FIFA World Cup 2018™ Team of the Tournament

This team has been selected according to several
rules. Firstly, there can only be one player per nation. Secondly, the team has been selected
as one that could actually play together, and within the formation selected. This stops
the team being overloaded with strikers and attacking midfielders: they may catch the
eye, but many could not flourish without the grunt work being done behind. This is a team
that could do well, as a team, with players that caught the eye at every stage of the
World Cup. Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel – Denmark (Club: Leicester City, age 31, caps 39) Denmark were one of only five sides to progress
from the Group Stage having conceded one goal or fewer, and Kasper Schmeichel then produced
one of the goalkeeping performances of the tournament as Denmark took on eventual finalists
Croatia. He saved Luka Modric’s penalty in extra time, ensuring the game went to penalties,
and then saved two spot kicks in the shoot-out. It was to no avail, but his heroics played
no small part in ensuring that Denmark exceeded expectations. Just missed out: Jordan Pickford (ENG), Jo
Hyeon-woo (KOR) Right wing back: Kieran Trippier – England (Club: Tottenham Hotspur, age 27, caps 12) A superb free-kick in the semi-final was just
reward for Kieran Trippier, who showed that he is one of the world’s leading wing backs
with a series of excellent performances. His delivery, both from open play and set pieces,
was a key factor in England’s progression through the tournament, and only four players
bettered his 3.4 key passes per game. Defensively solid, but eye-catching in attack, Trippier
took to England’s 3-5-2 system brilliantly and emerged onto the world stage as a real
talent. Just missed out: Benjamin Pavard (FRA), Sime
Vrsalijko (CRO) Centre back: Maya Yoshida – Japan (Club: Southampton, age 29, caps 87) Japan exceeded expectations and won plaudits
with their technical, tactically intelligent football, playing a 4-2-3-1 that built superbly
from the back. Maya Yoshida passed long and short, hitting the flanks or the midfield
with a series of astute, well-executed passes. He defended well, too – only Russia’s
Ignashevich exceeded Yoshida’s 8.3 clearances per game, and his defending was marked by
positionally astute covering and composure. After a tough club season with Southampton,
Yoshida can be well pleased with his Russian summer. Just missed out: Josh Risdon (AUS), Raphael
Varane (FRA) Centre back: Diego Godin – Uruguay (C) (Club: Athletico Madrid, age 32, caps 122) Uruguay only conceded three goals during the
World Cup, and captain Diego Godin was a rock at the heart of Uruguay’s defensive effort.
He made 2.6 interceptions, 2 tackles, and 4.4 clearances per game. During Uruguay’s
lacklustre early performances Godin also showed his all-round quality. As well as leading
by defensive example, he regularly carried the ball into midfield in an effort to inject
some dynamism. Calm, collected, and uncompromising, Godin showed why he is one of the world’s
top defenders. Just missed out: John Stones (ENG), Manuel
Akanji (SUI) Centre back: Yerry Mina – Colombia (Club: Barcelona, age 23, caps 15) Colombia were sometimes scintillating, sometimes
ugly and Mina was similarly unpredictable. While Colombia’s defensive system often
left him a lot to do, covering behind the marauding Johan Mojica, Mina mixed brilliant
recovery tackles with haphazard positioning and the occasional ill-conceived dribble.
Seven clearances per game shows a robust defensive style, but what gets Mina the nod is three
goals from set pieces, two of them crucial, one to beat Senegal, and then again to secure
penalties against England; no defender scored more. Just missed out: Harry Maguire (ENG), Jose
Gimenez (URU) Left wing back: Jesus Gallardo – Mexico (Club: Monterrey, age 23, caps 27) Mexico’s oscillating 4-2-3-1 slash 3-1-3-3
produced one of the games of the tournament, as they overcame Germany with rapid counter
attacks. Central to their efforts was the young Monterrey wing back, who played up and
down the touchline, supporting Hirving Lozano and making sure Mexico were not themselves
caught out. He made 2.5 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, and 3.3 clearances per game and, along with
Miguel Layun, patrolled Mexico’s flanks with energy and skill. Just missed out: Lucas Hernandez (FRA), Diego
Laxalt (URU) Defensive midfielder: Idrissa Gana Gueye – Senegal (Club: Everton, age 28, caps 57) Senegal showed that lazy stereotypes about
African teams were just that with a series of superbly organised defensive performances,
showcasing a high pressing 4-4-2 that required discipline and communication. Central to this
was Gueye, who demonstrated that he is one of the world’s most underrated defensive
midfielders. In addition to his defensive work, Gueye was crucial as Senegal looked
to keep possession until gaps appeared, and his tidy passing kept the team ticking over
– a superb, all-round midfield performance. Just missed out: N’Golo Kante (FRA), Valon
Behrami (SUI) Central midfielder: Luka Modric – Croatia (Club: Real Madrid, age 32, caps 112) Croatia’s coach Zlatko Dalic seemed to struggle
with the conundrum of how to fit two of the world’s best midfielders into his team,
and eventually solved it by adding one that wasn’t nearly as good but did all the legwork.
Croatia, and Modric, then blossomed, and the diminutive playmaker showed that he could
run games when not being asked to defend deeply. Prior to the final, Modric had two goals,
one assist, and had made almost 70 passes per game. He was also Croatia’s talisman
and leader. Just missed out: Kevin de Bruyne (BEL), Paul
Pogba (FRA) Central midfielder: Philippe Coutinho – Brazil (Club: Barcelona, age 26, caps 41) Coutinho started on the left hand side of
Brazil’s 4-3-3, sandwiched between full back Marcelo and forward Neymar. While Tite’s
Brazil underperformed, Coutinho showed that he could offer a consistent threat pushing
up and inside, fashioning shooting chances, making two assists, 2.6 key passes per game,
and completing 89.9% of his passes. He also scored twice, as many as Neymar, and managed
to chip in with some defensive work on Brazil’s more exposed flank. Perhaps the one Brazilian
to emerge with his reputation genuinely enhanced. Just missed out: Roman Zobnin (RUS), Ivan
Rakitic (CRO) Second striker: Kylian Mbappe – France (Club: Paris Saint-Germain, age 19, caps 21) France’s 4-2-3-1, which morphed into a 4-3-3,
had two real outlets: the surging carries and long passes of Paul Pogba, and the exhilarating
running of Kylian Mbappe. His pace terrified defences, his close control and ability to
fashion shooting chances yielded three goals with the chance to add to that in the final,
and his link up play showed a brilliant young footballer on the cusp of genuine greatness.
Against Argentina, he was unplayable – it’s been Mbappe’s tournament. Just missed out: Eden Hazard (BEL), Aleksandr
Golovin (RUS) Centre forward: Romelu Lukaku – Belgium (Club: Manchester United, age 25, caps 74) Four goals scored doesn’t tell the whole
story of Lukaku’s time in Russia, which ended in semi-final defeat to France. Playing
through the centre, he held up the ball, challenged defenders, and scored and created chances.
Against Brazil, he wreaked havoc on the right hand side in a 4-3-3 that saw Kevin de Bruyne
playing as a false nine. Versatile, showing superb awareness and intelligence, such as
when he left the ball for Chadli’s goal against Japan, and a constant threat, Lukaku
had a wonderful tournament. Just missed out: Harry Kane (ENG), Cristiano
Ronaldo (POR)