World XI – Ben James
Goalkeeper – Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark)
The main reason behind Denmark’s group stage survival, Kasper more than lived up to his legendary father Peter’s name with a stunning 91.3 per cent save rate. He almost dragged them further, saving a Luka Modrić penalty in extra-time in the round-of-16 before saving a further two spot kicks in the shootout.
Left Back – Lucas Hernández (France)
In a tournament that largely lacked good wing-back play, Hernández was the best of the bunch on the left. When facing a packed opposition defence, France often looked to his flank and Hernández often had the answers.
Centre Back – Diego Godín (Uruguay)
Confirmed his place as the world’s best defensive player with an excellent tournament as Uruguay became the first team in 20 years to win every group match without conceding. Despite the presence of Suárez and Cavani up front, the team was built on the prowess of Godín as he broke up each attack calmly, as well as joining in attacks and threatening from set pieces.
Centre Back – Raphaël Varane (France)
Varane was in imperious form throughout the tournament as he played every match and marshalled the defence. As comfortable with the ball as when defending, Varane used his significant big game experience with Real Madrid to great effect as he led the back four with an average age of 23 from the front.
Right Back – Thomas Meunier (Belgium)
Meunier’s contribution can best be measured through the semi-final against France he missed through suspension – the one game that Belgium failed to win. His tireless running led to significant contributions in defence and attack, scoring once and assisting twice.
Centre Midfield – Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Coutinho had an impact on the scoreboard in all but one match, scoring and assisting twice and often being Brazil’s decisive factor with his long range shooting or delicious passing as Neymar failed to hit top speed. Unfortunately, he may be remembered for failing to track Kevin De Bruyne’s run in the quarter-final, which led to the Belgian doubling his side’s lead and leaving Brazil on the canvas.
Centre Midfield – N’Golo Kanté (France)
Saved his worst match for the World Cup Final, but was near faultless on the way there, shielding the back four brilliantly and breaking up every attack that strayed into the central areas he patrolled so diligently.
Centre Midfield – Luka Modrić (Croatia)
A deserved winner of the World Cup’s Golden Ball awarded to the best player of the tournament, Modrić cemented his status as the world’s best midfielder, inspiring Croatia to its first World Cup Final. He constantly dictated the play, running tirelessly to get forward and back, hitting passes at will and not being averse to having a shot himself, as his spectacular effort against Argentina showed.
Left Wing – Ivan Perišić (Croatia)
Croatia’s greatest attacking threat throughout the tournament was unfortunate to be penalised in the final. It will be a pity if that is what he is remembered for, as he scored three goals, hit the post twice and delivered an assist, with his Man-of-the-Match performance against England in the semi-final sparking Croatia to victory and his brilliant volley in the final getting them back on terms with France.
Forward – Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Scored the most goals from open play at the World Cup, being arguably a more deserved winner than Harry Kane. Although his output finished after the second match, his contributions did not stop there, showing great presence-of-mind to leave the ball for Nacer Chadli’s last minute winner against Japan in the round-of-16 and delivering the vital assist to De Bruyne for the goal that eventually sealed Belgium’s win over Brazil in the quarter-final.
Right Wing – Kylian Mbappé(France)
This World Cup all but confirmed Mbappé’s unlimited potential and place as the heir to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne as he outplayed them both and became only the second teenager since Pelé to score in a World Cup Final. With four goals, he was France’s greatest attacking threat throughout the tournament, with his direct running, smart runs and clever dribbling unlocking defences and setting up countless scoring positions.
Manager – Zlatko Dalić (Croatia)
Inheriting a side in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the World Cup, Dalić has done wonders in unifying the huge talents of Croatia’s ‘golden generation’, helping them to work and fight for each other and instilling a focused mentality on the way to his country’s finest performance at a World Cup.
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
In a World Cup where many big name keepers faltered, Courtois was one of the few to enhance his reputation, with his consistency and occasional spectacular saves ensuring Belgium was rewarded with a third place medal and his own award in the form the Golden Glove.
Yerry Mina (Colombia)
Coming in to the side after the first-round loss to Japan, Mina formed a solid partnership with Davinson Sánchez, as Colombia conceded only once in the next three matches. He was even more effective at the other end, banging in a header in each match to finish as equal seventh highest scorer from centre-back.
Kieran Trippier (England)
Consistent and energetic down the right flank for England all World Cup, Trippier raised the whole country’s hopes with a brilliant free kick goal in the semi-final. For a country basing its strategy on set pieces, he was the key with his pinpoint set pieces delivering time and again on the way to England’s best finish since 1990.
Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba held himself back more than any French player to follow Didier Deschamp’s plan, mopping up in defence whenever needed and trying to disrupt the opposition’s midfield. He still found time to contribute in attack and silenced critics with the vital third goal in the final.
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
No one can pick a pass like Kevin De Bruyne, and his two assists could easily have been far more, while it was his laser shot that propelled Belgium to a famous victory over Brazil. He was constant menace for the opposition, as he contributed to many of Belgium’s best moments in attack.
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Hazard’s control of the football was second-to-none at the World Cup, completing more dribbles than any other player. Awarded the Silver Ball as the second-best player of the tournament, it was telling that despite all the talent in the Belgium side, whenever they were in trouble they gave the ball the him.
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)
Like Meunier, Cavani’s contribution to his nation was best seen through his absence, as Uruguay looked blunt against France. Cavani’s partnership with Suárez was key, with the two creating chances for each other out of nothing, while his energetic style saw him making tackles at right and left back before racing up the other end to join in attacks.