Denmark player ratings as Kasper Schmeichel keeps Peru at bay in stunning goalkeeping show

Matt Jones 16/06/2018
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Denmark edged home 1-0 in their World Cup opener against Peru, but it was far from an explosive performance from Danish Dynamite – with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel their hero.

Yussef Poulsen proved their matchwinner when he put away Christian Eriksen‘s pass in their one true moment of quality.

Here we analyse the performance of the Danish players.

DENMARK (4-2-3-1)

Kasper Schmeichel – 9:

A performance dad Peter would have been proud of. Clawed Carillo’s goalbound effort away from the bottom corner and denied Farfan late on. Faultless.

Henrik Dalsgaard – 6:

Peru probed constantly and the Brentford man formed a key part of a diligent Danish defensive effort.

Simon Kjaer – 7:

Did brilliantly to block Farfan’s fierce strike that was surely heading in and generally marshalled the backline brilliantly.

Andreas Christensen – 7:

Kept the lively Jefferson Farfan in check, continuing on from an impressive debut season at club level.

Jens Larsen – 6:

Was taunted and tested throughout by the tireless Andre Carillo, but never shirked his responsibilities.

William Kvist – 5:

Worryingly collided with Farfan and was stretchered off midway through the first half. Appeared to catch a knee in the ribs.

Thomas Delaney – 6:

Prowled the centre of the field to allow his flair players ahead of him to try and work their magic.

Yussuf Poulsen – 8:

Composed finish from the RB Leipzig striker, who sent Denmark flying to this victory. A crucial defensive header kept lead intact.

Christian Eriksen – 7:

Though he struggled to assert his dominance initially, his key pass put Poulsen in to put the Danes ahead.

Pione Sisto – 6:

The best part of the opening goal was the Uganda-born flyer’s sumptuous outside of the right boot pass to send Eriksen into space.

Nicolai Jorgensen – 5:

The focal point for his side, but was often isolated and didn’t do enough to keep the ball when he did see it.

SUBS:

Lasse Schone – 6:

Replaced the injured Kvist and offered strength and solidity to his side.

Martin Braithwaite – 6:

Came on and played his part in breaking up attacks and contributing going forward.

Mathias Jorgensen N/A:

A late replacement for Christensen, little time to make an impact.

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World Cup 2018: Brazil team is good but has plenty to prove, says former Arsenal star Gilberto Silva

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Gilberto Silva knows exactly what it takes to win football’s most coveted prize.

The former midfielder lifted the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and is backing the current crop to emulate that star-studded team.

Gilberto believes Brazil have plenty of ability at their disposal but has warned the relatively young squad that they still have much to prove.

“They’re good. I don’t like to compare because from 2002 we won and it’s very hard when you put a champion team alongside another team that still has something to prove,” the former Arsenal star told Sport360.

“What I can say is that they’re a very good team. They play very nice football, they look strong and sharp and I hope they do well in Russia.

“Maybe they’re lucky and win it. That’s my expectation. I’ll be there cheering them and I hope everything goes well but it’s not going to be easy.”

During that triumph in 2002, Gilberto operated as part of a double pivot alongside Kleberson. The pair played in behind a fierce attacking triumvirate of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo, compensating for their uninhibited attacking play by bringing stability to the side.

The 41-year-old stresses the importance of striking the right balance for the current Brazil side as well.

“They’re strong up front and that’s very good. Not only the first XI but they’ve got very good replacements on the bench. The guys up front are important when you have good balance.

“You see the guys in the middle such as Casemiro, in partnership with Paulinho, Renato Augusto – last month Fred played as well. And at the back Miranda, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva; whoever plays at the back and Marcelo.

“You must have a good balance. From what I see now, they got a good balance, from the goalkeeper to the men up front. I hope everything works well because the pressure is massive.”

Gilberto Silva (r) won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.

Gilberto Silva (r) won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.

Tite took over as head coach in the summer of 2016 following the team’s disappointing performance at the Copa America under Dunga.

Gilberto has since been impressed by the impact the 56-year-old has had on the team, particularly crediting him for bringing back the attacking brand of football that Brazil have traditionally been associated with and pride themselves on.

“His influence on the team has been massive. The way he works with the players, the way he’s set up the style and system of playing. It’s good because he brought back our style,” he added.

“Everyone wants to see Brazil playing nice football – dribbling, scoring goals and getting the results. I hope they do the same in the competition. The impact of him is very good, very important because he knows how to manage the people around him and the players to get the best out of them.”

And when Brazil do get into their stride and play with the kind of swagger befitting of genuine World Cup contenders, it’s often their talisman Neymar who is central to it all.

The nationwide concern for the superstar during his spell on the sidelines was then digestible given his importance to their success. Neymar has however returned to action in some style, producing excellent performances in Brazil’s warm-up games.

Concerns that the Paris Saint-Germain forward lacking in sharpness in Russia were quickly dispelled.

It’s not only his ability on the ball that Gilberto hopes will come to the fore for Brazil in its fullest effect at the tournament but also the part he plays as a leader.

