The second round of Group stage fixtures in Qatar gives the world a first glimpse at which teams are likely to qualify for the knockouts. The second day of the round saw teams of groups C and D in action with the spotlight primarily being on Argentina and France.
The first fixture of the day was between Tunisia and Australia at Al Janoub Stadium, where a great strike by Mitchell Duke saw the Socceroos take all three points.
The action then shifted to Poland’s clash against Saudi Arabia. Piotr Zielinski opened the scoring for the Polish side before Robert Lewandowski scored his first World Cup goal to seal the result.
France faced a stern test against Denmark in the third clash and were made to work hard for the win. After scoring through Kylian Mbappe just past the hour mark, the French side conceded at the other end seven minutes later. Ultimately, Mbappe scored again in the closing minutes to help his side top the group.
Argentina then played a virtually must-win encounter against Mexico. Despite a poor first-half performance from the Albiceleste, Lionel Messi inspired them by scoring a world-class opener before setting up the second and seeing his side through.
The only Real Madrid players in action on the night were Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, both for Didier Deschamps’ side in the third game. Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the youngster’s performance and role on the night.
Aurelien Tchouameni (France vs Denmark)
Walking onto football’s biggest stage at the tender age of 22, one would expect a player to collapse under pressure. Even the best players in the world have struggled to leave their mark and play unscathed in the FIFA World Cup, yet, Aurelien Tchouameni faces no such roadblock.
The French youngster is built differently, and his ability to keep his feet on the ground and his head on his shoulders help him keep his cool, whatever the situation. Against Denmark on Saturday night, the Real Madrid player was at his imperious best in the middle of the park and dictated his side’s play.
His ball-playing was on point at Stadium 974, as he completed a whopping 98.4% of the passes he attempted. He had 81 touches and did not misplace a single pass until the 80th minute.
As the defensive midfielder, he held off Denmark’s attacks with four tackles, two interceptions, a blocked shot and a clearance.
Further, he won five of the eight ground duels he was involved in. His ability to quickly neutralise counters nullified the Danish side’s threat and helped the French regain possession faster.
In addition to his strong defensive showing, Tchouameni had a lot to contribute to the buildup and chance creation too.
He made two key passes against the European opposition and created one big chance. Further, he completed 75% of long balls attempted and even came close to scoring through a header late in the second half.
It is safe to say that the French National team have found an able replacement for the evergreen N’Golo Kante who is ruled out of the World Cup. With Tchouameni providing great dividends on the trust bestowed in him by Didier Deschamps, his prominence in the National Team seems set to grow from this point on.
Eduardo Camavinga (France vs Denmark)
For the second successive game, Camavinga started and stayed on the bench for the entire game. Yet, his exclusion from the action is understandable, given the player’s poor form for his club and the availability of better options on the bench.
Given the manager’s formation, it is unlikely that the youngster will see many minutes in the World Cup, especially as the tournament progresses into its deeper stages.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.