Fifa World Cup: Chinese Super League players in the spotlight at Russia 2018

Bizarre theory surrounded Portugal celebrations while Belgium eased to the top of their group as Brazil stuttered to draw

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 11:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 11:22am

After the opening round of World Cup matches, we took a look at how the seven teams who brought China-based players to Russia have been getting on so far.

Have they impressed or flattered to deceive?

Axel Witsel and Yannick Carrasco, Belgium

Witsel was replaced on 90 minutes by Nacer Chadli and Dembele came on for Carrasco in the 74th minute just before the third goal of Belgium’s 3-0 win against Panama.

Carrasco had Belgium’s first effort of the game. He played at wing back for Roberto Martinez’s side and is likely to continue in that role – something Tunisia and England may look to exploit. Belgium face Tunisia on Saturday evening.

Jose Fonte, Portugal

Played for Portugal against Spain in the game of the opening round of fixtures and it was Fonte who was not strong enough to deal with Diego Costa for the equaliser at 1-1.

The defender also held back and failed to get in the way of Nacho’s wonderful strike that put Spain 3-2 ahead.

Somehow that was not the most interesting part of his World Cup: that he stayed on the pitch when his teammates crowded Cristiano Ronaldo off it after his equalising free kick led some to suggest it was a canny knowledge of the laws of the game from the centre back. That went viral despite it not being true. Portugal play Morocco on Wednesday evening.

Dusko Tosic, Serbia

Yes, he is never played for Guangzhou R&F but he is contracted to them so we’re keeping him in so you can keep an eye on him.

Serbia’s full back started and finished the side’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica. His slip nearly let in Costa Rica’s Marco Urena with the score at 0-0, but he recovered well.

More interestingly – and more than enough reason for his inclusion – is the ITV commentators calling him “disco sausage”, at least according to Twitter users. Serbia play again on Friday night/Saturday morning when they face Switzerland.

Renato Augusto, Brazil

Came on for Paulinho in the 67th minute of Brazil’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Switzerland. A little over 20 minutes on his return from injury is an indication that coach Tite will look to start the tempo-controlling Beijing Guoan man in their next game against Costa Rica on Friday.

Javier Mascherano, Argentina

The Hebei Fortune man had played 21 more passes than the whole Iceland team after 40 minutes and had not put one of the 65 of them out of place. That accuracy was not on display from teammate Lionel Messi, who missed from the penalty spot, and the World Cup debutants held on for a 1-1 draw. The game saw Mascherano make his 144th appearance for Argentina, overtaking Javier Zanetti as their most capped player. They face Croatia on Thursday night/Friday morning.

John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo, Nigeria

Both started for the Super Eagles and both were substituted by boss Gernot Rohr – captain Mikel, of Tianjin TEDA, left on 89 minutes and Changchun Yatai’s Ighalo in the 75th minute.

Nigeria were poor as they lost 2-0 to Croatia and some pundits questioned Mikel’s role as a number 10 rather than shielding the defence – former boss Jose Mourinho told RT that “Nigeria lost a good 6 to get a bad 10”.

Ighalo had the first shot on target in the 59th minute – the longest wait for a first effort on target this tournament.

He will need his shooting boots on against Iceland on Friday, if he retains his place in the starting line-up that is.

Kim Young-gwon, South Korea

Played full game at the back as the Asians lost 1-0 to Sweden while failing to get a shot on target.

Kim impressed from the start with a last-ditch tackle and was involved throughout but could do nothing about the penalty that won the game.

Mexico are next up for South Korea and Kim will have his hands full facing Mexico, the team that beat holders Germany in the other group game. That happens on Saturday night.