The Art of the Playmaker Gone at the World Cup?

    09 Jul 2018 | World Cup | Opinion
    The Art of the Playmaker Gone at the World Cup?
    Vlad1988 / Shutterstock.com

    The 2018 World Cup has been a very exciting tournament.  We have seen plenty of goals and drama, with last minute strikes and penalty shootouts.

    There has been just one 0-0 in the tournament prior to the semi-finals, which came in the final game of Group C between France and Denmark.  There was not a great deal riding on the outcome and both teams basically settled for a point.

    With four matches remaining in the competition, we have seen 157 goals, at an average of 2.62 goals per game.  It’s a good ratio but 14 goals behind that of 2014, meaning we could see slightly fewer goals in Russia.

    Nonetheless, at over 2.5 goals per game, you would expect to see some creative players stand out from the crowd. As in any other football tournament, such as the Premier League, La Liga or the Champions League, creative players are the ones who come out on top in the assists column.

    However, at the 2018 World Cup there has not been a single player who has stepped forward as being the main creative influence in their team.

    Belgium is a great example.  Entering the semi-final of the competition, Belgium are the top goal scorers, with 14 goals scored in five matches.  The game against England saw a much-changed team to the regular starting XI at the tournament but only one of Belgium’s goals came in that match.

    That leaves 13 goals scored across four games.  While Romelu Lukaku has scored 4 goals, the assists have been shared throughout the team.  Both Eden Hazard and Thomas Meunier have two assists each and this sees them lead the way for total assists at the 2018 World Cup, along with several other players already eliminated from the competition.

    Five other Belgian players have been credited with assists, but they each have one to their name.  Looking at their squad you would expect Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to be head and shoulders above their teammates when it comes to creating goals but that’s not the case.

    France, Belgium’s opponents in the World Cup semi-final, have scored 9 goals during the tournament.  Despite having Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in their team, not one of them has produced more than a single assist in Russia.

    In fact, Griezmann is the only player from that group who has an assist to his name, Pogba and Mbappe are yet to create a goal for France at the tournament.

    Croatia have scored 10 goals at the 2018 World Cup and you would expect to see Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic or Ivan Perisic at the top of the assists pile.  Rakitic and Perisic are yet to create a goal and Modric has just one assist to his name.

    A look back at previous World Cup tournaments shows not one player has managed to create more than 4 goals for his teammates. From 2002 until 2014, Michael Ballack, Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Cuadrado and Toni Kroos have finished the World Cup with 4 assists to their name and that is the top number recorded across those four competitions.

    Hazard is the only player who could replicate that number but it is unlikely he will go beyond it.  With France to play in the semi-final, the Chelsea man may not record another assist.

    Could the 2018 World Cup see the end of top creative players, with assists now being spread throughout the team as opposed to relying on a single creative influence?

    Predictions for World Cup

    Home team - Away team Tip
    flag_89 WC
    FranceCroatia
    15/07/2018 16:00
    X
    flag_89 WC
    BelgiumEngland
    14/07/2018 15:00
    1
    flag_89 WC
    CroatiaEngland
    11/07/2018 19:00
    X
    flag_89 WC
    FranceBelgium
    10/07/2018 19:00
    2

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