Even though Chelsea has already started training with the first team at Cobham, the Blues are still very interested in the World Cup as the group stage comes to a close. Croatia and Belgium faced off against one another on Thursday in the afternoon, both teams still needing to qualify for the round of 16.
On the field, there was no shortage of players who Chelsea would be familiar with. While Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Thorgan Hazard were all on Roberto Martnez’s bench, Mateo Kovacic has been the standout for the Kockasti. However, there were also some players on display who have been connected to Graham Potter’s team.
Josko Gvardiol of Croatia during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Croatia and Belgium.
Given Chelsea’s summer attempts to sign the RB Leipzig star, Josko Gvardiol’s performance against Leandro Trossard in Qatar may still be of interest to the Blues’ administration. The 20-year-old has made an impression thus far in the competition and, after Kovacic, became the second Croatian player under 21 to start a World Cup game. A release clause of €50 million (£43 million) is rumored to be in effect this summer, and Todd Boehly and company may find that alluring. In light of the foregoing, football.london examined Gvardiol’s performance against Belgium as Croatia secured World Cup advancement with a goalless draw.
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As Trossard, a Brighton player, veered away from goal and curled his run in the opening four minutes, Gvardiol found himself chasing after him. The 20-year-old may not have gotten near enough to the ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋer to apply any pressure, but Trossard was unable to provide any ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀ with the move.
The moment the ball was intercepted in his own box and his teammates began passing closely to one another, Gvardiol showed poise.
The defender once more came up against Trossard, but this time it was at the midway point. The 27-year-old Belgian attempted to cling onto the ball, but Gvardiol reached around and took possession of him. However, a free ᴋɪᴄᴋ was awarded since it was determined that the Croatian had bundled into Trossard.
Gvardiol sought to make forward passes rather than just those to his teammates’ feet.
Gvardiol experienced a quieter period as Belgium’s ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋs slowed down, but he continued to play with confidence and in a good position when Belgium possessed the ball.
At the halfway point, the young defender demonstrated his ability to control the game as he boldly stepped out to win the ball against Kevin de Bruyne and Trossard. He was able to launch an ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ with his challenge, and when Trossard outran him, he displayed incredible strength and timing to win the ball and thwart what appeared to be a very ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀous looking counterᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ as the last man.
It didn’t take long for Gvardiol to have to demonstrate his alertness as he patrolled the area in front of the halftime-introduced Romelu Lukaku and observed De Bruyne’s efforts to locate his teammate. By utilising the pace he did have to gather the ball under pressure from Hazard before making sure he looked to finish a pass rather than scorching the ball away, the Dinamo Zagreb youth product continued to display his calmness and ability to read the game.
Romelu Lukaku was fortunate to have missed two clear-cut opportunities for the Croatian defense, with Gvardiol’s proximity to the goal line maybe ensuring a narrow target for the Belgian to shoot at. In a similar manner to former Chelsea player Antonio Rudiger, Gvardiol was able to carry the ball through Belgium’s defensive lines.
Within 30 seconds, Gvardiol made two challenges on the edge of the box and cleared the ball with a powerful header as Belgium attempted to develop some ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛ.
With 10 minutes remaining, Gvardiol attempted to take advantage of some open space in Belgium’s half by carrying the ball into the opponent’s penalty area. However, he may have been a little sᴜʀᴘʀɪsᴇᴅ, and after taking a moment to collect himself, he encountered several defensive players in his path.
He intercepted a through ball outside of his own area shortly after, which led to a little terrifying moment when the ball flew into his keeper’s arms. However, there was no indirect free ᴋɪᴄᴋ given. As time passed, the pressure increased, and Gvardiol became upset when Dominik Livakovi failed to grab a ball he called for but was still able to cause a corner. In the 86th minute, he contributed a critical block that prevented Lukaku from scoring, and in stoppage time, as Belgium besieged the net, he maintained his composure.
In the first half, ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋers frequently ran directly at Gvardiol and Dejan Lovren in the center of the defense as they struggled to contain Belgium’s front three. There is no denying Gvardiol’s assured demeanor in his performances, despite the Red Devils’ little influence.
The 20-year-old is by no means slow and isn’t necessarily a speed merchant, but his perception of the situation often seems to give him an extra yard. When Lukaku was introduced, the forward made an effort to avoid Gvardiol’s view in order to make sure Lovren was the person who needed to assume responsibility.
On and off the ball, the young player is unmistakable. He never appeared in ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀ of being dribbled past, was forceful in his challenge, and can carry the ball well. Although he lacks Antonio Rudiger’s idiosyncrasies, he infuses his play with just as much assurance.
He will face tougher tests than those Belgium offered, but he still outperformed his colleagues in terms of clearances and touches received. He made little indication that he was an inexperienced player and will give any club watching something to consider.