The FIFA World Cup 2018 has set up a trembling start for football legends including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah and Neymar.

With nagging injuries, heavy marking from opponents and some simply uninspired play, the top stars of the 2018 World Cup have struggled to deliver on the impossible expectations they carried into the tournament, with one prominent Portuguese exception.

Overall, Switzerland fouled Brazil 19 times, with little intervention from the referee, and it worked — especially on Neymar. Brazilians suggested their opponents were too violent; Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes thinks Neymar has another problem.

“He just falls too much,” Fernandes said after the game in Rostov-on-Don. “Out of these 10, only seven or eight were fouls. We have to stop their star, and he is the star.”

Superstar Lionel Messi did face heavy marking too, but he also had two uninspired performances for Argentina, which is now on the verge of early elimination after a 3-0 defeat against Croatia.

Throughout the matches against Iceland and Croatia, disciplined defenders and midfielders stopped Messi from making his famous runs and getting one-on-one chances.

No one has had rougher treatment from the opposition than the world’s priciest player, Neymar. During Brazil’s opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, the 26-year-old was fouled 10 times, the highest number on a single player in a single match since the 1998 World Cup, when England’s Alan Shearer took 11 challenges against Tunisia

Against Iceland, Messi saw his penalty spot kick saved by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, and the game ended 1-1.

Against Croatia, he crumbled with the rest of the team, which now desperately needs to beat Nigeria in the last round of group stage to have a chance of advancing to the next phase.

“Messi is human,” Aguero said after the Iceland match. “Sometimes things happen for a reason. We need to be with him. This was a bad day, but he can decide a match at any given moment. Hope he is better against Croatia.”

 

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