Golden Boot favourite Harry Kane turns in listless display as England slump to Belgium defeat

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Harry Kane's World Cup came to an end with a quiet display.

Harry Kane‘s World Cup came to an end on Saturday with an ineffectual display as England lost the third-place game to Belgium 2-0.

Kane was unable to add to his tally of six goals for the tournament, though he’s still the frontrunner to win the Golden Boot.

Here’s a closer look at the England captain’s performance against Belgium.

KEY STATS

Goals – 0

Shots – 2

Shots on target – 0

Pass accuracy – 100%

Key Passes – 0

Dribbles – 0

Touches – 26

30-SECOND REPORT

Saturday’s middling display concluded a strange World Cup for Kane, who will likely go home with the Golden Boot having never truly lit up the tournament. In a way the striker’s performance here summed up his team’s as a whole in Russia – full of admirable effort, but not good enough to truly threaten a stronger team.

GOT RIGHT

Kane had a 100% accuracy on his passing, one of the few bright spots of his display on Saturday. He rarely attempted anything too expansive, but his link-up play was statistically perfect. In fact, he may be entitled to complain at the service he received, given how well he was able to find his team-mates throughout the game.

GOT WRONG

Kane was barely involved in the final third – his 26 touches were the joint-lowest of anyone on the pitch from the two starting XIs, alongside England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Given this was a chance to lead England to their best-ever World Cup finish since 1966, and end his own tournament on a high, it was a strangely limp display from the captain.

VERDICT

There are days when Kane’s effort masks the shortcomings in his display, and this was one of those days. The Tottenham striker clearly tried hard, but couldn’t get involved enough to have a true impact on this game. Belgium’s defence nullified his threat and he could do little about it as England’s thrilling World Cup came to a limp end.

In fairness, though, and if reports are correct, Kane was hampered by a niggling injury problem throughout.

RATING – 6/10

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Which players join Mbappe and Zidane in our combined France 1998 and 2018 World Cup XI?

Matt Jones 15/07/2018
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France and Croatia meet in the World Cup final on Sunday, and it’s been 20 years since Les Bleus lifted the title on home soil.

Back in 1998, Croatia’s golden generation glistened on their tournament bow but were beaten by France 2-1 on their way to lifting a maiden World Cup title.

There were some fabulous players on both sides of the ball in that 1998 last four showdown, and the 2018 vintages also boast some of modern football’s finest.

For France 20 years ago there was Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry. On Sunday, Didier Deschamps – himself the captain in that 1998 triumph – can pick the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

But who would you select if you had to merge the two sides? Here, we pick our combined France XI from the 1998 and current teams.

FRANCE COMBINED XI (4-3-1-2)

GK – HUGO LLORIS (C)

Has had a few shaky moments during the tournament after a less than stellar season with Spurs, flapping at a few crosses, but he has been called upon on several occasions to save France – his stunning reflex save to deny Toby Alderweireld in the semi-final one of several highlights and arguably the save of the tournament.

RB – LILIAN THURAM

Only ever scored two goals in his 142-cap career, but both came in the same game as Croatia finally woke up from their dream debut and crashed out at the semi-final stage, with Thuram’s brace earning Les Bleus passage to the final with a 2-1 paving the way to glory.

Switched to right-back for the tournament and helped form a formidable French backbone in defence that conceded only two goals in seven matches. His exploits earned him the FIFA Bronze Ball, the third best player at the tournament, behind Ronaldo and Davor Suker.

CB – RAPHAEL VARANE

He and Samuel Umtiti can follow Marcel Desailly and Laurent Blanc into the history books and join the ranks of French football folklore should they emulate the stoic centre-back pairing that provided the bedrock for glory 20 years ago.

Has his detractors but has been really reliable in Russia, leading France in clearances (6.5) and aerials won (4) per game.

CB – MARCEL DESAILLY

A serial winner who lifted two Champions Leagues and two Serie A titles at club level before forming a crucial part of the first French side to lift a World Cup.

Blessed with being an incredible athlete, Desailly combined this with his warrior-like work ethic and attitude – even though he was admonished for being sent off in the final as France triumphed.

