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Players who flopped at 2018 World Cup

The World Cup is the biggest show on Earth but not all of the greatest players showed up. We look at those who will not look back fondly on the 2018 tournament.

1. David De Gea (Spain)

A goalkeeper who is an absolute joy to watch and one that every rival fan would hope to have in their squads. Considered by many the best keeper in the world, the 27-year-old has performed fantastically for his club but the Spanish international saw his side crash out in a shock upset to Russia on penalties and had a disappointing tournament on a personal level, making just one save in four games.

2. Jérôme Boateng (Germany)

Jérôme Boateng came into the tournament with serious fitness concerns and he was not helped by his midfielders, but he was truly awful against Sweden. The red card for a second bookable offence was saved him from making more mistakes in a lacklustre performance, and saved him from experiencing a fateful defeat to South Korea.

3. Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)

Kalidou Koulibaly, the man known as “K2”, is revered at Napoli for his ability to play out from the back and his strength in the air at both ends of the pitch, but he didn’t show any of that at the World Cup. His pass accuracy dropped from 91.2 per cent in Serie A to 77.9 per cent and his long-ball accuracy fell from 53.3 per cent to 35.7 per cent.

4. Sergio Ramos (Spain)

Unlike Koulibaly, Sergio Ramos’ distribution from the back was typically strong during the group stage, but he looked suspect defensively in a Spain team that conceded six goals. One of those goals came after the Real Madrid captain had a moment of miscommunication with Andrés Iniesta against Morocco, with the defender at fault as Khalid Boutaïb opened the scoring.

5. Bernardo Silva (Portugal)

Having been hauled off in matches against Spain and Morocco, Bernardo Silva lost his place for the final group game even though he regained it in their last 16 game against Uruguay where they were knocked out. The Manchester City player did not produce a single goal, shot, assist or key pass during the group stage and was also wasteful in possession.

6. Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)

In the absence of a fully fit Mohamed Salah, Egypt needed to be resolute defensively and hope the other standout players in the squad would give them a chance of progressing. Elneny needed to step up but the Arsenal player was often overrun in midfield. While he kept the ball well, the 25-year-old didn’t break up attacks, completing just two tackles in three games as they crashed out without a win.

7. Piotr Zielinski (Poland)

With a host of scouts from Europe’s biggest clubs reportedly casting an eye over Piotr Zielinski this summer, the Napoli midfielder had a chance to impress. He didn’t take it. He was in the side to provide ammunition to the forwards, most notably Robert Lewandowski, but the 24-year-old created just two chances in 259 minutes.

8. Ángel Di María, Argentina

Having enjoyed a strong second half to the season at Paris Saint-Germain, Ángel Di María would have been hoping to carry some form into the World Cup but he was anonymous in the group stages. While he scored a stunner against France in their last 16 loss, he only had one shot, one dribble and two key passes. The winger lacked an impact in the final third and relinquished possession on a consistent basis.

9. Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina)

The 2018 World Cup was a big let-down for the Argentinians and Gonzalo Higuain was no exception. In what was to be a chance at redemption for his previous World-Cup campaign, the 30-year old striker was often left on the bench, by his coach, for the entire campaign, bar a starting spot against Nigeria. Argentina bowed out in the round of 16 with Higuain benched.

10. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

Given his incredible record in qualifying, he was the top scorer in Europe with 16 goals, Lewandowski was toothless during the group stages of the last two major international tournaments. He did not score until the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and it was the same story in Russia. The Bayern striker had nine shots in Russia without scoring as they finished last in Group H.

Bonus Timo Werner (Germany)

The one real concern for Germany before the tournament was their lack of a real goalscorer to lead the line. Those fears were realised in Russia. Many backed Timo Werner to fill the golden boots of Miroslav Klose but he will have to wait another four years, having carried little threat in the box at the tournament off the back of what was a modest season at club level.

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