Out with the old
The world witnessed an unofficial changing of the guard at the weekend, as French starlet Kylian Mbappe surged through the Argentine defence, with Lionel Messi watching helplessly on as his ageing teammates were ripped apart by a fresher, younger group of players. Messi managed to work only one of his three shots on target – amazingly, it was the only shot on target in the whole game that failed to result in a goal.
Messi’s long-time club rival Cristiano Ronaldo suffered a similar fate, as his Portugal team – the reigning European champions – went out 2-1 to Uruguay. Ronaldo also struggled to convert his shots on goal, with four of his six efforts blocked by a tenacious back line.
Between them, Messi and Ronaldo – unarguably the greatest players of their generation – have now played in a total of 14 World Cup knockout games. Incredibly, neither have scored a single knockout goal.
Pass but no penetrate
Spain’s dominant display of possession football against hosts Russia proved entirely ineffective, as they scored only through an own goal and eventually fell to defeat on penalties. They did, however, become the first team since 1966 to attempt more than 1,000 passes in a single World Cup match. Their total of 1,174 passes got them nowhere, sadly, as the 4-3 penalty scoreline was ultimately the only stat that mattered.
Frustratingly, the majority of their passes lacked direction, with a particular deficit of central penetration (see Tactics Truck, below). Lone central forward Diego Costa only had two passes directed towards him within the central lane, but both were unsuccessful long balls from deeper positions on a frustrating afternoon for the Atletico Madrid man. Isco was also uncharacteristically ineffective in possession, his 11 ball losses the highest on the Spanish team. Over half of these losses of possession came from inaccurate passes, as he struggled to connect with his teammates on the left side of the Spanish attack.