It has been just under a week since the 2018 FIFA World Cup came to its conclusion as Hugo Lloris grasped and lifted the trophy at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, with one Red Bull player forced to watch the celebrations take place from a pitchside seat. With that in mind, it’s now time to take a look at how the final four faired during the knockout phase.
Let us start with the entertainer of the group stage. After a suspension that ruled him out of the 0-0 draw with France, Poulsen returned to Denmark’s starting eleven in the round of 16 versus Croatia and, although he wasn’t much an offensive threat, he put in a valiant defensive effort which left him barely able to walk in extra-time. With the game reaching the lottery that is a penalty shoot-out, the RB Leipzig forward was too tired to take a spot-kick and watched his side crash out of the competition from the half-way line.
The knockout phase proved to be a continuation of his group stage fortune. However, he did become just the second Red Bull player to score at the tournament. Despite a below-par performance versus Switzerland in the round of 16, Forsberg, with the drop of a shoulder, was able to create space for himself before unleashing a scuffed shot that deflected off Manuel Akanji and wrong-footed Yann Sommer in net to book his nation’s place in the quarter-final. Against England, he found time on the ball scarce as the opposition dominated the proceedings and he was hauled off just after the hour mark, having been a bystander throughout, which ultimately put an end to the Leipzig man’s disappointing tournament as England went on to progress with a 2-0 scoreline.
Just like in the group stage report, there was not much to note regarding Yvon Mvogo. Maintaining his status on the bench, he watched on from the sidelines as RB Leipzig team-mate Emil Forsberg scored the winner in Sweden’s 1-0 win over Switzerland.
Ambiguously referred to in the introduction paragraph, Ćaleta-Car was the sole Red Bull representative post-quarter-final and became the first Ö. Bundesliga to ever reach a World Cup final after Croatia overcame Denmark, Russia and England en route to the final showpiece against France in Moscow. Unfortunately, his service was not required in the knock-out stage and he was forced to watch his nation create history from the bench.
From an overall perspective, it was a disappointing tournament for Red Bull – with the likes of Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg failing to reach expectations – despite having one of its own in the final. Now the four-year wait for the World Cup in Qatar to commence. Let’s hope that when 2022 comes around, Red Bull will have more players that have earnt a seat on the plane to the Middle East to represent their respective countries.
In the process of writing this report, Duje Ćaleta-Car has put pen to paper on a five-year contract at Olympique Marseille, but as he was a Red Bull Salzburg player throughout the tournament he has been included in this piece.