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10 players whose reputation tanked during the World Cup

The lasting memories of World Cups should be the celebrations of football — the glorious goals, the mesmerizing skills, the feel-good stories. But we also know that there's no joy without suffering and no winners without losers, and sometimes, it's those dramatic failures that really resonate because life's a snitch and then you die. 

Some of this is completely unfair to players who've given us so much over the years and to young guys who've got a lot of ball left to play, but these are the 10 individuals who really let me down in Qatar.  

10 players whose reputation tanked during the World Cup  

Eden Hazard (Belgium)

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Roberto Martínez was lying. Since transferring to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019, Hazard has been nothing like the player that mesmerized at Chelsea or who put forth one of the greatest individual displays at the 2018 World Cup when playing Brazil

His three and a half seasons at the Santiago Bernabéu have been entirely forgettable, but in the years building up to Qatar, there was a strange cycle of Hazard showing up for international duty and Belgium manager Martínez routinely claiming that his key attacker was still just as good — it was only the little injuries and the abundance of talent at Real that had given the false impression of a fading star.

In Qatar, according to Martínez, we'd see the best of Hazard again.

Well the 31-year-old is now literally finished. Hazard announced his international retirement after three inconsequential games in Qatar. After failing to make any difference against Canada and Morocco, even Martínez gave up on Hazard for the group finale against Croatia. It was Romelu Lukaku who took the baton for that one

What next for Ederzinho? His contract at Real still runs through the 2023-24 season, so you can imagine him going on loan to Everton next year, having very little impact, getting injured and then joining the Saudi Pro League as a free agent.   

Dani Olmo (Spain)

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Olmo is the best representation of the heights Spain reached in its opening game against Costa Rica followed by a sterile decline into nothingness. 

Against Costa Rica, the 24-year-old winger put in a man of the match display with a goal and an assist. In Spain's next three games he'd take eight shots without scoring a goal. 

Against Germany, Olmo showcased his limited one-on-one ability by failing in every dribble he attempted while getting dispossessed four times. In 98 minutes against Morocco, he lost it three times and failed to deliver a single pass leading to a chance. 

Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres didn't fare much better in Spain's forward line, and the lasting memory American audiences will have of Torres is definitely "that's the guy who's dating the coach's daughter" after how many times they said it on FOX, but Olmo is still my pick of the lot.

He's got five goals in 29 caps and his hit list is now Costa Rica, Albania, Kosovo, Georgia and Malta.   

Mikkel Damsgaard (Denmark)

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"Denmark is legit. You got the Danes in the office draw? You're lucky, they're gonna do some real damage!"

Denmark vs. Tunisia was maybe the worst game of the group stage. There was no shame in losing to Kylian Mbappé next, but again against Australia in the finale Denmark looked like a side hellbent on going home. 

Remember how insanely good Damsgaard, then just 20 years old, was at the European Championship? Now 22, the winger had also been extremely effective in World Cup qualifying, and with Christian Eriksen back to his best, I told everyone I knew to watch this boy Damsgaard! 

He didn't do anything in 149 minutes. I made a mockery of myself.  

Jesús Ferreira (USA)

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It's a shame that just when Josh Sargent established himself as America's best striker, his ankle gave way. In came Ferreira for the biggest moment of his young career — a Round of 16 clash with Holland.

Gregg Berhalter quickly recognized that as a terrible decision and hooked him at halftime after the striker recorded just 26 touches but managed to misplace three passes and get dispossessed over that period.

The 21-year-old failed to shine in the MLS Cup Playoffs and then continued that form in Qatar. Until Ferreira's scoring goals in Europe, Sargent, Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok, Ricardo Pepi and Daryl Dike should all be considered above him in the pecking order.   

Niklas Süle (Germany)

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Süle started out at right back in a surprise defeat to Japan and really struggled with Hajime Moriyasu's halftime changes to his flank. He moved centrally against Spain and Costa Rica but the performances didn't approve.

It got so bad that Dutch legend Rafael van der Vaart labelled him "the German Harry Maguire." Back home, manager Hansi Flick is being heavily criticized for his loyalty to former players who struggled in Qatar, and Süle is being used as a prime example. 

Almoez Ali (Qatar)

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"Look out!" we warned everyone. "This guy won the Golden Boot at the Asian Cup and the Gold Cup — he's no joke!" He was a joke. The entire Qatar team was a bad joke. 

Dan James (Wales) 

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Hooked at halftime against the U.S., James handed Tim Ream the confidence to go on playing like Fabio Cannavaro for the rest of the tournament. James then came off the bench against Iran, and we all know how the end of that match played out. Against England he got booked and hooked in the 77th. Three appearances, 155 minutes and not a single shot. 

The 25-year-old looked destined for great things after his first couple months at Manchester United, but now on loan at Fulham and with only five goals in 41 caps, it's clear that Wales is set for dark times ahead without Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.  

Darwin Núñez (Uruguay)

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In a world where you're constantly living in the shadow of Luis Suárez/Edinson Cavani and your every action is being contrasted with Erling Haaland, I wouldn't want to be Darwin Núñez. 

The 23-year-old started all three Uruguay matches and got 242 minutes but only attempted three shots in Qatar. He didn't look dangerous at all with the ball at his feet, and after feasting gloriously at the Uruguayan table set by Suárez and Cavani, it looks like we're all going to starve while watching La Celeste without those two legends of the game.   

Nikola Milenković (Serbia)

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Milenković looked really good at the 2018 World Cup as a 20-year-old, helping Serbia keep a clean sheet against Costa Rica before playing Brazil close. If Serbia could figure out its defense at the 2022 tournament then the Eagles were an obvious dark horse, and Milenković's continued development at Fiorentina was the most promising sign.

Serbia ended up scoring five goals in Qatar but only Costa Rica conceded more. Milenković's most notable contribution was injuring Neymar in the opener, and then he anchored the defense in conceding three to both Cameroon and Switzerland while getting booked in both. 

Maybe we should be thanking him for his role in two of the best games of the group stage.  

Jorge Sánchez (Mexico)

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Of all the guys who got serious minutes for Mexico in Qatar, we rated Sánchez the lowest. The 24-year-old Ajax full back was supposed to be part of a dangerous right flank with Chucky Lozano on the wing, but "dangerous" is not at all how you'd describe Mexico's performances at the World Cup. 

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