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Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Vinicius and Brazil dance through to the quarter-finals

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Photo by PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP via Getty Images

The group stages of the FIFA World Cup saw four games scheduled every day. Now, as it progresses into deeper stages, that number has come down to two. Yet, there is no tangible decrease in the excitement or drama that the competition sees daily.

On Monday, four nations fought for a spot in the last eight and in the end, it was two Asian countries who saw their hopes crash. While Japan faced the heartbreak of a massive proportion, South Korea’s game was a one-sided defeat. 

Four Real Madrid players were in action on Monday, all of whom came out on top. Luka Modric’s Croatia played a tight 120 minutes against Japan which ended in a 1-1 tie. The penalty shoot-out, however, was one-sided with the Europeans trampling their opponents.

The late-night game was more clear. Brazil ran away to a 4-goal lead in the opening half before Kang-In Lee pulled one back for South Korea. Nevertheless, it was the South American team that progressed.

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

Luka Modric (Croatia vs Japan)

It is rare for one to see Luka Modric have a subpar performance even on the world’s biggest stages, for his consistency for both club and country has been impeccable in the last decade. Yet, he had a rare off day against Japan where he just could not make things happen despite his desperate attempts to do so.

The midfielder played 98 minutes with no significant contribution apart from a shot on target that was easily saved by Gonda. He lacked his usual influence on the proceedings and seemed to be chasing the ball more often than dictating its play.

He posted a passing accuracy of 87% as he completed 63 passes, but failed to make a single key pass and completed just one of his five attempted crosses. 

Defensively too, he seemed to be largely out of air. He managed only one tackle, two duels won and an interception while being dribbled past twice.

Modric’s Croatia into the last-eight (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

In the end, Croatia scraped through in a dramatic penalty shootout, and Modric will want to forget his outing on Monday and look forward to a fresh start when the team step out for the quarterfinals.

Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs South Korea)

If there was any doubt remaining over the quality of Vinicius Jr, it was all dispelled at Stadium 974 on Monday. The Real Madrid forward ran havoc in the final third for Brazil on the biggest stage and helped the Selecao complete a dominant 4-1 win over South Korea.

The game itself brought much joy to the faces of fans across the globe. While all players enjoyed stellar outings, there was something magical about the combination play between Vinicius, Neymar, Raphinha and Richarlison in the final third.

Vinicius opened the scoring in just the seventh minute. It was Raphinha who initiated the attack with a run down the right flank before sending it across the face of the goal to set up Vinicius. The youngster took a touch, got himself in position and slammed the ball past the goalkeeper into the top right corner.

The Real Madrid player then went on to assist Brazil’s final goal of the game ten minutes before half-time. Receiving the ball from Neymar, he played the ball across the goal to find Lucas Paqueta free, who made no mistake.

In addition to his goal and assist, the young phenom created two big chances, completed 92% of his passes and made one dribble during the game. If Brazil are to go on to win the event, Vini will have to continue at the peak of his powers.

Eder Militao (Brazil vs South Korea)

Tite deployed Militao at right-back on the night, and the defender did not have much to do given the situation in the game. With Brazil’s wingers dominating the final third, the full-backs had little to do in attack. Defensively, he did not do much wrong but was rarely called into action given South Korea’s style of play.

He recorded one tackle, one clearance and one duel won in over an hour on the field and completed 96% of his passes. Militao was eventually replaced by Dani Alves in the 63rd minute.

Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs South Korea)

The youngster was initially expected to start on the night but things changed when Neymar Jr was given the medical all-clear ahead of the clash. Rodrygo started on the bench but came on for the final ten minutes in place of his idol Neymar.

He played just nine minutes and recorded six touches in that duration. Despite his minimal involvement, he produced one key pass to create a chance in the dying minutes. However, he did not create any threat in front of the goal and had no shots on the night.

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

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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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