Four Manchester United players were on action during Saturday’s 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. Here is a short report to see how they did representing their respective countries:
Matteo Darmian started and played the whole 90 minutes as a right back for Italy against Spain, and that already represented a big change for him. Let’s remember the fullback has been playing on the opposite flank for Manchester United. And while he did what he could to contain the threat of Marco Asensio, Gli Azzurri did not have a good performance and they ended losing against La Furia Roja.
Darmian did what he could as a right back, though. He finished with three clearances, three interceptions, one blocked shot and one tackle. Offensively he did not fare any better, however, and only accounted for one key pass, one foul received, and one accurate cross in four attempts.
Things are not as dark as they might seem for Italy, however. With three relatively easy games left in the schedule (at home against Israel and Macedonia, and a visit to Albania) the Italian side should easily clinch a playoff berth. They might even be the top second-placed team in Europe, and that would give them a direct berth to the World Cup as well.
Italy play against Israel next Tuesday.
David De Gea played the whole match during Spain’s impressive – and dominant – 3-0 win over Italy at Santiago Bernabeu. And the talented goalkeeper had a very quiet performance against an Italian side that did not represent much of an scoring threat on the attack.
How easy was the game for De Gea? Well, he only needed four saves to keep a clean sheet. For what is worth, this was De Gea’s fourth shutout in seven Qualifying matches. He is an integral part of Spain’s defensive line.
La Roja have three games left on the schedule and while they have not secured a potential playoff berth yet, all signs indicate they shouldn’t have problems to make it to Russia. Their next game will be against Liechtenstein away next Tuesday.
Nemanja Matic was a commanding, dominating presence in midfield for Serbia during their impressive 3-0 win over Moldova at home. The scoreline itself wasn’t impressive because Serbia was an overwhelming favourite. It was impressive because Serbia played very, very well. And Matic was a big part of the team’s win, just like he has been since he joined Manchester United from Chelsea this summer.
Matic played as a CM alongside Nemanja Gudelj in a 3-4-3 formation, and he looked pretty comfortable. He finished the game with two interceptions, one clearance, one tackle and two dribbles. He did not test the opposing keeper, but controlled the tempo and always offered an accurate touch until the left the pitch in the 77th minute.
Serbia sit at the top of the Group D standings with 15 points in seven matches. And if they defeat Ireland next week, they would take another gigantic step towards Russia 2018.
Eric Bailly played the whole 90 minutes during Ivory Coast’s 3-0 over Gabon away from home. And even though the centre-back received a yellow card in the 39th minute, he did not have lots of problems to contain the opposing attacking line.
It would be fair to say Bailly did not have a lot of work during the match. In fact, he only registered only clearance, one interception and one tackle. But he was a big part of why Gabon did not offer much of a threat in the first place. He looked composed on the ball and extremely accurate on his passing, as evidenced by his 84% of accuracy.
With the win, Ivory Coast remain at the top of Group C with seven points after three matches. Morocco and Gabon will be their biggest opponents, but all signs indicate The Elephants should return to the World Cup this next year. Bailly will also be there as one of the stars in the team.