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Real Madrid World Cup spotlight: Vinicius, Valverde dazzle

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Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Valverde impressed but could not inspire Uruguay to a win (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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Features

Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Vinicius, Rodrygo, Militao advance to the Round of 16

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Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The second round of group-stage fixtures in Qatar came to a close on Monday in what was a day of very high-quality football. The first two games alone accounted for 11 goals in what was the highest tally in a day in this edition.

The first game saw Serbia and Cameroon face off in an epic clash that saw no end of twists and turns. The game ended 3-3 with the teams sharing the points.

The next game saw South Korea go 2-0 down quickly against Ghana before coming back in the second half. However, the African side scored once again on demand to steer themselves to a win.

Brazil needed a late winner from Casemiro to break the deadlock against Switzerland in the third game and secured their spot in the Round of 16.

The last game between Portugal and Uruguay was expected to be a match of equals. That perception quickly changed when the Europeans produced a dominant performance and killed off the game with two goals.

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

Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Over the past few years, Vinicius Jr has carved out a reputation for being a thorn in defenders’ feet, be it with his world-class dribbling or his antics. As one of the best young wingers in business, he stands out in chance creation even when faced against the best in the business.

However, it appeared like Silvan Widmer had Vinicius in his pockets for large parts of the game. The two created a fabulous battle down Brazil’s left-wing but it was often the Real Madrid player who came second best.

The youngster scored a goal in the 66th minute with a perfectly placed shot after beating his man. However, it was ruled out for an offside intervention after the VAR review.

Apart from sporadic moments of magic, Vinicius did not offer much. He had just one shot on target, completed just one of his five attempted dribbles and missed one big chance. Moreover, he did not complete a single cross accurately and lost more than 50% of his duels. But he was involved in the buildup to the goal.

Eder Militao (Brazil vs Switzerland)

After spending 90 minutes on the bench against Serbia, Militao received his first World Cup start on Monday night. However, the manager deployed him as the right-back as opposed to his usual position in central defence.

Despite playing in a foreign position, the Brazilian was convincing in defence and stopped the likes of Ruben Vargas and Ricardo Rodriguez.

Understandably, Militao did not look to burst into the final third and create chances like a traditional full-back but was still heavily linked in the build-up play. He completed 87% of his attempted passes, five out of eight long balls and even provided a key pass.

Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Rodrygo impressed after coming on from the bench (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

After Brazil’s underwhelming first half, the manager turned to Rodrygo at the start of the second period. The youngster came on for Lucas Paqueta at halftime in an attempt to ramp up Selecao’s threat in the final third and the decision paid off.

It was the young sensation who assisted Casemiro’s goal in the 83rd minute. Receiving the ball from Vinicius, Rodrygo just flicked the ball away from defenders and into the feet of Casemiro to set up an ideal half-volley.

Apart from his assist, the Real Madrid man came painfully close to scoring in the 94th minute only to be denied by Manuel Akanji. He had one shot on target, one blocked, and a key pass.

Federico Valverde (Uruguay vs Portugal)

Uruguay have perhaps been the most disappointing team in the World Cup this year. The squad is filled with quality players from Rodrigo Bentancur and Darwin Nunez to Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde and Diego Godin.

The South Americans once again dished out an average game against Portugal, but it was Valverde who seemed the most inspiring in the Uruguayan team.

The in-form midfielder did not pose much threat to the goal on the night but worked like a machine off the ball. He recorded three interceptions, and two tackles, and won two tackles against Fernando Santos’ side in addition to a key pass and a big chance created. 

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