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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 Napoli | UEFA Champions League



Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.

Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.

The headlining clash

The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.

When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.

Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.

Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.

Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.

Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.

Midfield mess

No Camavinga, Modric, and Tchouameni. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.

The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.

Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.

Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.

The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.

The man in form

The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.

Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.

The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.

In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.

Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.

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