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Eleven Blues from the original, record-equalling 16 remain in the last eight – Brazil’s quartet of Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Ederson and Danilo; England’s Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph, John Stones and Kyle Walker; Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany; and France’s Benjamin Mendy. Needless to say, there’s plenty of talent left in the competition!
With Belgium and Brazil locking horns on Friday night (7pm UK time), there be will at least one team eliminated at this stage (and therefore ‘someone will go home!’) but as the tournament hots up in the latter rounds, we’re sure to see the very best performances from each player, as they bid to help their respective nations to claim the ultimate prize.
Perhaps surprisingly, of our eleven remaining City stars, only centre-back Stones has found the target, bagging two in the Three Lions’ 6-1 thrashing of Panama in the group stage. Sergio Aguero did net twice for Argentina, while Gabriel Jesus came within inches of opening his World Cup account – unfortunate not to make contact with Willian’s cross for the opener in their win over Mexico before Neymar converted.
Midfield maestro De Bruyne has played a key role in Belgium’s success, most notably in the dramatic 3-2 last 16 win over Japan, in which he sprinted into a counter-attack in injury time and clipped a delightful through-ball for Thomas Meunier to latch onto. Naturally, captain Kompany’s leadership and experience has also been crucial to the Red Devils’ progression.
England winger Sterling’s performances have also earned acclaim, with former Three Lions midfielder Danny Murphy hailing the City man’s display against Colombia as ‘his best in an England shirt’. Murphy praised Sterling’s movement, strength and willingness to gain possession, plus his hunger and desire.
Meanwhile, Stones and Walker have remained solid at the back (bar one or two heart-in-mouth moments!) and Delph has also featured, although the Yorkshireman actually returned home a few days ago for the birth of his third child. (Congratulations, Fab!)
WORLD CUP: Player focus | Kevin De Bruyne
WORLD CUP: Player focus | Raheem Sterling
WORLD CUP: Player focus | Gabriel Jesus
One of City’s star performers for the 2017/18 campaign – Fernandinho – has not received as much gametime as perhaps expected, having been introduced from the bench to sure things up for Brazil instead. Danilo has also missed out somewhat through injury, while Ederson remains the Selecao’s second-choice shot-stopper behind Alisson. Gabriel Jesus has started every game.
Marauding full-back Mendy, who missed the majority of last season with a cruciate knee ligament injury, has made one World Cup appearance in Russia – his first – in the goalless draw with Denmark.
So, will we see City representation in the final? Only time will tell. Should we do so, it has to be said: we wouldn’t like it… we’d love it!
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