With an action-packed opening round of group stage fixtures coming to an end in Russia, we take a look at how all sixteen City players have kicked off their World Cup campaigns…
From Russia’s brutal demolition of Saudi Arabia to Senegal’s surprise defeat of Poland, the first sixteen matches of the 2018 tournament have not disappointed. With seven of the games featuring countries with at least one Manchester City player in their squad, it was an eye-catching set of fixtures for blues across the planet. But who stood out and who struggled to impress? In alphabetical order by country, let’s recap…
Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli took the unorthodox but rather helpful measure of announcing his team for Argentina’s opening game on Friday, the day before they played Iceland. He revealed that Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi would both start alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Angel Di María. Aguero scored the opening goal – and his first ever World Cup goal – of what would end as a 1-1 draw, rifling a fierce shot into the top corner for one of the best strikes of the tournament so far.
There was an expected start against Panama on Monday night for Kevin De Bruyne, who ran the match and claimed an ingenious assist with the outside of his foot for Romelu Lukaku’s first goal. Vincent Kompany missed the game through injury.
Danilo and Gabriel Jesus started for Tite’s side as they drew 1-1 with Switzerland. Ederson watched the game from the bench, while Fernandinho came on for the last half an hour. None of the City players managed to leave their mark on a very tight game.
Raheem Sterling started on Monday night as the Three Lions claimed a dramatic late victory over Tunisia. Kyle Walker also played the full game, giving away a controversial penalty, while John Stones played brilliantly and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. Fabian Delph nearly got on the pitch as a first-half substitute, but in the end didn’t play.
Not much to write home about here as Benjamin Mendy was an unused substitute in France’s 2-1 win over Australia on Saturday morning.
Ilkay Gundogan was another unused substitute as world champions Germany fell to a shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico. The performances from some of the German midfielders would certainly suggest that Ilkay will be getting a game soon.
Bernardo Silva started Portugal’s opener against Spain in what was the first really huge game of the tournament, but never really got going and was substituted off after just over an hour as a Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw.
It was a Silva showdown as David Silva lined up opposite his City teammate for Spain vs Portugal on Friday night. Fernando Hierro, Spain’s last-minute replacement coach, deployed Silva on the right side of an attacking midfield trio alongside Andres Iniesta and former City target Isco. El Mago played well, taking a clever free kick to create Spain’s second, but didn’t quite hit his ceiling.
Before we wrap things up, time to introduce a short new segment for this series that I’m going to tentatively title…
Aaron Mooy played the full 90 for Australia against France and was one of the best players on the pitch.
Willy Caballero started Argentina’s 1-1 draw against Iceland on Saturday, enjoying a mostly solid game.
Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench late on in Nigeria’s defeat to Croatia, but didn’t have time to make an impact.
Aleksandar Kolarov captained Serbia on Sunday and scored a magnificent free-kick in their 1-0 win over Costa Rica.
Join us on Sunday night as we analyse the performances from City’s players in the second round of group stage matches…