to glory in Russia.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

And rounding out the rest of the 23-man squad…

Brad Jones (Australia), Guillermo Varela (Uruguay), Filipe Luis (Brazil), Yohan Benalouane (Tunisia), Dedryck Boyata (Belgium), Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica), Carlos Sanchez (Colombia), Giovani dos Santos (Mexico), Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal), Viktor Fischer (Denmark), Andrej Kramaric (Croatia), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria).

Which of these flops is the best? Can any of them lift the World Cup?


Picking six of the best from the 2018 World Cup

France were crowned champions of the world yesterday after beating Croatia 4-2 in Moscow

Liam Thomas



Photo: Getty Images

The 2018 World Cup came to an end yesterday and, after a terrific tournament filled with highs and lows, Didier Deschamps’ French side came out on top in a 4-2 classic in Moscow against Croatia.

We have been treated to a feast of footballing genius over the past five weeks and picking just six players was a difficult task when considering some of the top performers on display.

Nevertheless, after trials and tribulations, we managed to pick six of the best from this summer’s World Cup and how they would line up in a six-a-side team.

Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford came of age for England between the sticks over the last few weeks of the competition and saved the Three Lions on countless occasions.

It was truly a pleasure to watch Pickford at times, and the young goalkeeper was a breath of fresh air. He was arguably England’s best player of the tournament and he gets the gloves for this team.

Jordan Pickford

Defender – Raphaël Varane

At 25 the French defender has now won four Champions League titles and a World Cup; astonishing stuff. Varane was vital for France throughout the tournament and will no doubt be in every pundit’s and fan’s team of the competition because of this.

If there were any questions surrounding Varane’s ability they were quashed during this World Cup, and the young Frenchman deserves every accolade that comes his way; a magnificent tournament capped off with a World Cup winner’s medal to match.

Defender – Domagoj Vida

You would have been let off for not knowing who Domagoj Vida was before the World Cup. However, the Croatian centre-back announced his name on the world stage with some outstanding performances.

Vida’s grit and determination throughout the competition was admirable, and his Croatian side certainly did themselves and their country proud.

Midfield – Luka Modric

Voted player of the tournament, Luka Modric again proved why he is arguably the best midfielder on the planet. At times, when Croatia looked down and out, Modric took the team by the scruff of the neck and pulled them through.

An incredible talent, it is a shame Modric didn’t get over the final hurdle and bring his nation there first ever World Cup.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

Forward – Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard again proved why he is the apparent heir to the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi throne, with some sublime performances for Belgium.

We got to see the very best of Hazard in a silky smooth Belgium set-up that utilised their attacking talents to the fullest.

In the end, Hazard’s side had to settle for third place but there is no doubt he will be back in 2020 for revenge.

Forward – Kylian M’bappe

A World Cup winner at the age of 19, Kylian M’bappe is living out every boy’s dream and became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele.

M’bappe was the first name on the team sheet, and his electrifying pace caused problems for the world’s best defenders throughout the tournament.

It is scary to think what might come from the teenager in the future; France will in no doubt be reaping the rewards of this once in a generation talent for years to come.

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England will hope Harry Kane exploits Dejan Lovren like he did for Tottenham

England take on Croatia tonight with Tottenham star Harry Kane pivotal to his nation’s hopes.

Mathew Nash



It has been nearly 30 years since England managed to find themselves in the semi-finals of a World Cup. However, tomorrow will see Gareth Southgate’s men doing just that. They face Croatia, the winners taking on France this Sunday after Les Bleus defeated Belgium in their semi-final.

Croatia will be no pushovers, but one England player will be very confident ahead of facing the Balkan side. There’s one member of the Croatian starting XI who will not want to face Harry Kane. Surely Liverpool‘s Dejan Lovren’s memories of facing the Tottenham striker might be painful. Back in October, Tottenham bested Liverpool with Kane in fine form. He scored two and assisted one in a 4-1 win, tearing Lovren apart in the process. Kane showed the Croat no mercy in a fierce striking display. The way that he left Lovren scrambling for the first of his goals and again when giving Heung-min Son a finish on a plate was simply magnificent.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Harry Kane is always going to be key for England’s hopes. But there is no way that Lovren will have forgotten that October performance just yet. Tomorrow evening the Tottenham striker will no doubt be looking to put on a similar masterclass. Lovren has improved since that day. But if Kane can run him ragged like he did at Wembley than England will have every chance of picking up all three points.

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Harry Kane’s performance against Sweden should concern England supporters

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

England, led by Harry Kane, have exceeded pre-tournament expectations and qualified for the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990. They were comfortable against Sweden and looked to be the more accomplished team over 90 minutes. Their victory has set up a semi-final tie against Croatia, which should be looked at as a winnable game for the Three Lions and has excited supporters back home.

Harry Kane has been the star man for England this summer and the Tottenham striker currently leads the race for the golden boot with six goals. However, his performance against Sweden should concern England supporters. He only attempted one shot during the game and didn’t seem to be getting into goal-scoring positions as much as he does for his club team.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

In addition to his lack of shots, he had only two touches inside the box and wasn’t one of the primary threats in the final third for England. Kane may be the tournament’s top scorer, but he hasn’t been able to cause problems for opposition teams in open play. His six goals have all come from set pieces apart from one which was a deflection.

The Three Lions have established a playing style that works and it has seen them reach the semi-finals. This summer has already delivered more than anyone could have expected, but they now have the opportunity of a lifetime to win the World Cup. If they are to achieve that, they will need to improve their productivity in open play as they can’t be this reliant on set pieces.

For this to be achieved, Southgate needs to tweak his system in order to get Kane on the ball in more dangerous positions. He only attempted 19 passes during the match and considering he is regarded as our major goal threat, he needs to be given the ball more often.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Although he wasn’t threatening the goal, Kane had an important role to play against Sweden, as his movement and physicality caused problems for Sweden. He won three aerial duels and was often the England player that was being watched most closely by the opposition defence. This created space for the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli to exploit.

Unlike a lot of strikers, Kane is unselfish and isn’t afraid to go into battle for his team, even if it reduces his opportunity to score. There were a lot doubting the Tottenham striker when he was given the captaincy, but he has taken on the responsibility and performed excellently in his role. Despite being 24, he has shown maturity and proven that he is more than just a good goal-scorer.

The game against Croatia will be tough, as there is little to split the two teams. However, England have shown great belief this summer and they will go into the game with a real chance of reaching the World Cup final. It would take a brave man to bet against the current squad. That said, they do need to show improvement in open play and give Kane the service that he needs. If they manage to do that, England will be very difficult to stop.

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