The World Cup is over, and for the second time in a row a Tottenham Hotspur player got to lift the trophy. Cristian Romero helped Argentina win its third World Cup over Hugo Lloris and France in penalties in what was one of the most amazing World Cup finals, probably ever.
This feels like a good opportunity to reflect on the football a bit — specifically the 12 Tottenham players who went to Qatar. Some had phenomenal tournaments. Others were disappointing, along with their teams. I decided to break down my impressions of the players’ performances in the World Cup and whether or not their stock has gone up, down, or stuck in neutral when all was said and done.
Cristian Romero, Argentina
Quite clearly, Cuti was the big winner out of all of Tottenham’s World Cup players. He came home a World Cup champion, started all but one of Argentina’s matches, and had solid performances in just about every match. Cuti was fourth among all players in defensive clearances, fifth in tackles (with a 100% success rate), second in ball interceptions (behind Josko Gvardiol), and first in overall shithousery, at least in our hearts. Not bad for a guy basically playing himself back into fitness after a long-term injury at Spurs. Hopefully he can hit the ground running in North London, whenever he gets back.
Ivan Perisic, Croatia
No Tottenham players played more World Cup minutes than Ivan Perisic. If you had said that to me before the tournament, I’d have been worried, but Ivan’s Old Man Game was more than suited to the rigors of this competition. He was deployed in a more advanced role than he plays at Tottenham, and showed what he’s capable of with a team-leading three assists for Croatia and a goal against Japan in the Round of 16. A super impressive showing that should carry into the spring, assuming his legs don’t fall off first.
Hugo Lloris, France
We’ve been talking about how Hugo has been in something like a decline this season for Spurs, but he didn’t really show that for France. He was, actually, a stabilizing and solid presence between the sticks for the World Cup runners-up. He did give up three goals in the final (hey, it’s Messi, he’s forgiven) and had a couple of moments where the ol’ Spursy Hugo poked his head up, but he now holds the record for most World Cup appearances of any keeper and notably avoided any of the howlers that plagued him two years ago in the Euros. He didn’t get to lift the trophy again, but Spurs fans should be encouraged by his performances.
Pape Matar Sarr, Senegal
I don’t think most Spurs fans expected a whole lot from Sarr in this tournament. He’s a young guy, hasn’t played a single minute for Spurs this season, and looked set to be a benchwarmer for Senegal as well. But he had a surprisingly good tournament in limited minutes. Against England, where he was a second half substitute, it looked like he was given the green light to just try stuff and came out of the tournament looking like the player Spurs hope they signed last season. Showed some real efficacy from set pieces and corners as well. I can’t see him getting any minutes this Spring barring an injury crisis, so if that’s the case he should absolutely go out on loan somewhere in January.
Richy’s hamstring injury (and the fact that he played 84’ on it) is bad and takes the shine off what was otherwise a sparkling performance in Qatar. Richy might have scored the goal of the tournament with that crazy half-overhead volley and for a while there looked to outclass Neymar and the rest of the star-studded Brazil squad. The injury, however, means that whatever momentum he might have taken from this tournament will be long gone by the time he returns to the Premier League pitch. It’s a damn shame, too.
Harry Kane, England
Real talk, Harry was the engine that made England run in this tournament, something that will only be fully recognized in retrospect. Kane led the team in assists (3) and was quietly instrumental in setting up his teammates in Qatar, but was himself somewhat starved for service; he had two goals, only one from open play, and everything that he did went out the window when his penalty kick against France skied over the bar. Hard to say he had a great World Cup, but in fairness he certainly didn’t have a bad one.
Eric Dier, England
Dier only played 33 minutes for England in their campaign, so it’s difficult to say whether his stock is up or down. That said, he looked perfectly cromulent in the minutes I saw him play, and the fact he’s back with the team at all should be considered a win. I don’t know if he’ll be in the frame for the coming Euros, but if you’re an England defender, playing for England is better than not playing for England.
Son Heung-Min, South Korea
I hate having to write this, but Sonny didn’t have a very good tournament. He had a lot going against him — despite the miracle progression out of their group, this was not a particularly strong Korea squad, and opposition defenders marked him well. That said, until the final group stage match Sonny was not especially impactful on Korea’s offense — no goals, one (very good) assist, though notably he lead the team in npxG+xA. Was the mask bothering him? Was he tired? Was he simply shouldering the burden of an entire nation’s expectations? Probably all of the above.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Denmark
Hobby’s World Cup performances were in some ways similar to the ones that he puts in for Tottenham — hard working and steady, with tons of huffing and puffing covering every blade of grass. But that’s about all he had to show for all that industry — Denmark only scored one goal the entire tournament and crashed out in the group stages. Pierre comported himself well, but didn’t really make much of an impact. Good thing he gets a couple of weeks rest.
Rodrigo Bentancur, Uruguay
Lolo nearly scored a worldy against Portugal and had a pretty good tournament, up until the point where he pulled a muscle in his abdomen. That, along with Uruguay dramatically crashing out of the World Cup on the final day of the group stage, basically sums up his tournament. He should be back by the new year; Spurs will need him healthy and firing.
Ben Davies, Wales
It was a pretty miserable tournament for Wales, and for Davies who was a regular in Wales’ back three but didn’t look his best, got beat a number of times by his attacker, and seemed to pick up an injury in the final game against England.
Joe Rodon, Wales
See above, but reduce his statistics slightly. Not sure he did anything to convince Antonio Conte to give him a chance at Spurs next season.