A number of Premier League players were packing for home as a result of Serbia’s defeat. Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic worked hard to stop Coutinho in particular inhabiting dangerous positions in between the lines, while Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrovic again showed what a handful he can be with a powerful display as the lone striker – although when the chances came, and they did, he was crucially unable to take them. Teammate Dusan Tadic, who linked up well with Mitrovic without setting the tournament alight, left the Premier League the same day he left the World Cup – he has signed for Ajax and leaves Southampton wondering what might have been. Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka had a mixed time in Switzerland’s 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, gifting already-eliminated opponents a couple of early chances but starting the move that led to his country’s second on the night.
In a dramatic finale to Group F that no one saw, Xhaka’s club teammate Mesut Ozil was recalled to the starting line-up for a Germany side that, as we have covered above, crashed out in ignominious fashion. Ozil started out on the left, but drifted into a more central role as the game progressed. He was their main creative threat and they did look better when he was on the ball, holding his position outside the box and looking to thread passes through or float crosses in. Germany may have failed as a team, but Ozil was one of their better players on the day – he created enough opportunities for his teammates to get the job done.
Tottenham attacker Son Heung-min was the beneficiary of Germany’s kamikaze late approach, slotting home South Korea’s second into an empty net with Manuel Neuer in another parish. Korea’s historic win over the defending champions gave them something to take home with them, but in the group’s other fixture there are Premier League players hanging around for a while yet. A Sweden team featuring Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof are growing in stature as the tournament goes on, with their 3-0 win over Javier Hernandez and Mexico sending the Central American side into a last-16 tie with Brazil.
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