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Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Modric through, heartbreak for Hazard, Courtois, Rudiger



Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images

Within a span of 24 hours, two of the pre-tournament favourites saw themselves eliminated from the competition. While Belgium failed to register a win over Croatia that was a necessity, Germany’s situation was far more unfortunate as even a win did not get them over the line.

The day began with Morocco cruising past Canada and topping their group deservedly. The game between Croatia and Belgium thus became far more important, but it was Luka Modric’s side that sealed the deal by holding on to a draw.

The late kickoffs saw Spain take on Japan and Germany face Costa Rica. Luis Enrique’s side fell to the Asian side courtesy of an ambiguous VAR call and thus finished second in Group E while even a 4-2 win was not enough for Hansi Flick’s Germany.

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

Luka Modric (Belgium vs Croatia)

Both Luka Modric and Croatia’s performance against Belgium was far from what one would usually associate them with. Yet, the Real Madrid player’s base level in itself is head and shoulders above the rest of the crop, and Thursday’s game exemplified the same.

Modric did nothing flashy on the night, yet silently dictated the terms of the game. He completed 83% of his passes, seven out of seven attempted long balls and had two shots on target. He also helped hold the fort for his team with good defensive contributions – two interceptions, four tackles and six duels won.

Thibaut Courtois (Belgium vs Croatia)

Coming off a tough day against Morocco, Thibaut Courtois returned to his very best in his team’s final game. Belgium were faced with a must-win game against Croatia, and while they failed to get three points on the day, the goalkeeper did his part by keeping a clean sheet.

The Belgian made four key saves on the night, three of which came from shots taken inside the box. He was massive in the second half, denying the likes of Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.

Eden Hazard (Belgium vs Croatia)

Eden Hazard’s recurring poor performances forced Roberto Martinez to drop him in the must-win encounter. Eventually, the manager brought him on in the 87th minute out of desperation as his team needed to find the all-important goal.

Coming on at a time when his side were unleashing attack after attack in hope of finding the back of the net, Hazard managed just three touches and completed one pass. Given his downward spiral, it could have been the player’s final World Cup appearance.

Dani Carvajal (Spain vs Japan)

Came on at halftime for Cesar Azpilicueta and had a mixed day at the office. Indeed, Spain conceded two goals within ten minutes of his arrival, yet, one must not forget that he made a key interception to prevent the damage from going further with a last-ditch tackle.

However, his contribution in the final third was subpar especially given the situation his team was in.

Marco Asensio (Spain vs Japan)

The winger started on the bench for La Roja but was called on by the manager in the 57th minute after Japan had taken the lead. He was part of the desperate late Spanish surge in an attempt to restore parity but did not contribute as much as he would have liked to. 

In just over half an hour on the field, Asensio had one shot on target and two shots blocked. He had one good attempt from distance but the Japan goalkeeper controlled it rather comfortably.

Antonio Rudiger (Germany vs Costa Rica)

The centre-back dished out a poor display, especially in the first half as Costa Rica opened up the German defence with ease. He made a glaring error in the form of a disastrous clearance that almost resulted in a goal too.

Rudiger was far from his best on the night and did not improve much in the second half. The win over Costa Rica marked the end of his team’s run in the World Cup and could well be the end of the National Team careers for several members of the squad.

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Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.

The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.

Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.

The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.

1. Quality of full-backs

Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.

Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.

Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.

The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.

The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.

The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.

2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity

Carvajal had a forgettable game (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.

The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.

Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.

Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.

When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.

More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.

3. Goodbye La Liga?

When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.

Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.

History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.

Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.

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