With the historic Russian World Cup now behind us, The Anfield Talk’s Sam (@sammillnelfc) takes an individual look at all of our boys who played out in Russia.
Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)
Despite being the only England player to miss his penalty against Colombia, Jordan Henderson was an integral part of England’s most successful World Cup since 1990. He played as the holding midfielder, often dropping back into the back three when Maguire or Stones brought the ball out of defence. His passing led to several opportunities being created, a highlight being when he clipped a ball over Sweden’s back line to set Sterling in on goal. He showed class throughout but his presence was perhaps most noticeable when he wasn’t on the pitch, as the downgrade to Eric Dier clearly affected the team. Henderson played 482 of the 690 minutes England played in Russia and he never trailed whilst he was on the pitch. They played 208 minutes without Henderson and were losing for 136 minutes in his absence.
Alexander-Arnold got his chance to shine in the last group game against Belgium. Southgate’s rotation for the dead rubber meant that Alexander-Arnold replaced Kieran Trippier at right wing back. The Scouser was one of England’s best players on the day, however, was always going to find it difficult to break into the first team, due to Kieran Trippier’s sensational form.
Roberto Firmino (Brazil)
The 2018 World Cup was a frustrating one for Firmino. Brazil manager, Tite, continually picked Gabriel Jesus instead of him, to lead the line for Brazil. Gabriel Jesus failed to impress throughout the entire tournament, meaning that Firmino was called upon from the bench on numerous occasions. As soon as he took to the field of play, he made an impact on Brazil. He offered more off the ball than Jesus and his work paid off, as he scored in the final minutes against Mexico, to secure Brazil’s spot in the quarter-finals.
Dejan Lovren (Croatia)
This Summer’s World Cup will live long in the memory for so many reasons. One is Croatia’s run to the final. Despite coming runners-up to France, they did their country proud and Lovren was probably their best defender. He was named in the official team of the tournament and before the final, he came out with a quote that could come back to haunt him.
“I think people should recognise that I’m one of the best defenders in the world”
Love him or loathe him, he undoubtedly played at a world-class level for Croatia and if he carries on that form into next season, he will genuinely stake a claim for being one of the world’s best. For now, though, it remains to be seen.
Sadio Mané (Senegal)
Senegal were extremely unlucky, not to make it through to the last 16. They were the first team in World Cup history to be knocked out on fair play rules. Having scored and conceded the same amount of goals, Japan progressed because they received less yellow cards than Senegal. It was a cruel way to exit, but Les Lions de la Téranga certainly left a mark on the tournament. They were the best team from their continent and were exciting to watch. Sadio Mané captained the side and scored in a 2-2 draw with Japan. In his first two games, he looked like a man who could produce something out of nothing; a real danger on the ball. Unfortunately, he and his team were underwhelming in their final game against Colombia, which they lost, sending them out of the competition.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Before the Champion’s League final, it was gearing up to be a dream summer for Mo Salah. Unfortunately, it turned more nightmarish than dreamy when Sergio Ramos pulled him down 30 minutes into the game. News outlets reported that Salah could be fit to face Uruguay, however, when the day came, he wasn’t even fit enough to come off the bench. It was to be the first of three defeats for Egypt. He started the next two games, clearly unfit, nevertheless he still managed to score two; one from the spot and another, a trademark dink over the goalkeeper after latching on to a pass over the top of the defence.
Simon Mignolet (Belgium)
As expected, Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea, started every game in goal for Belgium, so Mignolet didn’t get on the pitch. He looked to be enjoying Belgium’s ‘celebrations’ of coming third.
Marko Grujić (Serbia)
Before the tournament, Marko Grujic may have known that he wasn’t ever going to get much of a chance, as a result of Serbia’s other talented midfielders being ahead of him in the pecking order. As it happens, the youngster didn’t see any game time. It wasn’t his World Cup, but if he continues to play as well as he did for Cardiff, he should have many more chances in years to come, for his national side.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
Switzerland had a decent World Cup, however, will be disappointed that they didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. When faced with a favourable draw against Sweden, in the round of 16, they came unstuck and lost 1-0. Shaqiri, himself was Switzerland’s star man. His best moment, was when he scored a late winner to complete a comeback against their main rivals for second place, Serbia. He also performed well in their first group game against Brazil, which finished 1-1. Towards the end of their encounter with Sweden, the team lacked ideas and resorted to Shaqiri putting crosses into the box which didn’t always trouble the goalkeeper. He also provided one of the most controversial moments of the tournament. Following his winning goal against Serbia, he made a nationalist symbol of his ethnic Albanian heritage, provoking a reaction from many Serbians, as a result of the two countries’ marred political pasts.
Liverpool’s new goalkeeper was Brazil’s number one as well, beating out Ederson to the number one spot. He didn’t let his manager down. He performed well, not making any large, noticeable mistakes and distributed to the likes of Neymar and Willian with precision. It was a solid World Cup for him personally, nonetheless, he will be disappointed with his teammates for not getting past Belgium, in the quarter-finals, given their status as pre-tournament favourites.
Thanks for reading and getting to the end of this article! Just making it this far means the world to us! If you’d like to go above and beyond and help us out with site running costs, then you can donate any spare change to us below! We don’t get paid for the writing we do and every single person on our team is a volunteer. Thanks in advance Reds, if you donate, we’ll have a little space reserved for you on our hall of fame for donations!