By Shebby Singh | WORLD CUP 2018 #2
As we kickoff the third and final group games this week, let’s look back at some impressive individual performances. This a group of players who are not in the superstar bracket or famous for their infamy in football.
This is a group of players who have been very impressive with steady and consistent showings never mind the outcome of matches they have played in. These players may or may not hit the headlines, might not even get a mention because someone else has scored a goal or blundered some place but they are key components of their teams .
Francis Uzoho – Nigeria
At only nineteen with two appearances for Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga and preparing for life in Segunda Division after suffering relegation, Uzoho has taken to the World Cup like a duck to water. Big strong and agile, this goalkeeper certainly gives confidence to his defenders.
Lee Yong – South Korea
Maybe I am a little biased due to watching Lee Yong regularly in the AFC Champions League but he is a picture of consistency and works up and down the flank with aggression. He has the necessary composure too when being on the offensive.
Leon Balogun – Nigeria
The Mainz 05 defender has brought leadership and composure to the Nigerian defence. Never one to waste a pass, Balogun has been the focal point of buildup play from the back.
Ilya Kutepov – Russia
It’s remarkable how Kutepov’s partner, the aging 38 year Sergei Ignashevich gets a mention every time while the true rock of Russia’s defence flies under the radar while dominating aerially or on the ground. Ilya Kutepov is a “stopper” in every sense of the word and seems to be enjoying his role despite having to cover for his partner.
Aziz Behich – Australia
One of the best leftbacks in the competition and I dare anyone to say otherwise! Behich has been good both defensively and offensively and is always providing options to a troubled team mate.
Roman Zobnin – Russia
A workhorse who never tires! Zobnin hounds the ball and opponents in midfield. He also uses the ball well and is good in retaining possession.
Takashi Inui – Japan
Inui may have been a surprise starter for Japan in left midfield but he has not disappointed with his work rate and agility. He may be small in stature but quick thinking and confidence on the ball has been a hallmark of his at this World Cup.
Amr Warda – Egypt
He certainly has had a better World Cup than Mohamed Salah. Very similar in that both are left footed, Warda gives the team better balance too because he has better awareness without the ball.
Ismaila Sarr – Senegal
This young and speedy winger has caused trouble with his directness and quick thinking. Perfectly comfortable in the high tempo style of Senegal and neither hides nor disappears during matches.
Ante Rebic – Croatia
He may argue already being world class but that’s just his confidence. An absolute brute, as defenders in the Bundesliga will testify, Rebic is more than just a bully. He has power, technique and can build a head of steam once he gets going. His former boss at Eintracht Frankfurt, Nico Kovac has taken over at Bayern Munich and Rebic will be a good investment. Certainly better than Sandro Wagner!
Viktor Claesson – Sweden
Clearly the fastest player in a very pedestrian Swedish team, Claesson works well in a inside right position. His strength is making strong runs beyond the strikers and his direct style has provided an attacking option for the Swedes.
With the final round of group matches to play before the knockout stage begins, these players have certainly earned their right as world cuppers.
[Serbegeth Singh is a former Malaysian international footballer and current football analyst. For the duration of the World Cup 2018, he will share his thoughts at Asia Samachar on Mondays, looking back at the action in Russia over the week]
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
The Best, not! (Asia Samachar, 18 June 2018)
Lawyer Rupinder Bains first Asian to join English football’s governing body (Asia Samachar, 23 Nov 2017)
Solstar sponsors Cameroon soccer club (Asia Samachar, 8 April 2017)