Despite not sending a single England player to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Tottenham contributed seven representatives to other nations at the tournament. Now the second round is over and there’s a two day gap before the quarter finals, it’s worth taking a quick look at how they’ve got on – it’s certainly a mixed bag.
- Benoit Assou-Ekotto – Cameroon
Cameroon had a World Cup to forget. It didn’t get off to an auspicious start – their plane arrived in Brazil a day late after an argument about bonuses. Whilst there, they lost all three of their games and finished bottom of Group A.
As well as playing a part in his country’s shambolic performances, Assou-Ekotto managed to headbutt one of his own temmates and didn’t feature in their final group game.
- Nabil Bentaleb – Algeria
Bentaleb started all three of Algeria’s group games, as the north Africans progressed to the second round. Whilst not doing anything spectacular, he still made more passes per game than any of his teammates.
Surprisingly, he was dropped for the crunch knockout tie against Germany and didn’t even make it on to the pitch as a substitute, as Algeria lost narrowly in extra time.
- Paulinho – Brazil
After an uninspiring season at Tottenham, we were all waiting to see how Paulinho would perform for Brazil. The conventional wisdom went, that the the Spurs’ midfielder was a different player while on international duty.
Paulinho’s performances in Brazil’s group games were very familiar to Spurs fans – he just didn’t seem to do very much. In three matches he registered four shots, three successful tackles and some of the lowest passing numbers in the team.
Scolari shows admirable loyalty to his players but come the knockout stages the Tottenham man was replaced with the far superior Fernandinho. Brazil now face Colombia in the quarter finals; it remains to be seen if Paulinho can prove his doubters wrong and win back his place in the starting eleven.
- Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen – Belgium
In Belgium’s opening game, coach Marc Wilmots picked all three Tottenham players in his starting eleven. In the second, all three found themselves on the bench.
Mousa Dembele featured in his sides last group game against South Korea but by that stage the Belgians were already assured of a place in the last 16. He didn’t feature in the hard fought knockout victory over the USA.
Nacer Chadli has made a couple of substitute appearances since that first match, including a rather strange cameo in the USA game. In the 111th minute, with the Americans having just scored to make it 2-1 and Belgium finding themselves overrun in midfield, desperately in need of some extra energy and steel in the centre of the pitch to protect their fragile lead, Wilmots decided to bring on Chadli. One of the more bizarre substitutions in the tournament so far.
The one member of Spurs’ Belgian contingent who has impressed, is Jan Vertonghen. He regained his place in the team after just 31 minutes of the Russia game, when Thomas Vermaelen limped out with an injury, and has not looked back since.
Despite having to play left back, which Spurs fans will know is far from his preferred position, he has put in some fantastic performances. He scored the only goal of the game in the win over South Korea, where he was a strong contender for man of the match. Then he gave a thrilling display of attacking wing-back play against the USA, where he had the most touches of any Belgium player, four shots, eight crosses and an incredible 14 defensive clearances as the Americans desperately sought an equaliser.
Some fans have suggested this shows he could be the answer to Tottenham’s woes at left back. He certainly has the technical ability, however, one good game against the USA is not nearly enough evidence. Firstly, Vertonghen has put on record his dislike of the position – although he looked like he was enjoying himself against the US. Secondly, his positional sense at fullback is not very good. Thirdly, and most importantly of all, Spurs need him in the centre.
- Hugo Lloris – France
After a great season at Tottenham, the France captain has continued his superb form in Brazil. Playing for a dominant French side, he hasn’t been able to match the more flamboyant performances of some of the weaker team’s goalkeepers but three clean sheets from four games tells its own story.
The only negative for Lloris is that Manuel Neuer seems to be trying to take his “sweeper keeper” title away from him. The Bayern keeper made a series of incredible and very well timed clearances as Algeria broke through Germany’s high defensive line, showing the value of keepers who aren’t afraid to come out of their goal.
For all the superlative saves and record breaking goalkeeping statistics at this World Cup, it is the ability to concentrate when not frequently called upon, and to sweep up a defence’s mistakes, that marks out the truly top goalkeepers like Lloris.
Who do you think is Spurs best player at this World Cup? Do you think Paulinho could make a difference for Brazil? Please let us know your opinion in the comments section below.