Neymar has been out since February.

Neymar spent three months out injured.

“I hope everything goes right for him and also for Brazil because we need him to help and lead the team,” Gilberto said.

He is also hoping to see Brazil and Germany meet in the final of this summer’s competition which would be a repeat of the showpiece event back in 2002.

However, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a wildcard going far in the tournament and while he refrained from picking out any dark horses, a youthful looking Belgium side has certainly caught his eye.

“You never know. Football is unpredictable. Many people talk about Brazil, Spain, France, Germany and maybe Portugal (as favourites).

“It will be nice to have a surprise but let’s see, only time will tell. We have a very young generation from Belgium and there is a lot of expectation from them as well.”

Gilberto was speaking at the Russian festival Matryoshka in Dubai last month.

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Messi strangled by Argentina pressure, while rival Ronaldo embraces expectation

Alex Rea 16/06/2018
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Lionel Messi missed a penalty as Iceland grabbed a deserved 1-1 draw against two-time World Cup winners Argentina.

Sergio Aguero’s opener was cancelled out by Alfred Finnbogason’s predatory finish before half-time as the smallest nation ever to qualify for the tournament made a stirring debut on football’s biggest stage.

And goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson joined Finnbogason in the country’s footballing folklore by thwarting Messi from the penalty spot in the second half to preserve a memorable point.

Here, we examine some of the key talking points from the Group-D clash.

ICE GRIP OF FUNDAMENTALS

Argentina v Iceland: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Perusing the plethora of team guides in the pre-World Cup build-up there was one common piece of analysis on Iceland – limited.

But the contextual talk of population sizes and their enchanting thunder clap pulls a veil over what is a well-drilled, organised outfit which is capable of punishing and exploiting opponents.

Granted, they play defensively, boss Heimir Hallgrimsson employing a fixed 4-5-1 against Argentina and even switching to five at the back in the latter stages. But there is an art to defending well.

It’s not just about simply having numbers behind the ball and hoping for the best. Iceland are disciplined and they carried out a discernible plan which was to allow Messi possession when he was deep and then suffocate his options to release the ball.

Their bodyshape to limit the sight of goal whenever an Argentine player was within range was superb as, too, their dominance in the air from crosses into the box.

Defending is an acquired taste but when done well deserves appreciation.

If you contrast that to Argentina, Jorge Sampaoli deployed a wealth of attackers but there was no craft or guile from any player not named Messi.

It’s no use having the numbers, whether in attack or defence, if not carried out in the right manner. Essentially, one side defended immensely, the other attacked poorly.

Iceland’s aim is be the most disciplined and organised team at his tournament and to wed those qualities to well-worked counter-attacks and set-piece delivery. Few sides will want to face them in Russia.

MESSI’S MENTAL BLOCK

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH7-ARG-ISL

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to witness Messi missing from the spot.

From 103 penalties taken for both club and country, his latest denial was the 24th time he’s failed to dispatch a penalty. The question is, why?

It is only natural to compare the Argentine to his Portuguese rival Cristiano Ronaldo and when it comes to their ability to step up from 12 yards, the latter is far better, scoring 85 per cent of his 123 spot-kicks – an eight-per-cent rise on Messi.

And it serves to point to the mentality of the two stars. Talking purely in terms of ability, Messi is near supernatural and is arguably the most-talented footballer we’ve ever seen.

But there is a steely determination and focus to Ronaldo which is virtually unrivalled. Simply put, he doesn’t simply shoulder pressure, but he embraces and thrives on it.

For a cerebral player such as Messi, the same force is perhaps a block on his ability because it wasn’t that he played poorly against Iceland, he was the best player on the pitch after all, it’s that he just was not himself.

Messi cannoning a late free-kick against the Iceland wall was a symbolic illustration of his performance – he simply hit a barrier both mentally and physically.

ARGENTINA’S DEFENSIVE ISSUES

GettyImages-976159142

This clash provided a clear illumination of virtues like unity, cohesion and solidarity contrasted to vices such as division and detachment.

Iceland’s centre-back partnership consisted of a defender who finished 11th in the Russian Premier League with FC Rostov (Ragnar Sigurdsson) and a 35-year-old recently released by Aberdeen (Kari Arnason).

It hardly speaks to a world-class defensive heart on paper, yet they formed an elite pairing in comparison to the disconnected Nicolas Otamendi and Marcos Rojo.

The latter in particular was uncomfortable and looked shattered to pieces against the physicality of the Icemen.

The yawning schism between the two was alarming on occasion. Against more attack-minded sides, it will be exploited.

The same distinction can be drawn from the two goalkeepers. Willy Caballero really struggled and panicked when he failed to collect a sliced effort from Glyfi Sigurdsson which ended with Finnbogason’s historic finish.

His opposite number, Hannes Thor Halldorsson, however, seems molded from the same battered rock of his homeland as he weathered storm after storm, staying calm to produce two excellent saves – one from the spot, the other from substitute Cristian Pavon’s late strike.

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