World XI – Vincent Smith-Koppie

Goalkeeper
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Thibaut Courtois finished the World Cup with a tournament-high 27 saves including some special efforts in the quarter-final to knock out Brazil. Courtois is also a great distributor of the ball, even starting the move which saw Belgium beat Japan in the last minute of stoppage time during the round-of-16.

Defenders
Benjamin Pavard (France)
He was great defensively at right-back for France all tournament but perhaps his biggest strength was his attacking threat. Pavard provided a spark whenever he went forward, including his wicked strike against Argentina that is being talked about as a contender for goal of the tournament.

Raphael Varane (France)
During the 2018 World Cup, Raphael Varane proved himself to be one of the world’s best centre-backs. He continually closed down attacking threats and even contributed a vital goal against Uruguay in the round-of-16. Few played a more pivotal role in France’s World Cup-winning run.

Dejan Lovren (Croatia)
Despite earning a start in the Champions League Final only months ago, Lovren has been a lightning rod for criticism at times during his career. He certainly silenced a lot of his doubters with a superb World Cup campaign that led him to declare himself as one of the best defenders in the world.

Diego Laxalt (Uruguay)
Despite being one of the lesser-known players at the tournament, Laxalt, who plays in the midfield at club-level, was absolutely exceptional at left-back. He made many great attacking runs yet was never really caught out at the back. Before the tournament he announced that he would be leaving Genoa in Italy and his fantastic World Cup has ensured he’ll be making a big money move, likely to the Premier League.

Midfielders
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Few had a better World Cup than the Belgian captain. He finished the tournament with three goals and two assists but more importantly he caused problems for the opposition defence whenever he had the ball at his feet. Belgium came into the tournament with a highly touted attack that didn’t disappoint with Hazard the man architecting most of their attacking raids.

Luka Modric – Captain (Croatia)
Luka Modric was the best player at the World Cup and rightfully won the Golden Ball award. He played out of his skin in every game and led his country to a World Cup Final that few considered them a chance of making. A World Cup Final partnered with a Champions League win may be enough for Modric to break Messi and Ronaldo’s ten-year duopoly and win the Ballon D’or later this year.

N’Golo Kante (France)
There are few players who can harass and shut down opposition players like Kante. This defensive work is his bread and butter but his link-up play for France was also huge for them throughout the tournament. Despite a poor final by his standards, you can’t have a World XI that he doesn’t feature in.

Denis Cheryshev (Russia)
For a man who nearly missed out on a spot in the squad of the lowest-ranking nation at the World Cup, Denis Cheryshev had some tournament. After bursting onto the scene with a double off the bench in the opening game, Cheryshev showed incredible form to finish with four goals and almost certainly earn himself a move from Villarreal in Spain.

Forwards
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
He entered the tournament with a reputation for being a striker who can find the back of the net, but he showed during the World Cup that he has developed into a forward who can do it all. He showed good vision with his passing and was the focal point of Belgium’s attack. He was one of just three players to score with his left foot, right foot and head and he finished with the equal-most goals from open play.

Kylian Mbappe (France)
No one burst onto the scene at the 2018 World Cup quite like Kylian Mbappe. His electric speed regularly left defences for dead and he showed great finishing to collect four goals over the course of the tournament. Showing so much ability as a teenager has earnt him comparisons with Pele and he will certainly star for France for many years to come.

Substitutes
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Arguably the world’s greatest player did not have the world’s greatest tournament. Ronaldo’s performance against Spain alone earns him a spot on the bench with his hat-trick single-handedly snatching Portugal the point that would be crucial in securing their progress from the group stage. He’s one of six players to reach four goals for the tournament but the only one to do so from just four games which is some feat.

Antoine Griezmann (France)
He was named man of the match in the final and was a force for France throughout the tournament. Griezmann finished with four goals and two assists and had his fingerprints over enough of France’s attack to warrant his selection on the bench.

Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)
If you need goals in high-pressure situations look no further than Mario Mandzukic. All of his goals at the World Cup came during the knock-out stage, including the last goal of the final and his match-winner against England in the semi-final.

Manager
Roberto Martinez (Belgium)
Belgium were the only side which made the quarter-finals with a manager not from their own country, and they didn’t stop there, finishing third. The highlight of Martinez’s campaign was his tactical masterclass against Brazil that saw him completely rework Belgium’s tactics in just two days and upset the favourites. Most would agree that Belgium were the second-best side at the World Cup and much of that can be put down to the work of Martinez.

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