Five players making a statement before Brazil
There are only two weeks left until the May 13 deadline for countries to submit their final World Cup rosters to FIFA. Domestic leagues are wrapping up around Europe, allowing some to make a final push for roster inclusion, and allowing others a chance to fine-tune their skills before the tournament.
Here are five players who had big club performances over the weekend, starting with a pair of Croatians.
• Ivan Perisic (Croatia): Perisic scored both of Wolfsburg’s goals in their 2-2 draw with Freiburg. Perisic was a constant threat throughout the game, with five of his six shots landing on goal. This accuracy was a pleasant surprise compared to his World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Perisic scored just once in ten qualifiers for Croatia, the product of poor aim and shot selection. His 26 shots were second on the team behind Mario Mandzukic, but only seven of Perisic’s shots were on target. Perisic took an equal number of shots from inside and outside the penalty area.
• Dejan Lovren (Croatia): Lovren was key to Southampton’s defense in their 2-0 shutout of Everton. He finished with 15 clearances, nine of which came in his own penalty area. Lovren was credited with causing three of Everton’s five offsides.
Lovren had 17 clearances in seven qualifiers for Croatia, making him one of eight Croatians who had double-digit clearances during qualifying. Croatia’s 230 clearances in qualifying was second-most among European teams who qualified for the World Cup.
• Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia-Herzegovina): Pjanic scored a spectacular opening goal in Roma’s 2-0 win over AC Milan on Friday. He also did a good job of setting up his teammates throughout the game, finishing as one of two Roma players to create three chances. Pjanic leads the team with 68 chances created in league play this season.
Pjanic created key chances for his country throughout qualifying, as Bosnia-Herzegovina qualified for their first World Cup. He played in eight of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 10 qualifiers, and his five assists led the team.
• Franck Ribéry (France): His goal in the 20th minute brought the German champions level with Werder Bremen, en route to a 5-2 win. Ribéry was active close to the Bremen goal, finishing with 16 touches inside the penalty area, most of any Ligue 1 player this weekend.
Ribery is a lock for the French starting XI and also has a good chance of making the all-tournament XI. He was one of two players to appear in all 10 of France’s qualifiers and led the team with five goals. No other Frenchman had more than two goals in qualifying.
• Thomas Müller (Germany): Müller picked Werder Bremen apart on Saturday, completing 10 of 14 passes into the penalty area, with five chances created off of those 10 completions. Müller registered an assist on Claudio Pizarro’s equalizer in the 53rd minute- off a pass into the penalty area.
Müller found repeated success during qualifying when playing the ball into the penalty area. His 11 chances created from passes into the area were second-most on Germany behind Mesut Özil. All three of Müller’s qualifying assists came on passes into the penalty area.