After one month of hard work and dedication, France won the FIFA World Cup 2018, while Luka Modric’s Croatia ended up being the runner-up.
Throughout the tournament, we saw extraordinary performances from many players and some lucky escapes from some other. But, in this special piece, we will talk about a few players who, in one way or the other, were unlucky during this World Cup. It goes without saying that Mauro Icardi or Leroy Sane are possibly the most unfortunate names for World Cup 2018, but let us not talk about them. Instead, we restrict ourselves to the players who were part of some team, yet due to no major fault of their own, their World Cup journey ended in tears.
(5) Kasper Schmeichel and Mathias Jorgensen (Denmark):
This duo’s name is listed together for the same reason. Their performance was key factor behind Denmark’s amazing display against Croatia in the Round of Sixteen. In the very first minute of the match, Jorgensen put his team in the lead, but that did not last long as Mandzukic equalized moments later. Then, Schmeichel’s magnificent show between the sticks kept the Danes in contention for a quarter final spot.
During the extra time though, Croatian attack got a delicious opportunity with only the goalkeeper to beat. This time, Jorgensen ran from behind and made a tackle inside the box. The referee naturally awarded a penalty and Modric stepped up to take it. But, to the sheer ecstasy of the Denmark fans, it was Schmeichel who had the last laugh. The Leicester City goalkeeper guessed it right and saved the penalty to take the match to shootout. There, he saved two more spot-kicks and did his part right. However, his teammates failed to live up to the expectations and they saw three of their kicks to be saved by Subasic. Schmeichel, however, got the Man of the Match award and will be remembered as one of the tragic heroes of this tournament.
(4) Edinson Cavani (Uruguay):
The Latin Americans were magnificent in the group stage and they topped Group A, without conceding a single goal. In the round of sixteen, thanks to Cavani’s brilliance, they brushed aside the challenge of Cristiano Ronaldo and defeated Portugal 2-1. The PSG man scored both goals for this team. However, he got an unfortunate injury after this match and could not feature in the Quarter Final against France. The eventual champions got a 2-0 win against Luis Suarez and co, and Uruguay had to bow out of the World Cup. It can never be said what would have happened if Cavani could feature in the match, but it is certain that he was very unfortunate to get the injury in the most crucial time.
(3) Igor Akinfeev (Russia):
Here is another goalkeeper who was at his best, but he did not get the necessary support from his teammates. And once again, this happened against Croatia. Akinfeev’s heroics against Spain took the hosts to the last eight, and he continued that in the quarter final too. This time during the shootout, the custodian made a save to restore parity after Smolov missed his penalty. But then, Fernandes took a very bad kick to give advantage to Croatia. To make matters worse, Modric’s shot, after Akinfeev guessed it correct, rolled into the goal after hitting the post. In the end, Russia had to succumb to the defeat but the custodian’s name will go down to the history book of World Cup as a tragic hero.
(2) Roberto Firmino (Brazil):
The Liverpool man was one of the best performers of the Premier League 2017/18, and was instrumental behind the Reds’ successful run in the Champions League as well. However, Tite chose to ignore him continuously and persisted with an out-of-form Gabriel Jesus up front, even when that did not provide results.
Firmino got a total of 82 minutes game-time in five matches Brazil played, and he showed his class in that short interval. The 26-year-old even scored from the bench against Mexico in the Round of Sixteen game. He had 7 attempts at the goal in those 82 minutes, while Jesus recorded 10 from the 506 minutes he played in the tournament. Firmino deserved more time and it would have been much better for his country as well, don’t you think?
(1) Paulo Dybala (Argentina):
And now, let’s talk about the most unfortunate player of the tournament. Before the World Cup began, Dybala was being considered as one of the upcoming stars of the extravaganza. He scored 22 goals (third highest in the league) during Serie A 2017/18 season, and was pivotal in Juventus’s title-winning run. It naturally came as a surprise to most fans across the world when Jorge Sampaoli did not field him at all, even when the side struggled to produce an inspiring performance.
Dybala was used as a substitute against Croatia in the group league and those 22 minutes were all he had in the biggest stage of football. One of the most lethal attackers in the world had to finish his first World Cup journey without getting a chance to showcase his talents. This is surely the most unfortunate incident from World Cup 2018, both for the player and the viewers.
Photo by Leandro.C