With the World Cup semi-finals starting tonight France, Belgium, Croatia and England all have a chance of making the final at the Luzhniki Stadium this Sunday.
But, who have been the most impressive individuals, who has captured the hearts of a nation and who has played beyond expectation. This piece looks at the team of the tournament so far, many people expected Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to be the standout performers in Russia as they so often have been for their clubs, but in this ridiculously unpredictable World Cup new stars have born and come to the floor. It may be hard to predict the Team of the Tournament, but the Golden Ball award, that’ll be even tougher.
Goalkeeper: Danijel Subašić
The goalkeeper position has been extremely difficult to call, there have been many standout performances, Kasper Schmeicals against Croatia, Jordan Pickford against Sweden but we believe that Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subašić has been constantly brilliant for his team. After conceding only one goal in the group stages, Croatia’s next two games would be decided by penalty shoot-outs. In the first against Denmark Subašić saved two penalties, yet it was in the quarter-final against hosts Russia where he really came to the floor. As the game was forced into extra time Subašić injured his hamstring but was forced to carry on, he showed his determination and saved Fedor Smolov’s penalty in the shoot-out on the way to victory.
Right Back: Kieran Trippier:
Kieran Trippier has been England’s most outstanding player in Russia this tournament, his set pieces, passing and crosses are a thing to be admired. The Tottenham Hotspur right back has even been compared to David Beckham from dead ball situations. Tripper has been a joy to watch, and Southgate has used him expertly getting the best out of him in a wing back position. He will, however, have to be at his best in the semi-final as he will have a test on his hands against Croatia’s Ivan Perisic.
CB: Raphael Varane:
Raphael Varane has been an imposing figure in the French defence and alongside Pogba, Kante and Mbappe has been one of the better performers for Les Bleus. His goal in the quarter-final against Uruguay, brought a sense of justice back for France. His mistake at the last World Cup in Brazil allowed Mats Hummels to score and knock France out at the same stage.
CB: Harry Maguire:
Who would have thought that Harry Maguire could help England achieve what greats, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry could not, as he prepares for a World Cup semi-final with his country. Maguires has built an impressive defensive partnership with John Stones and helped keep England’s first clean sheet of the World Cup against Sweden in the quarterfinals, a game in which he got the first of two goals, becoming a threat at the other end too. Dominating in the air and controlled in possession, he has blossomed in Russia.
LB: Lucas Hernandez:
Lucas Hernandez followed up his brilliant campaign with Athletico Madrid with an equally impressive debut World Cup. The left-back has been solid at the back, whilst at the same time proving an important attacking outlet in France’s arsenal. Hernandez and Pavard have been exemplified the art of a full back.
LW: Eden Hazard:
Belgium’s golden generation finally seem to be clicking, and captain Eden Hazard is a big reason for that. The mercurial winger has had an exceptional World Cup campaign. His direct running, and close-control dribbling have been a joy to behold. Hazard’s Man of the Match performance against favourites Brazil was hugely impressive and even outshone Neymar on the big stage. Hazard completed 10 take-ons with an 100% success rate in the quarter-final against Canarinha for the first time since 1966, a fitting achievement for one of the best dribblers in world football.
CM: Paul Pogba:
The central midfield position is highly competitive, but Pogba has dominated the center of the park in Russia. Forming a formidable partnership with Chelsea’s N’golo Kante who is unlucky to miss out, Pogba has been given the license to push forward and join attacks and was responsible for France’s winner against Australia. In the game against Argentina, Mbappe grabbed all the headlines but Pogba was pulling the strings behind. In the quarter-final against Uruguay, Pogba was impressive again, a classy performance kept Uruguay largely at arms length.
CM: Luka Modric:
Luka Modric has been his countries outstanding player for a number of years now, and his partnership with Barcelona midfielder Rakitic has blossomed into one of the best in World Football. Modric has been able to dominate this World Cup with his maticulous calm fashion, topping a group which most predicted Argentina would. The game between the two finished 3-0 to Vatreni with Modric scoring the goal of the game. Croatia have been able to replicate the form of 1998, a side that was heralded as they too reached the semi-final. Modric is the catalyst that sparks this Croatian side into life, will it be enough to make the final?
RW: Kylian Mbappe:
Kylian Mbappe produced arguably one of the finest performances of this World Cup against Argentina in the Round of 16. His two goals were taken remarkably well, as he became just the second teenager to score a World Cup brace behind Pele, but his run from his own half that eventually resulted in a penalty for France (which Griezman converted) was even better. Mbappe has become a talismanic figure for France this tournament, his pace, and fantastic dribbling have been a huge problem for defenders. The young French forward could be the key for France in their hugely anticipated semi-final against Belgium tonight.
ST: Harry Kane:
The tournaments leading goal-scorer has been his nations spearhead in their run to their first semi-final in 28 years. Kane has led the line with maturity and has shown during this tournament that he isn’t your typical ‘stick it in the net’ striker, bringing others such as Lingard, Alli, and Sterling into the play excellently. In sacfricing his own game to benefit England’s style, he deserves even more credit, but he still has scored six goals. He is something special.
Kane is the embodiment of this current England side, young, hungry and putting previous tournament disappointments behind them.
ST: Romelu Lukaku:
Belgium’s all-time leading goal scorer has shown how truly devastating he can be in this tournament. His four goals in the group stage were brilliantly taken, although questions were raised about the oppositions quality.
Lukaku’s often been labeled as a striker who only performs against weaker sides, but his performance against Brazil in the quarter-final was nothing short of brilliant. His run for De Bruynes goal was brimming with strength speed and precision, he was a constant menace for Miranda and Thiago Silva at the back and proved he could be relied on in the big games. A tough test awaits for him in the semi-final against Varane and Umtiti.
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