FC Barcelona at the World Cup: Matchday 2


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All dates are based on EST.

Spain - Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, *Andres Iniesta

Iran made Spain work for the result in another match at this World Cup that proved that possession isn't everything. Gerard Pique bounced back after a shaky performance against Portugal and Sergio Busquets was debatably Spain's best midfielder for the second straight game. Iniesta and Jordi Alba were lacking in a contest that was decided in the mixer, and the game against an offensive-minded Morocco side (with nothing to show for it) may be a better display of their attacking prowess.

Group Stage Matches: 3-3 v. Portugal, 1-0 v. Iran, June 25 v. Morocco

Argentina - Lionel Messi, *Javier Mascherano

A lot has been written about this game and Lionel Messi in particular, so here is an offer to put the reaction to this and the future of Argentina's national team in your ears instead with tomorrow's podcast.

Group Stage Matches: 1-1 v. Iceland, 0-3 v. Croatia, June 26 v. Nigeria

Brazil - Philippe Coutinho, Paulinho

For the second straight game, Philippe Coutinho looked to be Brazil's best player, bagging the important goal in stoppage time. The road hasn't been easy with both Switzerland and Costa Rica willing to defend, but Coutinho and Paulinho have been essential to the results. The latter was sharper than he was against Switzerland, and the match against a physical Serbian side and a necessary three points to win the group could make the final group stage match the perfect showcase for Paulinho.

Group Stage Matches: 1-1 v. Switzerland, 2-0 v. Costa Rica, June 27 v. Serbia

France - Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti

Samuel Umtiti was better than he was against Australia, but that isn't saying much. He dealt with Paolo Guerrero all night and Peru didn't get on the scoresheet, so that should be considered a moral victory if nothing else. Ousmane Dembele was relegated to the bench as expected, but he made one dribble in his 15 minutes on the field after substituting on for Kylian Mbappe. He didn't see much of the ball, and it is still a wonder how Didier Deschamps will utilize him for the rest of France's tournament.

Group Stage Matches: 2-1 v. Australia, 1-0 v. Peru, June 26 v. Denmark

Germany - Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn't feature so the hope is that Cules were able to watch a pulse-pounding game as neutrals.

Group Stage Matches: 0-1 v. Mexico, 2-1 v. Sweden, June 27 v. South Korea

Uruguay - Luis Suarez

Edinson Cavani was still off-target, but Luis Suarez finally found the back of the net in this tournament in his 100th appearance for his country. It was a poacher's goal coming off the corner kick, but being in the right place at the right time is what Cules know he does best. A date with either Portugal or Spain (Iran is still alive as well) await them in the next round, so defenses will get more difficult in a hurry.

Group Stage Matches: 1-0 v. Egypt, 1-0 v. Saudi Arabia, June 25 v. Russia

Croatia - Ivan Rakitic

Ever polarizing Cules with his play on the field while being one of the least polarizing players off it, Ivan Rakitic had the best performance of any FC Barcelona player at the World Cup in the 3-0 win over Argentina; and it isn't close. His late goal put the cherry on top of a terrific day for the Croatian, who was a menace to his opponent in almost every way imaginable. His positioning alongside Luka Modric was close to perfection, and when the game did open up, he was found saving goals inside the penalty box while being one of the first players upfield on the break. If his performance hadn't come against Lionel Messi, he would have been lauded and applauded; instead, it may be forgotten or more unfortunately, remembered as the game that slammed the door on his teammate's World Cup hopes.

Group Stage Matches: 2-0 v. Nigeria, 3-0 v. Argentina, June 26 v. Iceland

Colombia - Yerry Mina

Exaggerations run amok in the World Cup, for better or worse, and Yerry Mina may have helped his stock immensely with his outing against Poland. After not featuring in the loss to Japan in the first group stage game after an early red card, Mina stepped in to partner Davinson Sanchez at the back. His goal and celebration will make the highlights, but Mina's length gave Robert Lewandowski some trouble and the Colombian also used his speed to break up a counter-attack or two. The swagger that he brings to the field was not the only reason for Colombia's turnaround (James Rodriguez also returned to the starting line-up), but they were certainly a much more confident team this time around.

Group Stage Matches: 1-2 v. Japan, 3-0 v. Poland, June 28 v. Senegal

Belgium - Thomas Vermaelen

Thomas Vermaelen did make the Belgium bench, but he was not needed in his country's commanding 5-2 win over Tunisia.

Group Stage Matches: 3-0 v. Panama, 5-2 v. Tunisia, June 28 v. England

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