Dreams continue while others die a quick, heartless death after matchday two at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. While many of our Outside the Six stars representing their countries are beginning to crash out of the tournament after two matches, others are living the glory of success with their country’s badge above their left nipple. Let’s highlight the top performers after matchday two at the World Cup and discover whose stock is rising during the all-important summer transfer window.
Mexico – Chicharito
Mexico’s fairytale World Cup continued on Saturday. After slaying the German Giant in matchday one, Mexico found themselves as the hunted against a desperate South Korean side. Chicharito was back up top for El Tri and he was working well in his “poacher” role.
Chucky Lozano arrived on the world stage scoring against Germany with help from Chicharito. Against South Korea, the roles were reversed as Lozano slotted a perfect pass to Chicharito who didn’t hit the ball cleanly, but it still trickled in the decisive goal. This was Chicharito’s 50th goal for Mexico and its imperfect execution summed up his knack for finding goal no matter how or where he hits the ball.
The West Ham striker was the perfect point of the spear for the Mexican attack, completing 85 percent of his passes, making three take-ons and getting three shots on goal. Mexico aren’t safe, but they are rolling with Chicharito leading the way.
Switzerland – Xherdan Shaqiri
Whenever you pop your top, you’re making the list. And the shredded Xherdan Shaqiri blessed us all with his 90th-minute game-deciding goal with a celebration that oozed passion and a little “FU.”
Shaqiri was top class for a Switzerland side who are suddenly becoming an attractive underdog in the knockout stages. Starting on the right wing, Shaqiri constantly found himself in space on the right and left sides of the final third. If Granit Xhaka was the ignition, Shaqiri was the engine that fueled the Swiss blitz. He completed five take-ons, had an 89 percent pass completion rate and fired eight shots on goal.
Denmark – Henrik Dalsgaard
In a match that paired two countries with a total of 11 players in the Premier League (10, outside the six), is it a surprise when a right-back who plays for Brentford wins the Man of the Match? Okay, yeah, that came out of nowhere, but here we are.
Denmark’s Henrik Dalsgaard was up and down the right side all game, bombing forward for crosses into the box and pedaling back to head away Australia’s advances. Defensively is where Dalsgaard was most stingy. He was successful in all four of his tackle attempts and he stepped in front of three Socceroo passes. But where he stood out was clearing ability.
Time and time again Dalsgaard was putting out potential fires in Denmark’s own third preventing Robbie Kruse, Tomas Rogic and Andrew Nabbout from getting on the ball near the box.
Australia – Aaron Mooy
While cult football and national hero Mile Jedinak is scoring the goals for Australia, Huddersfield Town’s Aaron Mooy has played a hell of a World Cup for Australia. The midfield partner of Jedi has been arguably their best player.
Mooy has floated closer to the attacking half than his midfield partner, but just under the No. 10, Tomas Rogic. Mooy has also peppered opposing keepers from distance as he did twice against Kasper Schmeichel and Denmark.
Mooy’s three key passes against Denmark led the team and his 86 percent pass rate has allowed the Socceroos some hope when on the front foot.
Nigeria – Wilfred Ndidi
The three-man midfield for Nigeria is undoubtedly led by captain John Obi Mikel, but Leicester City youngster Wilfred Ndidi is covering the most ground and making the majority of the passes. Ndidi was so involved in Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Iceland, that he possessed the ball more than anyone else on the pitch (9 percent).
While striker Ahmed Musa grabbed the goals, Ndidi’s 100 touches led to eight aerial victories, four tackles, three interceptions and three clearances. He did all that work defensively while only committing one foul. And, man, did he look good in that green and white Nigeria kit.
Australia – Mile Jedinak: Dad?
Serbia – Alek Mitrovic: Will Newcastle set his price too high for Fulham after a goal against Switzerland.
Serbia – Dusan Tadic: Southampton fans, he showed up!
Poland – Grzegorz Krychowiak: Best player for Poland..again.
Tunisia – Wahbi Khazri: Goal. Assist. Still far from enough to make it close against Belgium.