We started with a club record 17 players in Brazil. Somewhere along the line, we picked up Cesc Fabregas and dropped David Luiz, the overall number staying constant. Ten had gone on to the knockout round. Seven of those ten (spread across Brazil, Germany, and Belgium) have made it into the quarterfinals; three are coming home (or, to be more specific, going on holiday). These are their stories.
While the most these players would have played would be four matches, which is a tiny sample in comparison with the rest of their seasons past, nobody's career has ever been hurt by a good performance on the world's biggest stage. Conversely, while nobody's career has ever been destroyed by a few bad games, when all eyes are on you, it's the perfect time to step up and the worst time to choke up. With that in mind, onwards with the snap judging!
Nigeria, 4 app. (360 min.)
A second consecutive outstanding big international tournament performance from the 20-year-old, dealing with the likes of Edin Dzeko, Karim Benzema, and Gonzalo Higuain with varying degrees of success ranging from acceptable to superb often without any cohesive help from his fellow center backs and full backs. He's in fact being touted as one of the front-runners for the Young Player Award alongside Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane, and maybe a few others. Not bad company to keep.
It's hard to conceive of Chelsea keeping both Omeruo and Kurt Zouma around for the season. In the end, maybe both of them will go out on loan, but certainly at least one. These four games might just have given Omeruo that extra edge needed to stick around Stamford Bridge for 2014-15.
Nigeria, 4 app. (360 min.)
It was a strange World Cup for Mikel and Nigeria overall. Perhaps it was the quality of opposition that made them play so conservatively (unlike in last year's Africa Cup of Nations or even the Confederations Cup). Though Iran shouldn't be scaring the African champions like that, especially when they can boast the power and pace in attack that they do. Regrettably, Mikel didn't get to play the more advanced number 10-ish role that he normally does for the Super Eagles. Instead, what we saw was basically Chelsea-Mikel out there, staying back, playing safely, providing presence, strength, and positioning while shielding the defense. As one would expect, he did just fine in this role. But, more was expected.
Nigeria, 2 app. (141 min.)
It was an even stranger and even more disappointing World Cup for Moses than Mikel. He started the first and last games, while going completely unused for the middle two thanks to a combination of vague injury, media misunderstanding, and possible training ground conflict with head coach Stephen Keshi. At least he ended his tournament on a personal good note, showing against Argentina in the knockout round that maybe he hasn't completely regressed to useless. Still, after an indifferent season and World Cup, right now Moses's ceiling looks to be that of a direct, strong and pacy winger who severely lacks any consistent end-product. He's still fairly young at 23 (and a half), but the clock is starting to tick ever louder; time is running out faster and faster on making that next step in his development. It's high time to move off the 'Go' square that was that performance for Wigan Atheltic when he repeatedly made fools of Branislav Ivanovic.