Fifa World Cup team of the tournament: best 11 for Russia 2018
Russia 2018 has come and gone, so it’s time to take a look back and pick the star performers – see who makes the grade
It’s only been three days since Russia 2018 ended, but if you’re like us then you’ll already be getting World Cup withdrawal symptoms – so how about a combined best 11 for the tournament?
It wasn’t easy whittling down the best performers in Russia into one team, and there are plenty of stars who can feel unfairly done by for their exclusion.
And while it was tempting to just put the entire France team in, there were some fine performers who just couldn’t be ignored.
So here’s a World Cup team of the tournament – if you don’t agree, be sure to leave a comment on who you would pick. Let’s go (formation 4-3-3):
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Thibaut Courtois was a flawless and imposing figure during Russia 2018 and showed he is ready to battle David de Gea again for the title of world’s best goalkeeper.
Courtois had three clean sheets and his displays have attracted Real Madrid, who are reportedly close to signing the Chelsea goalkeeper for €35 million (US$40.72 million).
Right back: Kieran Trippier (England
Some strong competition from Benjamin Pavard, who scored a long-range stunner against Argentina and played his part in securing three clean sheets for France.
But he’s just edged out by Kieran Trippier, who was one of the revelations of the tournament with England.
Trippier embodied the underdog spirit of Gareth Southgate’s side with some marauding runs forward, some pinpoint crosses and set pieces – the Tottenham man created 24 chances – and a sublime free-kick goal against Croatia.
Centre back: Raphael Varane (France)
If you need any vindication of Varane’s quality, he’s won 16 trophies at 25 years old, and has played in 10 one-off finals in his career with Real Madrid and France, winning them all.
He had four clean sheets with France and was a rock at the back, as well as a threat in the box from set pieces, one of which scored from against Uruguay.
Perhaps unlucky to miss out on player of the tournament to Luka Modric, but it’s unfashionable to award these things to defenders.
Centre back: Yerry Mina (Colombia)
Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti have a fight on their hands to keep their places in the centre of Barcelona’s defence next season.
Yerry Mina was impressive going forward as he was at the back, scoring three headed goals, including that late goal in normal time which almost broke English hearts in the round of 16.
The towering 1.94-metre centre back also kept two clean sheets, and at 23 has the potential to become one of the world’s best.
Left back: Lucas Hernandez (France)
There weren’t too many left backs who set the world alight in Russia, but Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernandez led the way.
Like Pavard on the other flank, he played his part at the back and was also a threat bombing on – he made 18 clearances, four interceptions and had two assists.
Right attacking midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
Although Belgium fell slightly short, Kevin De Bruyne confirmed his reputation as one of the best attacking midfielders in world football.
The Manchester City star only scored one goal, but what a goal it was from outside the box against Brazil, and he had 23 key passes including two assists.
Centre midfield: Luke Modric (Croatia)
Perhaps quite rightly named as player of the tournament, Luka Modric took his club form with Real Madrid onto the international stage and dominated the middle of the park in almost every game he played.
The final was perhaps one game too far for the diminutive 32-year-old, but he had an 87.2 per cent pass success rate (422 out of 484), with 18 key passes including one assist, and scored two goals.
Left attacking midfield: Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Brazil may have exited the tournament earlier than expected in the quarter-finals, but Philippe Coutinho still walked away as perhaps the second best midfielder in Russia.
You suspect next season could be a defining one in confirming the Barcelona playmaker’s status as one of the game’s best, and he sounded notice with two goals and two assists as he outshone Neymar as Brazil’s best player.
Right forward: Kylian Mbappe (France)
With four goals in his first World Cup at 19 years old – only Pele can beat those numbers – Kylian Mbappe suggested he is ready to soon take the mantle from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as best player in the world.
Paris Saint-Germain will do well to hold onto the striker, who ran defences ragged in Russia with his electric pace and lethal finishing.
Striker: Harry Kane (England)
Things didn’t pan out for the Three Lions in the end, but Harry Kane still wound up with Golden Boot as the tournament’s top striker.
The England captain scored six goals in all, including a hat-trick against Panama, taking his overall tally to 19 goals from 30 caps. At 24, Tottenham’s Kane is well-placed to break Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 goals for England.
Left forward: Eden Hazard (Belgium)
This was the crowning moment of Eden Hazard’s international career, with three goals and two assists.
The 27-year-old looks primed to be the man to replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, following six years at Chelsea.
Hugo Lloris looked nailed on to get the nod until he did a Hugo Lloris in the final and committed a characteristic howler for France that could have potentially sparked a Croatia comeback.
Luckily France were still 4-2 ahead when Lloris tried to do a Cruyff turn yards from his goal line on Mario Mandzukic, who gladly poked the ball into the net, but it still soured his tournament after three clean sheets.
Samuel Umtiti could easily have been picked for the best 11. He had three clean sheets and scored the winner for France against Belgium in the semi-finals, adding a bit of silk to Varane’s steel.
PSG star Thiago Silva was an uncompromising presence at the back for Brazil, with three clean sheets until their defeat by Belgium.
Andreas Granqvist may be an unheralded name but the veteran 33-year-old captained Sweden with aplomb, helping them to three clean sheets, and scored a couple of crucial penalties along the way.
It wasn’t much of a tournament for midfielders, but Paul Pogba perhaps silenced a few of his many doubters with some composed performances for France in the knockout stages, including a goal in the final.
Jesse Lingard was an ever present for England, apart from when Southgate rested players in the games against Belgium, and repaid that faith with a goal and a couple of assists during some bustling displays.
Ivan Rakitic helped his mate Modric keep things ticking along in midfield for Croatia, and grabbed a goal for himself against Argentina.
Antoine Griezmann kept things ticking over for France with three goals from the penalty spot and a lucky long-range goal against Uruguay. Wasn’t at his spectacular best but didn’t need to be.
Romelu Lukaku received his usual criticism of being a flat track bully, after failing to add to his four goals against Panama and Tunisia, but the other aspects of his game such as his raw pace and power were on full display in Belgium’s wins over Japan and Brazil.
Another who is unlucky to miss out on the bets 11, Ivan Perisic showed just why Jose Mourinho was desperate to sign him for Manchester United last season, with three goals including a screamer in the final.