LB – BIXENTE LIZARAZU

A marauding left-back who married flair with a fierce competitive streak, he was regarded as one of the best players ever in his position, even if he was essentially ahead of his time.

One of France’s most decorated footballers, adding the European Championship title in 2000, while he won the Champions League and six Bundesliga crowns with Bayern Munich. After retiring in 2006 he continued raking in the honours – he won a European jiu-jitsu title in 2009.

CM – PAUL POGBA

Came into the tournament with plenty to prove having endured a torrid club season with Manchester United, but has been a commanding and creative presence – his eight key passes are joint second for France.

His defensive diligence, meanwhile – nine tackles is fifth while only Varane has won more aerial duels (19) – has seen him shine all round in Deschamps’ defence-first approach.

Answering his critics: Paul Pogba.

CM – N’GOLO KANTE

Relentless energy has run opponents ragged at this World Cup – he has covered the third most metres and played 64 and eight minutes less than Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic ahead of him respectively.

Has been the steel to Paul Pogba’s silk in Les Bleus’ midfield and his performance in the final will surely dictate the tone, and outcome, of this pivotal encounter.

CM – BLAISE MATUIDI

Energetic and unselfish outings have underpinned this efficient rather than effervescent French final run. Now 31 and having moved to Juventus having been pushed out the door at PSG, yet has not looked a step off in Russia – often playing out of position too.

He was excellent in an alien left wing forward role in the semi-final dissection of Belgium – his incessant stamina and suffocation of opponents’ possession helping France suck the life out of games.

AM – ZINEDINE ZIDANE

The French phenom is the first name on the teamsheet, though this was far from his tournament, despite the fact the Marseille magician conjured two goals in the final as favourites Brazil were swept away at the Stade de France.

His tournament prior to that had been highlighted by his red card for a stamp on Saudi Arabia’s Fuad Amin in the group stage and he was subdued in both the quarter-final and semi before bursting back to life against Brazil. But we defy you to leave him out of any combined XI.

Zinedine Zidane netted a brace in the World Cup final.

ST – KYLIAN MBAPPE

Has ushered in what could prove to be a changing of the guard as giants of the game Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi exited early on with some excellent displays.

France have been nearly flawless and even when they were challenged in a brilliant last 16 clash against Messi and Co, Mbappe’s brilliance and four-minute brace helped turned the tide back in Les Bleus’ favour. A Golden Ball contender.

ST – ANTOINE GRIEZMANN

Hasn’t been at his blistering goalscoring best – his three goals have come via two penalties and a fortuitous effort from range against Uruguay that Fernando Muslera won’t ever forget – but he has grown into the tournament.

His off the ball play, meanwhile, has been sublime, as he’s allowed Mbappe to rampage through defences while he roams and links play between attack and midfield.

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Which players join Modric and Suker in our combined Croatia 1998 and 2018 World Cup XI?

Matt Jones 15/07/2018
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France and Croatia meet in the World Cup final on Sunday, and it’s been 20 years since the Vatreni’s golden generation glistened on their tournament bow – beaten by Les Bleus 2-1 on their way to lifting a maiden World Cup title.

There were some fabulous players on both sides of the ball in that 1998 last four showdown, and the 2018 vintages also boast some of modern football’s finest.

Back in 1998 the Balkan nation boasted generational stars like Davor Suker – who won the tournament’s Golden Boot – and Zvonimir Boban.

On Sunday, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will lead the charge as they look to become the ninth winners of the World Cup.

But who would you pick if you had to merge the two sides? Here, we pick our combined Croatia XI from the 1998 and current teams.

CROATIA COMBINED XI (4-3-1-2)

GK – DANIJEL SUBASIC

He’s not exactly unheard of as he’s played with French giants Monaco since 2012, but he wouldn’t have been on many peoples’ radar for goalkeepers to watch in Russia prior to the tournament.

Yet the 33-year-old has been superb, getting his gloves on just about everything. He’s saved four spot-kicks in two penalty shootouts as all three of Croatia’s knockout ties have gone beyond 90 minutes.

RB – SIME VRSALJKO

Not a big name but another who’s made a big impact for Croatia, getting up and down the right wing to aid in attacks as well as going about his defensive duties diligently.

