2014 FIFA World Cup Flop XI of the Group Stage with Iker Casillas, Lukaku, More

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup Flop XI of the Group Stage with Iker Casillas, Lukaku, More

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    The 2014 FIFA World Cup has so far been impressive and relentless, with games coming after one another at a breakneck pace and with little time for reflection in between.

    We've already taken a look at our best XI of the group phase, but what about the other end of the scale? The players and the nations who disappointed, and who either need to step up their efforts...or are already on their way home.

    Here is our flop XI of the groups—leave your own comments and selections below as ever.

GK: Iker Casillas, ESP

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    In goal has to be Iker Casillas—even ahead of Igor Akinfeev.

    The Spanish captain was leading his nation's defence of the World Cup title, but both he and the team were well below their best.

    Several individual errors in the opening game didn't help matters, and Casillas continued that form into the second game against Chile, leaving Spain out even before their final group match.

DR: Dani Alves, BRA

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    Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    Being one of Brazil's "guaranteed" starters brings a certain level of expectation, but neither of their offensive full-backs have reached those standards yet.

    Dani Alves has been very poor, infrequently offering a threat in the final third, not finding good delivery from wide areas and defensively has been suspect.

    Brazil are through to the knock-outs so he has a chance to pick his form up again, but needs to do so quickly.

DC: Gerard Pique, ESP

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Gerard Pique was another who, like Casillas, was hugely at fault for the heavy defeat by Netherlands in the opening game for Spain.

    Pique never got to grips with the pace and movement of the Dutch attack, was lost for at least three of the goals and paid a heavy price as a result.

    He did not play another minute at the finals after the opening game, with Spain exiting at the end of the groups.

DC: John Boye, GHA

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Ghana's John Boye played all three games of the group stage, but featured prominently in two of them for the wrong reasons.

    He put in a wretched display in the opening match against USA, and scored an own goal in the third against Portugal—and, indeed, almost made it two own goals in that game.

    Sloppy marking, poor passing out of defence and a generally very cavalier approach to his time at the back contributed to a poor group stage for Ghana, whereupon they exited.

DL: Benoit Assou-Ekotto, CAM

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    Fernando Llano/Associated Press

    Cameroon were perhaps the most dismal all-round side at the finals, but Benoit Assou-Ekotto was a particular stand-out for the wrong reasons.

    Aside from his general performances, being poor in the first two games, he then managed to get involved in a ruckus with a team-mate, headbutting Benjamin Moukandjo in the defeat against Croatia.

    He was not involved in the final group game, as Cameroon went home without a single point.

RW: Nani, POR

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Portuguese winger Nani scored after five minutes of Portugal's second match against USA, and looked dangerous a few minutes either side of that goal, but, aside from that, was entirely ineffective in his three games.

    Wayward crosses, rushed, overly ambitious shots and dribbling into blind alleys were common sights in his game.

    Portugal were poor overall, but Nani's repetitive play certainly contributed to that in the final third a large amount.

CM: Paulinho, BRA

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Paulinho remains a favourite of Felipe Scolari, but his central midfield performances have been very poor so far.

    He has played all three games—but was subbed off in two of them and has made no impact overall.

    There have been no driving runs from deep, no linking play moving forward and little evidence of his pressing game. With Fernandinho and Hernanes looking for a chance to start a game, it would be a surprise if Paulinho kept his place into the knock-outs.

CM: Alex Song, CAM

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Alex Song was perhaps the most disappointing central midfielder at the tournament, considering his standing and reputation, as well as the actual output he produced.

    He was anonymous in the first Cameroon match against Mexico, not working hard to deny his opponents space and really neither defending nor offering support on counter-attacks, before being substituted.

    Then against Croatia, midway through another poor performance, he elbowed an opponent off the ball and was sent-off, suspended for three games and missed the match against Brazil as a result.

LW: Yuri Zhirkov, RUS

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Yuri Zhirkov has one of Fabio Capello's experienced players in the starting XI for Russia, expected to work hard and offer a threat in attack, but his World Cup lasted precisely 71 minutes.

    Hauled off after doing precisely nothing against Korea Republic, Zhirkov did not feature again for the rest of the group stage, even when they needed victory in the final match. As they did not win, Russia went out and Zhirkov played no further part.

    An unambitious, lethargic and pointless display which leaves the question of how he came to be picked in the first place.

FW: Romelu Lukaku, BEL

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    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Romelu Lukaku started both of Belgium's first two group games, but failed to have a significant impact and was subbed off in both.

    Despite a good warmup to the tournament, Lukaku has made no impression at the tournament itself, leading the attack after Christian Benteke's injury and failing to really show the power, movement and pace which has made him such a success domestically.

    Lukaku was left out for the final group game, but will hope to get another chance to start in the knock-outs. Serious improvements are needed, though.

FW: Diego Costa, ESP

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Our final forward is Spain's Diego Costa, drafted into the squad after completing a nationality switch from his native Brazil, and utterly out of place in the Spanish side.

    He failed to score despite several presentable opportunities, but more than that, it was a complete mis-match of styles; Costa looking to dart in behind the defence, play quickly and help runners off him, against Spain's slow approach, predictability and lack off attacking support.

    Whether that means he needs to adapt or Spain have to re-think their strategy after an appalling tournament is up for debate—but any improvement on Costa's part won't be at the finals anyway, with Spain already having headed home.