It’s been a busy World Cup for Chelsea’s international stars, with 18 of them in action during the group stages and 10 (11 if we include David Luiz, still officially a Blue for another couple of days) reaching the knockout rounds. So how have they done so far? Let’s take a look.
The boys from Brazil have been the most successful so far, helping their country top the group and qualify for the quarter-finals. Pick of the bunch has been Oscar, man of the match in Brazil’s first game against Croatia and an influential presence on the right wing throughout the tournament so far. He’s being played in what most Chelsea fans would regard as his wrong position, but has combined well with Neymar and hit some perfect crosses over for Brazil’s (largely) misfiring strikers.
Ramires has been one of Brazil’s regularly-used substitutes, coming on in the second half to add pace and steel to the team’s midfield. His performances have been very similar to those we’ve come to expect at Chelsea – a mixture of tenacity and occasional brilliance with an unhealthy dose of mistakes and over-enthusiastic fouling.
Willian, meanwhile, has found his opportunities limited – Scolari appears to see him purely as a replacement for Oscar. It didn’t stop him from being Brazil’s most prolific creative influence in extra time yesterday against Chile. His penalty in the shoot-out, however, may well be the worst World Cup spot-kick since Diana Ross’s in the 1994 opening ceremony. Let’s hope he never has to take one for Chelsea.
Chelsea’s Spanish contingent have left Brazil already, of course. Cesar Azpilicueta was the only one to start the opening two games and sustained some criticism from pundits in Spain for not getting forward enough. But his defending was pretty much exemplary and he could hardly blamed for the complete collapse of the team’s midfield, the poor performances of Casillas in goal and the fundamental weakness at the centre of the back four.
Fernando Torres came on twice for Diego Costa for two unproductive half hours, which included one horrendous miss against the Netherlands, and then started and scored in the dead rubber against Australia.
Cesc Fabregas made a trio of short and unremarkable appearances after coming off the bench late in the games, but the big disappointment was the inability of Diego Costa to make his mark. Although he’s not a Chelsea player yet, Blues fans would have been hoping for more from him. After a lively start in the opening game, during which he won a penalty with a quick turn, he hardly featured as Spain struggled to get the ball to their strikers in dangerous positions.
Also on the plane home early were Gary Cahill and Frank Lampard. Cahill was a mostly commanding presence in England’s defence, but was arguably at fault for Italy’s winner after losing Balotelli in the penalty area; and neither he nor Jagielka was entirely free of blame for allowing Suarez to run beyond them as Gerrard’s inadvertent back header gifted the Uruguayan striker the ball for the goal that effectively ended England’s chances.
Lampard didn’t get on the pitch until England had already been eliminated, but put in a captain’s performance in Gerrard’s absence against Costa Rica – albeit one that couldn’t inspire England to anything more than a goalless draw.
Chelsea’s Belgians have enjoyed mixed fortunes so far. Thibaut Courtois has been impeccable in goal; Eden Hazard’s creative genius has been inexplicably constrained by being stuck out on the left wing, but he has stuck to his task and created two goals after momentarily freeing himself from the team’s tactical shackles; while Romelu Lukaku has had a shocker, looking slow and inept, and has been substituted in each game so far.
Our Nigerian contingent has done well to reach the last 16 – John Obi Mikel has, after a poor first game, become an influential presence at the heart of the team’s midfield; while Kenneth Omeruo has belied his years with very solid performances in the back four. Victor Moses has largely been forgettable – so no change there.
Elsewhere, Christian Atsu impressed many with his performances for Ghana – his only fault being some wayward finishing which wasted chances to give Ghana deserved wins against Germany and Portugal; and Andre Schurrle has been very effective coming on as a substitute for Germany.
Overall, then, it’s not been a bad World Cup so far for the Blues. Oscar has probably been the pick of the bunch, Costa and Lukaku the major disappointments. The next fortnight may change that.