The Atletico Madrid man’s width and delivery was essential as Croatia gradually climbed into the semi-final against England, and against inexperienced club-mate Lucas Hernandez, the marauding right-back could have a telling say.

CB IGOR STIMAC

Rough strength and a compact defence that only allowed two goals in five matches before the France defeat 20 years ago were hallmarks of Croatia’s triumph – typified by cult Derby County centre-back Stimac.

The muscular Croat was never the quickest, but alongside Slaven Bilic, he helped provide an iron curtain barrier for opposition attackers to try and chip away at.

CB – SLAVEN BILIC

Bilic was brilliant at the back as the Vatreni marched to third place, although his controversial role in the sending off of French counterpart Laurent Blanc blighted his tournament.

Bilic never looked much like a footballer but his brute force and sheer will was absolutely key to Croatia’s run, which came on the back of only gaining independence in 1991.

”Before, we had just come out of the war and we were like soldiers on the pitch, making our country recognised,” said Bilic at the tournament. They certainly managed to achieve that.

LB – ROBERT JARNI

If you’re only going to score one international goal, you’d best make it memorable. And Jarni, who loved to get forward and possessed a thunderous left-foot, certainly achieved that, netting the opening goal as Germany were torn apart 3-0 in the quarter-finals. It was the full-back’s only goal in 81 caps for the Vatreni.

He played in all seven games, having appeared in the 1990 World Cup for Yugoslavia. Retired from international football in 2002, but went on to win two international caps for Croatia at futsal.

CM – IVAN RAKITIC

Came into this tournament expecting to share the creative burden with Real Madrid’s Modric, but the Barcelona pivot has left it largely to his captain to drag Croatia into the final.

His seven key passes is joint second for Croatia but is dwarfed by Modric’s 14, while he is yet to register an assist. He has, however, shown his poise in clutch moments – scoring the winning penalties against both Denmark and Russia.

Cool head: Ivan Rakitic.

CM – ZVONIMIR BOBAN

Boban became the spiritual leader of the Croatia team years before their biggest achievement when, on May 13, 1990, during a Yugoslav League match between the Croat-supported Dynamo Zagreb and the Serb-supported Red Star Belgrade, he reportedly kicked a Yugoslav police officer who had raised a truncheon at a Croatian fan.

Boban, unsurprisingly, lost his chance to participate in the 1990 World Cup for a united Yugoslavia, but he became a national hero to the Croats. ‘Zorro’, as he was nicknamed, could also kick a ball around a bit too, a talented and creative yet tenacious player, known for his eye for the final ball especially during his AC Milan days.

CM – IVAN PERISIC

Was spoken of as being one of Croatia’s main weapons in their armory coming into the tournament, and he belatedly got going when it mattered as he stabbed in the equaliser against England.

Had been expected to chiefly carry Croatia’s wide threat but has been put in the shadow by Eintracht Frankfurt flyer Ante Rebic. Now he’s in the groove though he could be a dangerous prospect for France.

AM – LUKA MODRIC (C)

Only 5ft 7in yet he is a monster of a midfielder, his influence rising with each game that passes – no player (who has played six matches) has covered more ground than his 63km.

His goal in the 3-0 thrashing of supposed contenders Argentina was breathtaking, his nerves of steel to convert a penalty in the shootout against Denmark, having earlier missed one to win it in extra-time, brave beyond belief. A diminutive player who could have a big say in this final.

ST – DAVOR SUKER

A silky striker who took his chance to shine as Croatia announced themselves to the world 20 years ago. Scored in every game bar the 1-0 group stage defeat to Argentina – including winners against Japan and, crucially, in the last 16 against Romania and 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the third-place play-off.

Capped a sublime tournament both personally and for his nation as his six goals saw him take home the Golden Boot.

Prolific: Davor Suker.

ST – MARIO MANDZUKIC

Mandzukic probably isn’t one of the most coveted strikers in world football, but he’s certainly one of the most underrated. He’s not stylish or subtle, but what he is, is tenacious and tireless.

He drags defenders around and creates the space for teammates blessed with speed and flair players to move into. Only Dejan Lovren has won more aerial duels on average per game than his 4.6. He’s the man for the big occasion too, as proved by his match-winning goal against England.

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