By William Hill
Last Updated: 10th January 2020
This has been Atletico Madrid’s World Cup. The quest to establish an individual star is relentless at any international tournament but, as we approach the World Cup 2018 quarter finals, the limelight hasn’t settled on a single figure. Plenty have made cases, but it’s a team that deserves these accolades, and one who aren’t actually present in Russia.
Los Colchoneros’ influence has been a decisive factor behind many a team’s success in Russia, but none more so than Uruguay and France.
The pair meet in the first quarter final, with France priced up as 19/20 favourites, next to 7/2-rated Uruguay and the draw at 21/10.
Uruguay’s rearguard – arguably the finest in international football – is possibly the biggest beneficiary of the work that goes on at Atletico Madrid’s training HQ, where both Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez sharpen their defensive tools on a daily basis.
The duo are the stars of a backline that has shipped just one goal in four matches at the World Cup and, on a wider scale, won six of their last seven without conceding.
France also have an Atleti asset in their defence in Lucas Hernandez. The 22-year-old has been an ever-present in Les Bleus’ back four so far, which conceded just one goal in the group stage, before leaking three in a frenzied last-16 tie with Argentina.
Together, Hernandez, Godin and Gimenez make up 75% of Atletico Madrid’s first-choice defence, one of the most frugal in the business that gave up a meagre 22 goals in La Liga last season.
While this trio helps to keep it tight, Antoine Griezmann injects the venom in attack.
The France forward netted 19 La Liga goals for Los Colchoneros last term and has helped himself to a pair of penalties in Russia. Griezmann is 9/2 to score first, while those who fancy Godin and Gimenez to shut out their Atletico ally (and the rest of his French counterparts – including new Atleti acquisition Thomas Lemar) can get paid out at 9/4.
Uruguay and France aren’t the only nations who owe a portion of their World Cup success to Atletico Madrid, though.
Croatia right-back Sime Vrsaljko completes the most ironclad quartet in Spanish football, while Brazil’s understudy left-back Felipe Luis, who played a key role in the clean sheets the Selecao kept against Serbia and Mexico, deputises for the aforementioned Hernandez in his day job.
Atletico fingerprints can be detected elsewhere too. For instance, Miranda is a mainstay in the Brazil backline, where he no doubt deploys some of the skills developed during a four-year stay in the red-and-white sector of the Spanish capital. Similarly, Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois honed his craft during a three-year stint in Los Colchoneros colours.
With such a vast presence in the last eight, it certainly would be fitting for this tournament to be remembered as the Atletico Madrid World Cup, regardless of who brings it home.