Earlier we brought you our team of the tournament, though there were more than just eleven standout performers in Russia, so we’ve compiled a second XI comprised of players who, despite not quite making the team of the tournament, delivered several noteworthy performances over the last three or four weeks.
Here’s FST’s (un)official alternative team of the tournament:
Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford
Going into the tournament, there probably wasn’t much in it between the three goalkeepers, though coming out of Russia, Jordan Pickford, whose star has risen significantly over the last few weeks, is very much the England number one.
By producing fine save after fine save, the 22-year-old enjoyed a coming-of-age World Cup. In fact, had England beaten Croatia and reached the final, FIFA would probably have had no choice but to award the golden glove to the Sunderland born keeper, whose effort to deny a wonderous long range strike from Columbian Mateus Uribe in the last-16, along with an excellent stop from a sweetly struck Thomas Meunier volley in the third-place play-off, will go down as some of the finest goalkeeping of the entire tournament.
Defender – Domagoj Vida
Domagoj Vida may not have been on the radar of everyone prior to the World Cup, though anyone who watched the drama unfold in Russia over the last month knows the name now.
As the defender thrust himself into tackles left, right and centre, adopting a no-nonsense style of play, it became abundantly clear from early on that the words “half” and “hearted” aren’t in the Vida dictionary. The 29-year-old centre-back, who currently plays his club football in Turkey for Besiktas, was a key part of Croatia’s relative success and is thus worthy of his place in this alternative XI.
Defender – Yerry Mina
Three headed goals and four big performances ensured that Colombia defender Yerry Mina left Russia with his head held high. After a poor first game, the Colombians needed inspiring and it was Mina who set them on their way to victory when he climbed above the Polish defence to guide his header home in Kazan on match-day two.
With little more than 15 minutes remaining, Colombia were heading out, though the man mountain was at it again, as he stormed onto a corner and fired his header into the back of the Senegalese net. The theme of Mina coming to the rescue continued against England in the last-16 when the defender once again got his head to a corner in the 91st minute, a goal which forced extra-time. Although the Colombians did eventually go out on penalties against England, the fact that Yerry Mina continued to make his presence felt at big moments should not be forgotten.
Read More: World Cup 2018: FST’s Team of the Tournament
Defender – Davinson Sanchez
Unlike his defensive partner, Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he was one of the standout defenders, not only for his own team but in the tournament overall.
The versatile centre-back, who showed both physical and technical qualities in Russia, led from the back against Poland, while he delivered an inch-perfect performance in that crucial game against Senegal, making interception after interception and tackle after tackle to deny the Senegalese a route to goal. For that performance alone, Sanchez should be mentioned.
Right Midfielder – Aleksandr Golovin
It may have been a couple of other Russians who grabbed the headlines for their goal-scoring exploits, but midfielder Aleksandr Golovin was as important as anyone for the host nation.
The creative spark, the man capable of getting on the ball in those little pockets of space and making something happen. With two fine assists and a goal from an expertly executed free-kick in the opening fixture, the midfielder made a pleasing start to the tournament, while he was also key to Russia’s success against Egypt on match-day two.
At just 22, the CSKA Moscow man played with a maturity beyond his years in Russia; he was able to get on the ball and show his flair and creativity at times, though he also worked hard for the team and did his defensive duties when asked.
Central Midfielder – N’Golo Kante
The midfielder whose batteries never seem to run out, N’Golo Kante was nothing short of exceptional at this World Cup. The midfielder, who stands at no more than five foot and five inches, is rarely the player who provides the creative spark, though what he lacks in that department he more than makes up for in work rate, ball winning, tactical intelligence and ball retention.
By tackling almost anyone who dared to pass him with the ball, whilst also intercepting what seemed like every pass made by the opposition, the Chelsea midfielder continuously regained possession for his team in Russia and he ought to be remembered for it. Who knows, without the endless work of the Chelsea midfielder, France may never have reached the final.
Central Midfielder – Wilfred Ndidi
Nigeria might’ve failed to make it out of their group, though the performances of some of their players certainly didn’t go unnoticed, especially the performances of Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi.
After getting off to a poor start, Nigeria needed to deliver a big performance against Iceland on match-day two, and thanks to the work of Ndidi in the middle, who consistently regained possession and used the ball well, that’s exactly what they did. What’s more, the 21-year-old, was one of the standout performers against Argentina, so much so that he was massively unlucky to come out of the game on the losing side.
Interestingly, only one player averaged more tackles per game than Ndidi in Russia, while nobody averaged more interceptions per match. The youngster played just three games, but he was no back number at this World Cup.
Left Midfielder – Denis Cheryshev
Villarreal’s Denis Cheryshev may have grown up in Spain, but he was made at Russia 2018. The left midfielder was left out of the first XI against Saudi Arabia on match-day one, though when Alan Dzagoev was forced off through injury mid-way through the first-half, Cheryshev saw his opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.
Two goals, one of which a fine strike with the outside of his cultured left foot, saw Cheryshev get off to a flyer, while he was just as good when scoring against Egypt on match-day two. The winger also put in a tireless shift against Spain in the last-16, and was once again on the score-sheet against Croatia in the quarter-finals. Having scored four goals, at least two of which were genuine contenders for goal of the tournament, the winger was absolutely one of the standout performers in the country of his birth this summer.
Left Winger – Takashi Inui
Fans of Eibar and La Liga were aware of just how useful a player Takashi Inui was before the World Cup, though for many outside of those circles, the Japanese winger was something of an unknown quantity. However, anyone who watched the action in Russia now knows just how effective he is.
Inui, who recently swapped Eibar for Real Betis in Spain, announced himself at the World Cup with a fine strike against Senegal, a match where the tricky winger tormented the opposition defence all game long, while his efforts against Belgium were admirable. Not only did the forward-thinking wide player show no fear as he looked to be direct and take players on, but he scored what was one of the best placed goals of the entire tournament when firing past Thibaut Courtois from distance.
The Japanese were eventually left heartbroken when Belgium came from behind to snatch victory late in the day, though the efforts of Takashi Inui shouldn’t be overlooked.
Right Winger – Mario Mandzukic
The man who broke English hearts by ensuring that football most certainly wasn’t coming home, Mario Mandzukic put in shift after shift for the eventual runners-up Croatia.
Operating in several forward roles, whether it be as a support striker, a lone front man or off either wing, the versatile attacker, who scored three goals and claimed one assist, was an integral part of Croatia’s run to the final in Moscow. The Juventus player showed an array of qualities in Russia; he worked tirelessly both offensively and defensively, was useful from set pieces in both boxes, while he showed his quick thinking and clever movement to react before any of the England defenders on route to securing the Croats’ place in the final.
Striker – Artem Dzyuba
The good old-fashioned target man, the predatory striker waiting for delivery between the opposition goal posts, Artem Dzyuba kept things simple at this World Cup, and his approach certainly paid off. Having come on as a substitute during the opening match, the striker, who is a fraction under under six foot and four inches, found the net with a precise header, while he delivered the goods on match-day two, slotting precisely after expertly using his chest to bring the ball under control.
It was Dzyuba who scored the penalty to take Spain all the way before coming out on top in a last-16 shootout, while the hitman unsurprisingly won more aerial duels per game than any other player at the 2018 renewal of FIFA’s main event.
Your Team of the Tournament
We asked for your best XI from Russia and you delivered via social media. After conducting a poll on our Twitter account asking for your Team of the Tournament, and this is what you came up with:
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