World Cup disappointing XI
Several players have bolstered their reputations with their performances in Russia, with Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric, N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard among those who have lived up to - and perhaps even exceeded - expectations this summer.
Others have failed to make the anticipated impact, turning in disappointing displays for their countries on the biggest stage of all. In this slideshow, we pick out 11 players who have underperformed in the last few weeks.
David de Gea (Spain)
Followers of the Premier League would have been shocked to see the consistently brilliant De Gea make a major handling error against Portugal, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to score his second in an entertaining 3-3 draw.
The fact the Spain goalkeeper made just a single save all tournament was a reflection of his team’s defensive effectiveness more than any such shortcomings of his own, but De Gea was criticised by the Spanish media for failing to keep out any of the four penalties he faced in the shoot-out defeat by Russia.
Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
Labelled as the successor to Philipp Lahm for both club and country, the Bayern Munich right-back failed to further enhance his lofty reputation in Russia. Kimmich was continually caught too high up the pitch in the 1-0 defeat by Mexico which set the tone for Germany’s disastrous tournament, with Hirving Lozano repeatedly taking advantage of the space he left behind.
Kimmich wasn’t quite as bad against Sweden and South Korea, but his final ball remained inconsistent and he was unable to help the Mannschaft score in that vital third game against the Koreans.
Gerard Pique (Spain)
Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines after his hat-trick in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain, while David de Gea was criticised for an uncharacteristic error. Pique’s shakiness therefore went a little under the radar, but his failure to improve thereafter didn’t go unnoticed.
The Barcelona centre-back may have steadied himself in the 1-0 victory over Iran, but he was fortunate to avoid a red card against Morocco after a two-footed challenge on Khalid Boutaib. In the last-16 loss to Russia, meanwhile, it was he who gave away the penalty for an inexplicable handball in the 41st minute, allowing the hosts to level the scores just before half-time.
Jerome Boateng (Germany)
Boateng and centre-back partner Mats Hummels were heavily criticised following Germany’s 1-0 loss to Mexico, but the duo actually performed reasonably well in difficult circumstances which saw them left hopelessly exposed time and time again.
Boateng had no such excuses against Sweden, though, with the Bayern Munich man turning in a dismal display which culminated in a deserved red card in the second half. Positionally poor and sloppy in possession, he could easily have given away an early penalty for a foul on Marcus Berg.
Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal)
Guerreiro was one of the stars of Portugal’s triumph at the European Championship two summers ago, but was unable to reproduce his 2016 form in Russia. The left-back was far from his best against both Spain and, more surprisingly, Morocco, when Watford’s Nordin Amrabat continually got the better of him in Portugal’s 1-0 win.
Guerreiro also didn’t cover himself in glory in the last-16 loss to Uruguay, switching off at the back post to allow Edinson Cavani to open the scoring from Luis Suarez’s cross.
Sami Khedira (Germany)
Khedira’s declining mobility was in evidence when Germany lost 1-0 to Mexico in their opening game. The Juventus man positioned himself too far up the field and was repeatedly bypassed by flying Mexican runs from midfield, with Khedira’s remit of protecting the defence consequently going unfulfilled.
It was no surprise to see Joachim Low drop the 31-year-old for the meeting with Sweden, but Khedira returned for the crunch clash with South Korea and again failed to make a positive impression.
Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
Few expected Mascherano, now 34 and playing his club football in China, to have as big an influence on this World Cup as the previous one. Even so, it was remarkable to see quite how off the pace this once-great player was in his four appearances for the Albiceleste.
Mascherano was overrun by Croatia’s superior midfield in a 3-0 defeat, but his worst display came in the make-or-break game against Nigeria. Argentina may have ultimately found a way to win, but their most experienced player was poor both with and without the ball.
Piotr Zielinski (Poland)
Poland were among the biggest disappointments in Russia, with a return of zero points from their first two games sending Adam Nawalka’s side home early. They certainly didn’t live up to their billing as top seeds in an open Group H, with Zielinski one of a number of Poles who failed to shine.
The Napoli playmaker struggled for game time domestically last season as Maurizio Sarri stuck with his favoured starting XI, but more was expected of a player with such obvious talent. His passing was uncharacteristically untidy and he failed to fashion clear-cut opportunities for his team-mates.
Thomas Muller (Germany)
Muller has endured a difficult couple of years at club level, but many expected him to rise to the occasion in Russia and continue the fine form he has shown at the World Cup in recent years. Instead, his struggles continued as the forward failed to add to the combined 10 goals he scored in 2010 and 2014.
Indeed, the Bayern Munich was ineffectual against Mexico and Sweden, so much so that he was dropped for the final group game against South Korea. Muller did enter the fray as a second-half substitute, but he never really looked like scoring or creating any meaningful opportunities for others.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Lewandowski’s peripheral performances in Russia owe more to the lack of service he received than any failings on the Bayern Munich man’s part, but the bottom line is that the top scorer in European qualification made a minimal impact on the tournament itself.
The 29-year-old rarely threatened in any of Poland’s group games, with Senegal and Colombia particularly adept at keeping him at bay. In 270 minutes of action, Lewandowski produced just three shots on target.
Ousmane Dembele (France)
France have grown stronger as the World Cup has progressed, but they actually made a wholly unconvincing start to the tournament. A front three of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Dembele failed to click against Australia, with the latter anonymous on the left flank.
It was no surprise to see the Barcelona forward drop to the bench against Peru, but he was handed a reprieve as Didier Deschamps shuffled his pack for the final group game against Denmark. Dembele failed to grasp his opportunity, though, contributing little of note in a stultifying 0-0 draw.
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).