We often put emphasis on how you need a solid team of players to win tournaments. Sure, this makes sense. You cannot win a major trophy with a mediocre team. However, you probably also cannot win one without one or more star players. Ronaldo and Pepe at Euro 2016, Neuer and Kroos in 2014, Iniesta and Ramos from 2008-2012. All these are top players who took a well rounded team to the next level.
In Russia, Colombia and Uruguay learned the hard way how tough it gets without your star player. In the Round of 16, Colombia were eliminated by a bland England team while their playmaker James Rodriguez watched helpless from the sidelines. You cannot help wonder what would have been with him on the pitch. The England defence would probably have been breached much more. He is the one who feeds Radamel Falcao. England on the other hand did have their talisman, Harry Kane. You could argue Kane did not necessarily dazzle in that game but the mere presence of your star player can do marvels for a team!
Another South American nation, Uruguay crashed out at the quarter finals stage. Edinson Cavani, brilliant and decisive in the Round of 16 against Portugal, was injured. He limped off the Portugal game after banging in two match-winning goals. Without Cavani, Uruguay resorted to dirty tactics, fouling incessantly to prevent France from winning. It was in vain as the French beat Uruguay at their own game by taking the lead via a set piece, which was executed brilliantly by another star player: Antoine Griezmann.
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From the teams still remaining at the World Cup, we have seen Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric starring for their respective teams. After 28 teams have gone home, France have the most talented squad and with a higher concentration of what we would call star players vis-a-vis opponents. Belgium are next. Thus, the encounter between the two should be a spectacular game of football. The World Cup winner should logically come from this side of the bracket.
Were a complete outsider, with no star players (Sweden or Russia for example) win, it would provide a welcomed change. I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.
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