Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 concluded in dramatic and entertaining fashion at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday evening, with pre-match favourites France enjoying the right side of a number of controversial decisions and eventually running out 4-2 winners. An emotional Antoine Griezmann saw the pains of the Euro 2016 final seep away in front of his teary eyes as he lifted the most prestigious prize in world football, whilst beaten finalist Luka Modric added the Golden Ball trophy to his silver medal.
But who were the other standout performers of the tournament? Here’s FST’s (un)official team of the tournament!
Goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois may have only claimed the bronze medal for Belgium in Russia, but it was through no fault of his own. The Chelsea stopper won the prestigious Golden Glove award in the awards ceremony following a string of solid performances.
His overall performances may have been solid, but it was his moments of magnificence that caught the eye. He produced a string of sensational saves as Belgium knocked footballing superpowers Brazil out in the quarter finals, and it was perhaps that performance that tipped the balance in his favour.
The most influential factor probably came in a final that he was absent from. Hugo Lloris made a dreadful error to let Croatia back into the game in the second half, and while it didn’t affect the outcome of the match it probably tipped the even scales in Courtois’ favour.
Right Back – Kieran Trippier
Eyebrows were raised before the tournament when Gareth Southgate seemed intent on moving Kyle Walker to the right side of a back three to make room for Kieran Trippier. In the end it turned out to be one of Southgate’s more inspired moves.
Trippier absolutely dominated the right side of the pitch, bursting forward with pace at every opportunity and never forgetting his responsibilities in tracking back. His performances in open play played second fiddle to his showing over a dead ball. In a tournament where England dominated from set pieces, more often than not it was Trippier sending in the deliveries.
England’s organisation from set pieces was excellent, but that would have counted for nothing if the delivery wasn’t right. Fortunately, Trippier was on hand to send top notch balls onto the waiting heads of Harry Maguire and John Stones. Not to mention the fact that he scored a stunning free kick in the semi final.
Centre Back – Raphael Varane
There was some doubt hanging around the France camp as they went into this tournament, and it was mainly aimed at their defence. In Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane they have two relatively inexperienced centre backs, but Varane stepped up to the mark and led a France defence that managed to keep both Uruguay and Belgium quiet in the knockout stages.
He chipped in going forward as well, notching the opening goal in their 2-0 win over Uruguay. It was his performance against Belgium that got him into our team of the tournament though, with him and Umtiti showing incredible discipline and desire to instantly close down any Belgian attack.
Centre Back – Diego Godin
Uruguay may have only made the quarter finals of the World Cup, but Diego Godin was influential in taking them that far. Captain of his country, he worked alongside club teammate Jose Gimenez with brutal efficiency throughout the tournament.
Most eyes were on Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani for Uruguay, but manager Oscar Tabarez places much more emphasis on his back line. They conceded just three goals in their five matches and kept a clean sheet throughout the group stages, and a big part of that was down solely to Godin. He absolutely loves defending, and standing next to Jose Gimenez you see two old fashioned, no nonsense centre backs who anybody would want in their team.
Left Back – Luis Hernandez
Atletico Madrid’s 22 year old left back was expected to be replaced by Benjamin Mendy as soon as the latter was fit, but his performances didn’t warrant him being dropped. The youngster may have only 12 international appearances to his name, but he played his part in France’s success with maturity that belies his years.
It wasn’t just defensively that he impressed either. The left back was France’s second most fouled player of the tournament thanks to his probing runs forward, and he constantly provided an outlet on the overlap for his teammates.
Central Midfielder – Luka Modric
Croatia’s talismanic captain is simply impossible to leave out of a team of the tournament. He may have been unable to inspire his compatriots in the final on Sunday, but the Real Madrid playmaker received his very own consolation prize in the form of the coveted Golden Boot award.
He came into this World Cup on the back of an incredibly long season that saw him lift yet another Champions League trophy with Real Madrid, but he wasn’t content with that. He spurred Croatia on to reach their first ever World Cup Final with his incredible range of passing and quick decision making. You simply cannot overstate his importance to this squad, and it’s just a shame that the 32 year old was unable to defy the odds once more in what is likely to be his last World Cup.
Central Midfielder – Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba is no stranger to pressure. It’s been heaped on his back for years now since his emphatic transfer back to Manchester United, and it’s fair to say that he hasn’t really lived up to the billing on the club scene.
This tournament has been different though. We have seen the 25 year old blossom into the controlling force we always knew he could be. He drew more fouls than any other France player with his powerful dribbling in the centre of the park, and his stunning strike to put France 3-1 up in the final pretty much summed his tournament up.
Attacking Midfielder – Ivan Perisic
Admittedly he spent most of his time out on the left wing, but it seemed criminal to leave Croatia’s weaving attacker out of the team of the tournament. It was a tournament that saw the Inter Milan man utilise his renowned left foot to devastating effect, and it generally came at crucial points in a match.
He scored Croatia’s equaliser with a thunderbolt in the final against France, and he netted the equaliser in the semi final as he poked that same left foot in front of the head of Kyle Walker. Modric may have deservedly taken most of the plaudits for Croatia, but with 21 goals in 73 international appearances the influence of Ivan Perisic cannot be ignored.
Right Winger – Kylian Mbappe
He’s only 19 years old, but somehow the entire footballing world is already running out of superlatives for the incredible talents of Kylian Mbappe. He became the first teenager to score in a World Cup in 60 years on Sunday evening, following on from a little known footballer who goes by the name of Pele.
That was his fourth goal of this tournament and his eighth in a France shirt, but it’s not just his goals that have caught the eye. He has played with incredible maturity considering his tender age, and his roulette backheel pass that completely dismantled the Belgium defence was a thing of beauty (watch at 1.15 in the video below.)
Mbappe surely has the world at his talented feet, and now that he has shown he can still perform on the grandest stage of all his value will have skyrocketed even more.
Left Winger – Eden Hazard
The Belgium captain’s future may be up in arms, but Eden Hazard didn’t let that distract him from the World Cup. The 27 year old Chelsea man was Belgium’s standout player going forward this tournament, and he added the numbers to show it with three goals and two assists in his six games.
He might have had more too, were it not for the defenders he faced. Hazard was fouled a huge 27 times during the tournament, making him the most fouled player at the World Cup, just ahead of Neymar. Unlike Neymar, Hazard largely tried to stay on his feet, shrugging off men twice his size with disarming ease as he constantly quested towards the edge of the box.
After this summer, Chelsea’s new manager will be even more intent on keeping their prize asset. Even if they don’t you would imagine his market price will have skyrocketed enormously now.
Striker – Harry Kane
He may have been booed by a large proportion of the Luzhniki Stadium, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Harry Kane became the first English man in nearly 30 years to win the World Cup Golden Boot.
Some may criticise the manner in which he scored his six goals, but nevertheless they all rippled the back of the net. Not only that, but he was a constant thorn in the oppositions side from England’s dangerous set pieces. The grasping hands of the opposition defenders were actually what won a few of England’s penalties, and he could have won a few more against Tunisia in the opening game.
Six goals in a World Cup finals is nothing to be ignored, no matter how you may score those goals.
Your Team of the Tournament
How does FST’s World Cup Team of the Tournament stack up against your choices? Well, we have the answer to that right here. We conducted 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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