Dictate The Game’s 2018 World Cup Team of the Tournament

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Well, its all over for another 4 years, and congratulations to France on winning a well fought contest against a plucky Croatia side, coming away with a 4-2 win and ending their 20 year wait for another World Cup success.

Many players impressed during the course of this summer, and there is no doubt a lot of them will use this platform to secure big moves for themselves or bigger contracts where they are.

But who are the 11 players who have stood out during the tournament? We have put together our Team of the Tournament.

Before this article starts, I would recommend checking out our ‘One to Watch’ series we did over the World Cup. You can view this here.

Goalkeeper

Croatia keeper Danijel Subasic ties World Cup record with 3 penalty shootout saves

Subašić in action for Croatia (http://zeenews.india.com)

Danijel Subašić (Croatia)

The Croatian keeper came into the World Cup with some expecting the 33 year old to have a strong World Cup however I doubt many expected the big man to have quite the tournament he has had. The Monaco goalkeeper had a bright tournament at what surely was his last World Cup and despite the final result Danijel should be proud of his performance and he may be looked at by other clubs around Europe.

Subašić played his part in 2 penalty shoot-out victories saving one penalty against Russia and also played his part in their 3-2 penalty victory over Denmark in the knockout stage. The 6’3 keeper also made a superb save to deny Harry Kane in the semi-final as well as impressive displays against Argentina and Nigeria. The big man ends the tournament with a runners up medal and will go down as Croatia’s most successful goalkeeper in their existence.


Defenders

England's Kieran Trippier celebrates after scoring.

Trippier after his fantastic freekick against Croatia (https://www.foxsports.com.au)

Kieran Trippier (England)

Coming into the World Cup, the lack of caps amongst the full backs for England was heavily mentioned, however, the right back, Kieran Trippier put in some amazing performances, and this is why I chose him for our team of the tournament.

His seemingly never ending pace was a huge part of England’s game, and helped assist a number of goals. Kieran also scored a wonderful free kick in the first five minutes of the Semi Final fixture against Crotia which had England fans in dream land. For a relatively inexperienced player at international level, Trippier came into his own, and claimed that right wing back spot for himself, linking up well with the whole defence. The Tottenham player made a real name for himself, and surely will be England’s full back for years to come.

Kieran was awarded a 7.19 average rating from the fans on the BBC Sport website, which is the highest out of all the England players.


Raphael Varane (France)

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Raphael Varane with the World Cup (www.givemesport.com)

The French centre back has been little short of perfect in Russia, Raphael was the main performer in a world class defensive line for France. The Real Madrid defender has been consistently solid in Russia, although his best performances came in the knockout stages, which was the same as his fellow teammates.

A world class performance against Uruguay in the quarter finals and then to be a key cog in the French machine against Belgium in the semi-finals managed to shift the attention of many to the 25 year old despite the heroics from Kylian Mbappe.

To top Raphael’s defensive duties performed to perfection, he will be heading back to France with a World Cup winners medal. In my opinion, this is well and truly earned after showing to be one of the best defenders in the world and certainly one of the best in the World Cup.


Harry Maguire (England)

Leicester star Harry Maguire is poised to succeed with England

Harry Maguire in action for England (https://www.dailystar.co.uk)

Few people expected Harry Maguire to emerge from the tournament with such an enhanced reputation, but from his performances for England that is exactly what has happened. Maguire has been first class from the first game against Tunisia, right through to the hugely unexpected Third Place playoff against Belgium. His positioning, hard tackling and excellent marking abilities made him stand out as a defender on the verge of being World Class, and will surely earn him a move away from Leicester City this summer, with the global Superpower of Manchester United reportedly readying a £50m bid.

His aerial presence was a real threat also, as he chipped in with the opening goal against Sweden in the Quarter Final from a corner, proving England’s overall effectiveness from set pieces during the tournament. Whilst England ultimately fell short of bringing football home, Maguire and co were able to restore national pride and give us all hope that there is more to come from the Three Lions.


Diego Laxalt (Uruguay)

Crystal Palace are monitoring Uruguay World Cup star Diego Laxalt

Diego Laxalt chasing the ball. (thescottishsun.co.uk)

Laxalt has been a stand out in the competition, and not just for his outrageous hair style. He has been a very solid defender and caught the attention of many clubs, but Genoa are confident he will be staying. Laxalt hasn’t always been a left back, but playing at Genoa they operate with a 3-5-1-1 formation which sees Laxalt operating in a left wing back role and allows him the freedom offensively.

Laxalt has operated as a left back for Uruguays highly structured 4-4-2 system, which meant his creative freedom was limited, but that did not stop Diego making an impact defensively. The newly formed left back had an average of 1.8 clearances per game in the World Cup and was a key member of the Uruguayan defence which conceded 3 goals in 5 games, one against Portugal and two against eventual winners France.

The only real downside to Diego’s game is his height, he is only 5 foot 8 inches which for a defender is small, so lost out on many aerial duels. He averaged a 0.8 aerial duels won per game, which is poor for a defender. Other than that, the 25 year old shown real quality and blossomed in a team which had global superstars in.


Midfielders

Luka Modrićs Journey To The World Cup Final Is A Truly Inspirational Story Luka Modric 2

Modric with the ball glued to his feet. (Unilad.co.uk)

Luka Modric (Croatia)

What can you say about Luka Modric that hasn’t been said a million times before? The man is a midfield colossus. Dictating play, picking a pass out of seemingly nowhere, always working tirelessly for the benefit of the team and not afraid to get stuck in when the moment calls for it. Modric has it all and brought all that and more to the World Cup this summer. With his performances for Real Madrid over the last year he could well be the man who breaks the dominance of Lionel Messi and Juventus bound Cristiano Ronaldo over the coveted Ballon D’or Trophy.

