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Real Madrid World Cup spotlight: Asensio, Courtois shine, but Hazard underwhelms



Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday brought with it some of the 2022 FIFA Word Cup’s most important results. There were shocks and surprises, both good and bad, as a new set of teams made their debut in Qatar and showed the world what they bring to the table.

The day kicked off with a clash between 2018 runners-up Croatia and Morocco. Luka Modric’s side were expected to coast to a win in their opener but could only manage a stale draw. 

The action then shifted to Germany vs Japan, a game that brought with it arguably the biggest talking point of the day. After taking an early lead against the Asians, Germany lost the plot in the closing minutes and conceded twice to forfeit all three points. 

Spain then took on and demolished Costa Rica by seven goals, the highest number of goals ever scored by La Roja in a World Cup game. Luis Enrique’s side announced their arrival in style and could not have dreamt of a better start in Qatar.

The final game of the day saw Belgium defeat Canada by one goal. However, the game had no dearth of action as the Red Devils were made to work hard for all three points.

Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players on the night.

Luka Modric (Croatia vs Morocco)

While the 2018 edition of the World Cup saw just one goalless draw, there has been no shortage of 0-0 scorelines in Qatar. Croatia were expected to open their campaign with a bang after their deep run four years ago, but were forced to settle for just one point without even finding the back of the net once.

While the game in itself was uninspiring and lacking in attacking chances, Croatia’s team revolved around Luka Modric for any sort of initiative on the ball. The midfielder was everywhere on the pitch, commanding his defence at times and also creating a spark in the final third.

Croatia’s orchestrator-in-chief had 107 touches on the night and attempted a whopping nine crosses and eight long balls while also making close to ten defensive contributions. He was named the Man of the Match for his tireless 90 minutes, and rightfully so.

Antonio Rudiger (Germany vs Japan)

Germany’s defeat to Japan was the most shocking result of Wednesday, especially considering that they were leading with 15 minutes to go. To concede two goals from there on and lose the match does not read well for the German defence, and Real Madrid’s Antonio Rudiger was part of the backline that collapsed.

The former Chelsea player did not do much wrong on the night and was solid for most parts of the game. He won 100% of his duels, made five recoveries, two clearances and two blocks. At the same time, he missed one big chance at the other end.

But there was more than one instance in the second half when he appeared to take things lightly against Japan. Nevertheless, questions need to be asked of the German defence after a collapse like Wednesday’s.

Marco Asensio (Spain vs Costa Rica)

Luis Enrique gave Asensio a start in Spain’s curtain-raiser and the Real Madrid forward did not disappoint. In a team that has lacked a decisive figure in front of the goal in recent years, Asensio played that role when needed whilst dropping into the spaces during the buildup.

He scored La Roja’s second goal with a well-timed half-volley off Jordi Alba’s cross and was a constant threat in Costa Rica’s area. He had one shot on target out of four total shots and even had one blocked attempt. Simply put, Asensio made a strong case to be a regular starter for Luis Enrique’s side.

Dani Carvajal (Spain vs Costa Rica)

The veteran stayed on the bench through the ninety minutes as the manager opted to give Cesar Azpilicueta the start at right-back. 

Thibaut Courtois (Belgium vs Canada)

Courtois starred for Belgium against Canada (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Thibaut Courtois has set high standards for himself through his consistently top-class displays at the club level. Starting for the Red Devils against Canada, he was once again at his surreal best to see his side to a narrow 1-0 win.

In the ninth minute of the game, Tajon Buchanan won a penalty for his team and Belgium seemed set to go behind. However, Courtois stopped Alphonso Davies with a perfect dive to deny the North American side.

In addition to the saved penalty, the Belgian also made three saves from inside the box and completed close to 80% of his passes.

Eden Hazard (Belgium vs Canada)

Handed a start by Robert Martinez against Canada, Eden Hazard disappointed once again. Yet, it was not unexpected given the forward’s horrendous form for Real Madrid.

In over an hour on the field, Hazard failed to take a single shot both on and off the target. His contributions on the field were close to nothing, especially in attack. Hazard was eventually replaced by Leandro Trossard in the 62nd minute.

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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga



Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.

Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.

Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.

Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.

With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.

The important reaction

Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.

Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.

All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.

Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.

It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.

Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.

Limelight on the manager

Under the cosh. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.

It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.

For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.

Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.

With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.

Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.

Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.

Return of the magician

While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.

The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.

The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.

The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.

Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.

Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.

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