Liverpool had eight representatives at the 2018 World Cup, one of whom was on loan from the club at the time of the squad selections, while another joined the Reds on the eve of the final. Each of the much-feted front trio from the 2017/18 season featured and indeed scored in Russia, although it was a couple of Liverpool’s more criticised squad members who gave the best tournament performances out of those who frequent the home dressing room at Anfield. Here is Liverpoool FC HQ’s power ranking of the Reds’ players World Cup performances.
1. Dejan Lovren
Labelled as a liability so often during his Liverpool career, the defender was a solid, reliable presence for Croatia in their surprise run to the final. His best performance was in the semi-final win over England, when he shackled Harry Kane and exacted retribution for his horror show against Spurs at Wembley last October. He didn’t do himself any favours with his self-gratifying comments in the run-up to the final, especially with Croatia leaking four goals, but the much-maligned Lovren enjoyed a very positive World Cup and some have included him in their selections for the tournament’s best XI.
2. Jordan Henderson
Like Lovren, the Liverpool skipper has taken more than his fair share of criticism at club level before impressing in the biggest tournament of them all. A crucial cog in the best-oiled English machine for two decades, Henderson put in an endless shift for Gareth Southgate’s team and caught the eye with his range of passing. He briefly threatened to become the lightning rod for vitriol back home after missing in the penalty shoot-out against Colombia but ultimately that proved inconsequential. As with most of his team-mates, though, he faded noticeably in the final two games, but he returns from Russia with his reputation enhanced.
3. Roberto Firmino
Despite the penalty box struggles of Gabriel Jesus, Firmino was used as a substitute throughout the tournament and many observers insisted that he should have started ahead of the Manchester City youngster in the quarter-final defeat to Belgium. He made an instant impact off the bench against Mexico, popping up in the right place at the right time to score the insurance goal late on, and neatly linked up Brazil’s attacking play in a manner reminiscent of what he so often does for Liverpool. You would have to question why Tite did not give him more game time, especially with Jesus far from his best.
4. Xherdan Shaqiri
He may have been a Stoke player at the time of the World Cup but I’m so buzzed that he’s signed for the Reds that I’d feel it wrong not to include him. The creative fulcrum of the Swiss team looked impressive in their first two games and plundered a dramatic stoppage time winner in the controversial 2-1 win over Serbia, FIFA rapping him on the knuckles for his ‘eagle’ celebration which was deemed to have political meaning. However, Shaqiri was far more subdued in Switzerland’s subsequent matches, barely featuring during the tame second round defeat to Sweden. The World Cup was his career in microcosm – moments of excellence amid spells of anonymity.
5. Sadio Mane
The Senegal maestro was his usual hard-running self at the tournament and opened the scoring in admittedly fortuitous circumstances in the hugely entertaining 2-2 draw against Japan. Perhaps fellow attacker Mbaye Niang made more of an impression in Russia but Mane was decent, operating off the back of his goal-scoring performance in the Champions League final. Just as Liverpool’s luck was marked absent in Kiev, Senegal were at the wrong end of the harsh separator of disciplinary points to determine whether they or Japan advanced to the last 16.
6. Mohamed Salah
With two goals to his name, Salah was the most prolific Liverpool player at the finals. However, his time in Russia was laced with frustration that carried over from the Champions League final defeat. Despite Egypt boss Hector Cuper insisting otherwise in the run-up to the game, he wasn’t fit enough to feature in the opening defeat to Uruguay. He was included for the Pharaohs’ other two matches and scored in both, but he was understandably well off his sharpest and the entire team struggled as a result. However, there was no excusing the missed one-on-one against Saudi Arabia. It was a shame that this World Cup saw a black market version of Salah; his epic season deserved a far more positive showing in Russia.
7. Trent Alexander-Arnold
The superb form of Kieran Trippier restricted the teenager to just one appearance in Russia, the group stage defeat to Belgium when Southgate rang the changes. In that match, the Liverpool youngster was effervescent although there were aspects of his defensive performance which showed imperfections, as is natural for a 19-year-old. It was disappointing not to see him feature in the third place play-off, especially with Southgate electing to make five alterations to the starting line-up from the semi-final.
8. Marko Grujic & Simon Mignolet
The Serbian midfielder and Belgian goalkeeper were both squad members for their respective national sides but neither of them took to the field in Russia. While Grujic’s no-show was understandable given Serbia’s wealth of midfield options, lack of top level game time and no dead rubber match for the Serbs, Mignolet might have thought he’d have a chance of featuring in the third place match against England. However, with Roberto Martinez opting to stick with Thibaut Courtois, it left the Liverpool man as one of only two players in the Belgium squad not to be called upon at the tournament.