Modric has been without a doubt Croatia’s most consistent performer this summer, he was instrumental in dumping England out of the tournament at the semi final stage. His ability to read a game and then change the pace of play to suit his teammates is almost unrivalled, and despite falling just short in the World Cup final against France, he can be justly proud of not only his efforts, but Croatia’s as a whole as they reached their first ever World Cup Final in the country’s short history.


Paul Pogba (France)

Paul Pogba with the World Cup and Winners medal. (www.si.com)

Paul Pogba is the complete package. In France’s exceptionally strong midfield axis, which restricted France’s opponents to as few shots on target per game as possible, Pogba was the talisman. He’s often accused of lacking defensive discipline, but against Croatia, he stood off their players and commanded his teammates to get into shape, while pushing up whenever the ball made its way past Marcelo Brozović into the #10 space. To assist with France’s counter-attacks, he also consistently launches defence-splitting balls; particularly to Kylian Mbappé. On top of all of that, Pogba scored with a trademark blazing shot from the edge of the area in that final.

The Pogba we love to watch is capable of everything. The chip, precision and arrogant look to every pass, as if he’s trained every day of his life to polish them, has even helped long balls look attractive in this tournament. As per Whoscored, he has made 5.8 long balls per game this tournament; 2.6 more than centre-back Samuel Umtiti! The fact that he’s France’s main playmaker, averaging more key passes per game than anyone else in their side, and almost triple that of any other midfielder, showcases the fact that these are the kind of audacious passes Pogba unleashes when deployed in a free role. As ‘key passes’ don’t stand out nearly as much as goals and assists, Pogba is unlikely to ever get the credit he deserves.


N’Golo Kante (France)

N’Golo Kante in action for France. (90min.com)

Chelsea star N’Golo Kante has left his mark on another big stage, this time the biggest of them all the World Cup.The French man has played a pivotal role in the French midfield at this tournament allowing France’s attacking unit to play their game. N’Golo was taken off during the final but without him, there might be no World Cup celebrations for Les Bleus.

Kante’s willingness to run and track has allowed the likes of Pogba and Mbappe to be more expressive knowing the engine of the team is still behind them patrolling the half way line. N’Golo has recovered the ball a impressive 40 times at this tournament second to a Croatian named Luka Modric. N’Golo’s rise has continued to impress and his performances show he is a must for the XI.


Attackers

Eden Hazard with his third place medal. (IndianExpress.com)

Eden Hazard (Belguim)

In a squad full of stars, it was the Chelsea man who shone the brightest. Unplayable at times, Hazard caused no end of problems for opposition defenders, picking the ball up and driving at the defence with blistering speed and control saw him complete no fewer than 6.7 dribbles per game, the highest in the whole tournament. Couple this with 3 goals and an assist in 6 matches, there is no doubt that Hazard fully deserves his inclusion in our team of the tournament.

Recent speculation, and his own words, suggest that he might not be at Chelsea come the end of summer, there is no doubting his quality and his performances this summer will have certainly bumped up his price tag.


Harry Kane (England)

 during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between England and Panama at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 24, 2018 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Harry Kane scoring from the spot. (news.sky.com)

“When times are down, keep believing, keep working hard, and things will pick up.”
Harry Kane’s overall demeanour just epitomises what commentators want from players. A typically bullish centre-forward who never stops scoring goals, gives the impression that football is his life-long dream and, most importantly, is English-born and bred.

While that might explain why players like him and Steven Gerrard only need to do half as much to as earn twice as much praise as others, Kane has undeniably had an outstanding tournament. Winning the Golden Boot award and captaining England to the semi-finals, Kane is already a national icon, and deservedly so. In particular, his instigation of England’s deadly set-piece routines were invaluable towards England progress; he always had the anticipation to peel off his marker and run towards the near post long before they could react. This often resulted in him scoring, being pulled down by his marker, or acting as a decoy for players such as Harry Maguire to make space at the far post. He also scored all three penalties England earned during the tournament, along with netting in their crucial penalty shoot-out. Where other captains failed in making a difference at the decisive moments, Kane succeeded.

That said, his link-up play must drastically improve.


Kylian Mbappe (France)

Kylian Mbappe, France Football, 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA World Cup 2018, France vs Croatia, World Cup Final, 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi

19 year old Mbappe with the World Cup. (www.thestatesman.com)

Where to begin with the most predictable surprise of the entire tournament. Mbappe came into the tournament hot on the back of rumours claiming he has just signed for Real Madrid but these proved to be false. As one of the stars of the PSG team it was expected for him to perform well but I think we can all say he has superseded the expectations.

Mbappe was as efficient as an assassin when it came to France’s round of 16 tie against Argentina, yes Argentina were woeful before hand but were still expected to put up a fight, had it not been for Mbappe scoring 2 it very well could have been a different team in the final and thus change the complexion of the tournament. He finished the tournament by grabbing a goal against Croatia as France won the World Cup and Mbappe was very much integral to this drive. Every single game he played in he gave his all and this was shown by the award of best young player to be given to him as fellow countryman Paul Pogba was in Brazil. Bright things are coming for this lad, I think he will be the first £200 million + player when he leaves PSG and will go down as a legend of world football.


DTG WC XI

DTG’s World Cup XI

So there we have it, Dictate The Game’s overall players of the tournament. Who would you select in your World Cup team?


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