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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019

Do you agree with our 2018 World Cup team of the tournament?

Tottenham and England star Kieran Trippier is among the players to make the cut.

Kieran Trippier (file pic).
Kieran Trippier (file pic).
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Jordan Pickford: The 24-year-old had just three caps going into the tournament, but was among England’s standout players. He made some terrific saves and was especially key to the side’s penalty shootout success against Colombia. Going into the tournament, the goalkeeping position was perhaps England’s biggest concern, but it turned out to be one of the team’s greatest strengths.

Kieran Trippier: Another of England’s less heralded but most effective players, Trippier provided the team with plenty of balance and attacking threat down the right, in addition to scoring a beautiful free kick against Croatia. In many ways, he epitomised the resilience of many in the England team. Deemed surplus to requirements at Man City as recently as 2012, he left the club without having made a first-team appearance. Since then, he has rejuvenated his career at Burnley and Tottenham, becoming one of the best full/wing backs in Europe in the process.

Diego Godin: One of two players not to have made the semi-finals to feature in this starting XI, the 32-year-old was immense in Russia. He was part of a Uruguay side that didn’t concede a single goal in the group stages, while he was similarly superb in the defeat of Euro 2016 champions Portugal. In the France game, the Atletico Madrid star couldn’t do much about either goal as Uruguay’s deficiencies elsewhere ultimately told.

Harry Maguire: England’s three-man backline were not always entirely convincing and ultimately undone by Croatia, but Maguire has nonetheless emerged as a star of the tournament. The Leicester player’s physicality and aerial ability was often key at the other end too, as England scored nine goals from set pieces, a World Cup record. Harry Redknapp has compared his presence and deceptive pace to Richard Dunne, while he was also comfortable on the ball, as Gareth Southgate insisted all the Three Lions’ players should be.

Domagoj Vida: We’re cheating slightly here by putting in Vida as a left-back — though he is capable of playing across the backline, he has primarily been used centrally by Croatia. He scored a crucial extra-time goal against Russia and was part of a relatively solid defence that conceded just once in the group stages, even keeping a side that included Lionel Messi at bay.

Luka Modric: Many people’s choice for player of the tournament and a potential Ballon d’Or winner given his achievements in the Champions League this year too. Modric looked a class apart in most of the matches he played, picking up the official man-of-the-match award on no less than three occasions so far (against Nigeria, Argentina and Russia).

N’Golo Kante: A vital cog in the French machine, Didier Deschamps’ men don’t always play beautiful football but they have people like Kante to get the job done. It’s hard to believe that four years ago, the 27-year-old was playing in the relative obscurity of Ligue 2 with Caen. Since then, his rise has been remarkable, winning two Premier League titles at different clubs while appearing on the verge of adding a World Cup winners’ medal to his collection.

Ivan Perisic: It’s become clear at this World Cup why Man United were keen to sign Perisic last summer, before being priced out of the move by Inter. Mourinho marvelled at the star’s man-of-the-match display against England. “Perisic is the kind of winger that is different to the others,” Mourinho told Russia Today. “Normally you look at wingers and they are just fast and creative. But he is also physical, very physical. Fantastic in the air. So the way he wins that ball in the air [for Mandzukic’s goal] and puts the ball into that space is only possible if you are very, very physical and dominant over defenders.” In addition to his match-winning heroics against the English, he also scored the decisive goal against Iceland and has been an important part of a remarkable success story that has seen a country of just over four million people reach a World Cup final.

Denis Cheryshev: Tournament hosts Russia vastly exceeded the meagre expectations of the country going into this tournament. They were a penalty shootout away from a semi-final against England and what they sometimes lacked in technical ability, they more than made up for in spirit. Along with 22-year-old Aleksandr Golovin, who is rumoured to be on his way to Chelsea, Cheyshev was arguably Russia’s best player, scoring four goals (only Harry Kane has managed more at the tournament to date). He is also one of many terrific stories at the tournament that highlight the importance of persistence. Let go by Real Madrid in 2016 having failed to establish himself in the first team, he has gone on to rebuild his career admirably and become one of the stars of this tournament.

Kylian Mbappe: A teen prodigy, the 19-year-old has lit up the World Cup with some fine displays. He was especially good against Argentina, where he frequently terrorised the South Americans’ defence and registered a brace to boot. The PSG forward also turned in another man-of-the-match performance against Peru, hitting the crucial winner in that game to ensure his country’s progression to the knockout stages.

Mario Mandzukic: At 32, the Juventus forward may have seen better days, but that hasn’t stopped him being hugely effective in Russia. What’s noticeable about Mandzukic is that unlike many bigger stars, he puts in an impressive shift off the ball, despite not being the most prolific of goalscorers. You could possibly argue the case for Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku instead of him in this team, but they did most of their best work in the group stages. By contrast, the Croatian attacker has really come alive as the competition has progressed, scoring vital goals in the knockout games against England and Denmark, as well as providing an impressive assist for Andrej Kramaric’s equaliser against Russia. He won’t score as many goals as the likes of Neymar or Cristiano Ronaldo, but Mandzukic’s understated brilliance should not be overlooked. He has won two Bundesligas, three Serie As and one Champions League among countless other trophies, and there is a reason behind this overwhelming success.

Formation (4-4-2)


Trippier Godin Maguire Vida

Perisic Kante Modric Cheryshev

Mbappe Mandzukic

Subs: Thibaut Courtois, Raphaël Varane, Yerry Mina, Sime Vrsaljko, Paul Pogba, Ivan Rakitic, Aleksandr Golovin, Antoine Griezmann, Eden Hazard, Harry Kane.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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