Thursday was an eventful day in Qatar, for the final set of eight teams made their debut in the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup. The general theme of conservative football persisted through all four games, and while the first two games saw few goals, the later kickoffs restored parity with great ones.
The day began with Switzerland taking on Cameroon in a surprisingly even clash. Only one goal separated the two sides at full time, and that came in the 48th minute with Breel Embolo scoring via a Xherdan Shaqiri assist.
The action then shifted to Uruguay vs South Korea at Education City stadium where the two sides played a monotonous game and shared the spoils.
The third game was the most eventful of the lot, as UEFA EURO 2016 champions Portugal were made to work very hard against Ghana for a 3-2 win at Stadium 974.
The last, and perhaps most anticipated clash was between Brazil and Serbia and the game did not disappoint. The South Americans walked away with three points courtesy of a brace from Richarlison and ended the day atop Group G.
Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players who were in action on Thursday.
Federico Valverde (Uruguay vs South Korea)
Uruguay’s game against South Korea was the first time this century that a FIFA World Cup game saw no shots on target throughout its course. Both teams had a combined xG of just around 1, a clear indication of the nature of the game played at the Education City stadium.
It was a special night for Federico Valverde, who made his World Cup debut against the Asian side. However, unlike his usual deployment on the right-wing as under Carlo Ancelotti this season, the player was placed in his traditional position, midfield.
Though the game was quite a dull affair with few chances created, Valverde was amongst the more inspired players on the field and worked hard for the ninety minutes. He started on the right side of midfield but often drifted out of position to cover for any defensive voids.
He had 80 touches and completed 56 passes in ninety minutes with an accuracy of close to 90%. In addition to hitting the woodwork once with a thunderous strike from outside the box, the Uruguayan also recorded three shots off-target and made two key passes.
Defensively, he won four out of six attempted ground duels in addition to two tackles. The 24-year-old’s debut could certainly have been sweeter with a win, yet is one he should be proud of on such a big stage.
Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs Serbia)
In the months leading up to the World Cup, it seemed to be a general public consensus that Brazil were the frontrunner to walk away with the title in Qatar. Needless to say, there was much hype around their opener against Serbia to see the sheer level and class of their forward line.
Yet, the game did not bring the Brazilian flair one expected. Tite’s men found it difficult to break through the well-organised Serbian defence in the first half and it was finally Vinicius Jr who helped them take the lead.
In the 62nd minute, Neymar Jr dribbled past a host of Serbian players before laying the ball for Vinicius Jr. The youngster directly fired at the goal from the left side and had his shot parried away by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. However, the rebound fell kindly for Richarlison who buried it in the back of the net.
Ten minutes later, the Real Madrid protege once again opened the doors for his National Team and set up the second goal. His well-timed low cross from the left wing found the Tottenham Hotspur striker again before he finished it in style.
The 22-year-old played 76 minutes for the South American side, making 43 touches and completing 20 passes. In addition to his assist, he had four key passes, and four shots with one on target.
Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs Serbia)
The youngster came on for Vinicius Jr for the final 15 minutes and had a solid debut. In his limited time on the field, Rodrygo made 24 touches including 12 accurate passes with a 100% completion rate. Further, he also recorded one shot on target and another one of his.
Eder Militao (Brazil vs Serbia)
The UCL-winning centre-back started on the bench for Tite’s men as the manager opted for a combination of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos at centre-back. Did not even come off the bench late in the second period.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin
Real Madrid kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday night with a narrow 1-0 win over Union Berlin.
The victory was deserved from the point of view of domination of play. Real Madrid were the only team attacking for large parts of the night and created chances to no end.
Yet, one must tip the hat to the visitors’ resilient defence. Playing the first UEFA Champions League clash in the club’s history is difficult enough, let alone at the Santiago Bernabeu. Union Berlin did so and with some style.
Until the 93rd minute, a draw appeared to be the most probable result. The visitors refused to cave into Real Madrid’s relentless attacks and poured their hearts out on the field.
In the end, however, Carlo Ancelotti’s men did what they do best. A last-minute winner from Jude Bellingham gave the hosts all three points.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin.
The power of Real Madrid
Real Madrid are one of the few teams in the world that can never be written off. Such is the ability of the team, more so under Carlo Ancelotti, that they can pull off a win even after a howler.
Their unfair advantage, in part, owes itself to the ridiculous individual quality they possess on the field. Any player is capable of turning the game around with a moment of magic.
Yet, the most important factor that works in their favour is the mental resilience in the squad. Real Madrid never believe it is over until it really is, and Wednesday night’s game provided further reassurance as to why they are the mentality monsters.
For 90 minutes, the visitors frustrated Real Madrid to the limit. They stuck to their defensive lines with discipline and did not give Los Blancos much to work with.
Yet, Real Madrid’s perseverance was visible through the ordeal. The intensity of their attacks amplified with every passing minute and showed no signs of tapering down.
Poetically, they found the winning goal in the final minute of added time when all doors seemed closed, with Jude Bellingham being the hero yet again.
Forwards need to step up
The men in white had 75% of the possession on Wednesday night at Santiago Bernabeu and kept making the required penetrative attacks.
In 90 minutes, the hosts racked up an xG tally of 3.80. Yet, shockingly, they were goalless even in the penultimate minute of the game.
Real Madrid took 32 shots against Union Berlin as opposed to the opposition’s four. Seven shots were on target while 10 were blocked.
In terms of big chances, the me in white churned up five in the 90 minutes of which they missed four. They also struck the woodwork twice last night.
The team’s struggles in the final third place the spotlight on Rodrygo Goes and Joselu, who were the team’s two forwards at Santiago Bernabeu. Both players suffered disappointing nights in front of goal and just could not catch a break from their poor luck.
The Spaniard had three shots on target, five off it, and three attempts blocked against Union Berlin. All of it, however, was in vain.
The Brazilian was not much better with three shots and one blocked chance. Nevertheless, their poor results were not for a lack of trying if that is any silver lining.
Far from convincing
Real Madrid’s mentality and fortitude to push for a win is indeed a reason to be optimistic. However, that does not hide the fact that the men in white struggled and toiled on to no end.
The Champions League has no minnows, but one would expect Real Madrid to show their dominance at some point in the game and close the deal. However, that spell of play never arrived.
Los Blancos may be on a six-game winning streak so far this season, but there is reason to believe that a factor of luck has been essential for most of their scalps.
All eyes will thus be on Ancelotti now. The manager has a world-class roster at his disposal, and it will now be up to him to enhance Real Madrid’s performance in the final third. After all, putting away chances is as important as creating them.