Spain, Russia, Messi: Three biggest over and underachievers

As we take a look at the World Cup so far there have been some jaw dropping results, overachiev-ing players and also underachieving players. Florence Lloyd-Hughes takes a look at the three big-gest over and underachievers in the 2018 FIFA World Cup so far.

Overachievers

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Russia

Russia not only surprised, but flabbergasted many with their advancement out of Group A. They then followed that up with a composed penalty shoot-out victory over Spain in the round of 16.

The home nations’ tournament build-up had been dominated by criticisms and low expectations. These were quickly cast aside with a 5-0 opening victory against Saudi Arabia, and a 3-1 defeat of Egypt.

Not many predicted that Russia would beat Spain, but the hosts stuck to a reliable game plan. They ruffed their way to 1-1 in normal time and a 4-3 win on penalties.

The team’s star man, Aleksandr Golovin, has already been linked with a move to Chelsea after several assured performances.

Russia will now face Croatia in an Eastern bloc quarter-final match-up, which surely should be one step too far for the host nation.

Sweden

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With their simple brand of organised football, Sweden have managed to quietly sneak their way to a quarter-final date with England.

In a group alongside Germany, Mexico and South Korea, not many predicted that Sweden would even progress.

Toni Kroos’ incredible free-kick was the only thing that prevented the Swedes from claiming a per-fect record in the group stage.

A rather dull round of 16 fixture against Switzerland didn’t provide many memorable moments.

Emil Forsberg’s deflected strike eventually broke the deadlock and sent them through.

Football fans will be looking forward to Sweden versus England as it has provided some memora-ble major-tournament match ups in the past.

In Euro 2012, England’s Danny Welbeck became a hero when he scored a winner to claim a 3-2 victory.

Six years earlier, a Joe Cole wonder goal was the highlight of a tight 2-2 draw at the 2006 World Cup.

Fans can probably expect another classic clash later this week.

Benjamin Pavard

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France’s Benjamin Pavard has had somewhat of a resurrection this World Cup after a disappoint-ing start to his young domestic career.

The 22-year-old began his senior career at his hometown club Lille in 2014, but eventually things started to stall and league appearances dried up.

In 2016, he transferred to Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart and he has been attracting attention with his impressive performances ever since.

The Frenchman truly announced himself on the world stage with his glorious side-footed strike against Argentina last week and now has plenty of clubs talking.

Underachievers

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Spain

The 2010 champions shockingly went out with a whimper in the round of 16.

Expectation had already been significantly lowered after the departure of head coach Julen Lo-petegui to Real Madrid just days before the start of the World Cup, but defeat to Russia was defi-nitely not on the cards.

Even with the camp in disarray, a Spain victory seemed secured. Spain failed to seal a win in extra time, and penalties provided too much pressure for a team struggling to keep it together.

Spain ended up departing the competition with just one win to their name.

In just a matter of weeks, the team had gone from one of the tournament favourites, to biggest dis-appointments.

Germany

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Weeks before the World Cup, the German press had been boasting about the strength in depth of the national team. There had been no question about whether the team would progress to the knockout stages, the debate was about whether they could win the whole thing.

An opening-game loss to Mexico provided the first wave of fear, but Germany then bounced back with a dramatic win over Sweden – the panic had been slightly eased.

Days later, everything did collapse in a rather bizarre fashion against South Korea in their final group game.

Even as the clock ticked towards full-time, it still seemed possible that Germany could turn it around.

As the game ended and South Korea secured the 2-0 victory, the dejected faces of German play-ers and fans dominated the TV screens. It was a truly shocking moment.

Messi

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Source: The Sportsman

Lionel Messi’s historical World Cup disappointment has continued, and the Diego Maradona-inferi-ority complex also rumbles on.

Despite scoring a splendid goal against Nigeria, and helping Argentina scrape through the group, Messi remains a scapegoat for many fans.

His emotionless, vacant stare after the defeat to France was proof that tensions are high.

Argentina’s failings could be blamed on manager Jorge Sampaoli, the eighth head coach to lead the team in the Messi era.

Many, including team members of the international side, voiced their frustration with Sampaoli’s tactics, which rarely allowed Messi to perform at his best.

Superstar teammates Aguero and Higuain were also used sparingly by Sampaoli during the tour-nament.

The immediate aftermath of Argentina’s World Cup disappointment will result in Messi flirting with retirement as he did after the 2016 Copa America final.

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At the time, Messi briefly announced he was retiring from international football after missing a pen-alty in a shootout against Chile. It was Argentina’s fourth major final loss in nine years.

In four years, a 35-year-old Messi will have to psych himself up for a fifth World Cup appearance.

Qatar 2022 could just be a step too far.

Follow Florence on Twitter at @FloydTweet

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