Russia 2018: Last Feast

The World Cup is over. France have won. And now we start four and a half more years of waiting for the next one.

The best team in the tournament were victorious. That is generally how it goes. There’s no use in dissecting the very eventful final as we’ve all moved onto the grieving stage of our post-World Cup lives and need not be reminded it’s over.

The most entertaining Cup of our lifetimes oddly brought about reasonably mediocre performances from all involved. As I stated earlier, this tournament was fun because there wasn’t parity but just a collection of quite okay displays. Which led to open matches and unpredictable results. In all it made for fantastic watching though.

And now here is my team of Russia 2018 in a dynamic 3-5-2:

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois, Belgium

The best keeper consistently throughout and got better as the tournament progressed. France would have beaten Belgium much more handily had Thibaut not been at his best. Always reliable.

Defender: Benjamin Pavard, France

His coming out party on the right hand side for the World Champions was something to behold. So young yet so composed. He also netted that pure corker versus Argentina to help send France through. An absolute star.

Defender: Raphaël Varane, France

The best defender of the tournament, Varane shone when needed. He was essentially impenetrable at the heart of France’s defence. At 25 years old, Raph has won nearly every single trophy available to him: 2 Supercopas, 1 Copa del Rey, 2 La Liga titles, 3 Super Cups, 3 Club World Cups, 4 (FOUR!) Champions Leagues and the World Cup. That is INSANE. The only pot missing is the Euros which he has a runners up medal for from France’s run in 2016. That haul may go down as the greatest ever by 25 in the sport’s history.

Defender: Diego Godín, Uruguay

One of the best in the business, Godín was immense throughout Uruguay’s run. There’s nothing fancy to his game. He clears the ball and cuts out passes. And he never (rarely) fouls. An asset available, might I add, for €20m if he is indeed looking for fresh pastures.

Midfielder: Kieran Trippier, England

He owned the right flank this summer. Trip (not sure if people call him that) tracked back efficiently and was a major component to the English attack. He was a constant threat at set pieces as well which England rode all the way to the semis.

Midfielder: Luka Modrić, Croatia

The player of the tournament, Modrić effortlessly bossed the middle. He linked up play to the forwards and pulled every string available. His dominating performances made it difficult for teams to organize and get in their attacking groove against Croatia. He really can do it all.

Midfielder: Paul Pogba, France

PP woke up and showed his true self this World Cup. He was strong on the ball. He kept the shape for the French midfield (alongside the masterpiece that is N’Golo Kanté) and drove forward. He was the outfield captain. His passing was exquisite. His finishing not so bad either! A World Champion and only truly getting started.

Midfielder: Ivan Perisić, Croatia

A demon on the wing, Perisić tried to carry Croatia all on his own in the latter stages of the tournament. His menacing runs and quality touches on the ball had defenders panicking to get to him. He finished off his chances and showed why all the big teams covet him.

Attacking midfielder: Eden Hazard, Belgium

When in form, Hazard is essentially unplayable. He has pace, poise and a smoothness on the ball that terrifies opponents. He picks apart back lines and has a phenomenal presence in front of goal. Hazard is the total package and showed his true colors this summer playing in front of the incomparable Kevin de Bruyne. You don’t always get that from Eden, ask Chelsea fans, but when you do he is a Ballon d’Or candidate. The sincere heartache for Belgium and their fans is that this was the World Cup they had with Hazard in his prime. They took third, which is impressive, but will certainly be rueing a genuine missed opportunity to bring home the trophy.

Forward: Harry Kane, England

The English went on a spectacular run that will live in the hearts of their fans forevermore. A massive piece of that was Kane. He did win the Golden Boot with six goals but the statistics are a touch misleading. Five of those goals came against Tunisia and Panama in England’s opening 2 games. And his last was a penalty, albeit an extremely crucial one, against Sweden to get the Three Lions into the semifinal. But that is also why Kane was so instrumental and indispensable this summer. He cooled down with his goals and didn’t really create too much in open play, but he slotted home vital penalties in the tense shootout against Colombia and the aforementioned Swedish killer. He became the leader England wanted and needed. And the man, of course, is a threat anywhere near the ball. Harry Kane cemented his status as a superstar. Much more to come from H, I am sure.

Forward: Kylian Mbappé, France

He turned it on when France really needed him. Argentina, Belgium and Croatia could not contain him. They were left baffled by his speed. His finishing ability is top notch and he seemingly has the drive within him to kick on and be one of the best. And that’s what he’s going to have to do. Kylian was the catalyst for France. Their X factor. With Olivier Giroud deployed as the main striker, Mbappé was allowed to roam free either getting deeper to find the ball or being released on the wing and letting his legs do the talking. He seemed to thrive when teams started to focus more on him, which is a good sign for the future as he now has an even bigger bullseye on his back as a World Champion.

That’s a mighty fine lineup right there. One that aptly represents those who veritably excelled on the biggest stage. Sure, there were others who played well in spurts (Philippe Coutinho for Brazil and Aleksandr Golovin for Russia immediately spring to mind), but this crew brought the ruckus, persevered and carried success with them over the long trek that is this tournament. Kudos to them and congratulations to France.

Cheer up now! Your days feel empty, I know, and you’re yearning for some football to amass inside of those newly burrowed cracks in your soul. But fret not! Preseason has begun which means we are merely weeks away from the domestic leagues kicking it all off again. Enjoy the time off. Let yourself heal and then get back on the horse for another season of nonstop football.

I’ll be right there with you.

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