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Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Modric creates magic; Vinicius, Rodrygo, Militao sent home



Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

For 30 minutes after the last-gasp Dutch equaliser, Croatia vs Netherlands looked like a real possibility in the World Cup semifinal. That was the extent of drama in Qatar on Friday night as two South American heavyweights played games with a similar script but different results.

The early kickoff between Brazil and Croatia needed to wait until the 105th minute for its first goal via some Neymar magic. However, they could not hold onto the lead and conceded an equaliser in the 117th minute, leading to a penalty shootout. The flip of the coin went Croatia’s way, and the tournament favourites were thus knocked out.

Argentina found themselves 2-0 up with just over 15 minutes to go but gave up their lead in dramatic fashion in the final seconds of the game. The game proceeded to penalties too, but Emiliano Martinez was on point for his team and took them to a memorable win.

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

Vincius Jr (Brazil vs Croatia)

Controlling Vinicius Jr is a herculean task, even for the world’s best defenders. Yet, the winger met his match on Friday with Croatia’s right-back Josip Juranovic who gave him a real run for his money.

Continuously marked by a player who could equal him in both pace and anticipation, the Real Madrid forward found it difficult to influence the game. In over an hour on the field, Vinicius had just eight accurate passes and 21 touches, numbers that show how disconnected he was on the night.

He created one good chance in the first half with a lovely one-touch combination play in the opponent’s box that resulted in a shot on target. However, it was tame and easily saved. 

Tite’s decision to substitute Vinicius in such a decisive game has come under the radar, but one can understand why the manager was unconvinced of the winger’s performance on the day. 

Eder Militao (Brazil vs Croatia)

Militao has been largely played out of position at the World Cup. Slowly, yet steadily, he has learnt the ways of a fullback and Friday’s performance highlights the same.

He single-handedly kept the likes of Borna Sosa, Mateo Kovacic and, most importantly Ivan Perisic at bay. While one could still see his discomfort in a foreign position, there was much improvement from his previous game.

He recorded a clearance, two interceptions and three tackles in addition to seven duels won against Croatia in what was a solid defensive show. 

Militao lacked the attacking firepower of a natural fullback in the first half, but made amends and was aggressive in the second period.

He took three shots that were blocked and completed four long balls. Interestingly, Croatia’s equaliser came down his flank just around ten minutes after Militao was replaced.

Rodrygo (Brazil vs Croatia)

Rodrygo will remember this one for years. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

The youngster replaced Vinicius in the 64th minute and endured a torrid night that would only end with a costly missed penalty.

While on the field during regular play, Rodrygo created more of a threat than his Real Madrid teammate did.

He had two key passes and created a clear goalscoring chance in the 80th minute that Lucas Paquets could not convert. However, he had no shots on the night and did not directly trouble Livakovic. 

In the all-important penalty shootout, the Selecao sent the 21-year-old to take the first penalty. Rodrygo failed to bury his chance, putting Brazil on the backfoot. Eventually, his miss proved costly and sent his team home.

Luka Modric (Brazil vs Croatia)

How does this man not age? Despite being all of 37 years old, the veteran midfielder fought for the ball as ferociously in the 120th minute as he did in the opening minute. Modric’s drive and stamina are something to admire, and Friday’s game showed that.

He recorded a whopping 139 touches in 120 minutes and completed 92% of his attempted passes. The ball danced to his tunes, and he controlled the tempo of the game and overwrote the Brazilian midfield.

Defensively, he was a beast and recorded two blocked shots, an interception and three tackles. Further, he won a whopping nine duels won. 

When it came to the decisive penalty shootout, Modric was on point to keep up Croatia’s 100% scoring rate. The European side did not spare Brazil’s loose penalties and sent them packing with the world left shocked.

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Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid



Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.

Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.

It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.

Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.

However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.

The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.

Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.

Goals from midfield

Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.

Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.

The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.

Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.

While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.

Goal machine. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.

And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.

Youthful energy

Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.

However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.

Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.

While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.

Long-term captaincy candidate

At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.

Captain material. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.

While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.

If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.

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