After a month of thrilling action from a six goal thriller, VAR controversies, England’s shock run and France beating Croatia to win their second World Cup, we have finally reached the end of a rollercoaster tournament. 

As pundits start to pick apart the stars from the losers of the past four weeks, we are also doing the same and here is our top XI featuring the best players and manager then explanations for each area of pitch.

Also, discover which manager I have selected as the stand out performer and why I have chosen him in relation to my World Cup XI.

 

Top World Cup XI

 World-Cup-18-XI.jpg

Formation: 4-3-3 (attacking)

Captain – Harry Kane

Corners and Free Kicks – Kieran Trippier

Penalty Taker – Harry Kane

 

Goalkeepers

  • Jordan Pickford (England)
  • Alireza Beiranvand (Iran)

 

Although easy to say that the likes of Danijel Subasic, Thibaut Courtois and Kasper Schmeichel deserves to be on the list, Pickford and Beiranvand have performed all expectations. 

For Pickford, there are very few words to describe some of the saves that he pulled off, particularly against Colombia’s Carlos Bacca in the Last 16 penalty shootout, when he got his left hand to flick it clear. 

That save ultimately sent England through before repeating it again twice in their Quarter Final victory over Sweden. 

With Beiranvand, he could of easily struggled in a group containing two giants in shape of Portugal and Spain.

He instead showed unreal levels of confidence to keep the results respectable against the likes of Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo, who he saved a penalty against as both battled for a last 16 spot in their final group game. 

His save rate of 77.8% therefore really doesn’t underline just how impressive he was and to manage one block compared to the top 22 goalkeepers (according to FIFA Stats) is unbelievable. 

Pickford though gets the starting nod because of his superior shot stopping ability but Beiranvand definitely would be a brilliant substitute. 

 

Defence

  • Kieran Trippier (England)
  • Yerry Mina (Colombia)
  • Harry Maguire (England)
  • Jonas Knudsen (Denmark)
  • Sergio Ramos (Spain)
  • Ashley Young (England)

 

Maguire and Mina were easy choices for best centre backs of this World Cup, with their impressive aerial presence at set pieces.

Between them, both produced 77 interceptions and would be terrifying to deal with together at set pieces. 

Whilst Mina has a 100% headed conversion rate, Maguire has had 11 attempts despite only one being converted into a goal.

That doesn’t take away from their aerial ability which is something that has often been crucial at this World Cup. 

Maguire meanwhile has demonstrated exceptional consistency in distance covered regardless of whether he had possession or not and therefore intercepted 50 balls during his seven matches, alongside 18 clearances and five blocks. 

I therefore feel that these two have been the strongest centre backs of whole tournament and deserve to be in the XI. 

Sergio Ramos meanwhile is on bench because he would be perfect for coming on to control the ball and is the tournament’s best player when it comes to passing, regardless of distance. 

He however tended to get caught up in fouls a bit too much compared to Maguire and Mina, which ultimately made me decide to bench him. 

Moving onto fullbacks now, Kieran Trippier was an easy decision to make for the right back role after showing similar consistency to Maguire. 

What made his selection so simple was his pace because unlike many other defenders, he covered more distance in possession (25.9km) compared to when didn’t have ball (25.4km).

Now that shows just how strong he has been down the right, particularly when had the ball and was able to successfully deliver 46.7% of his crosses into box for teammates. 

Left back meanwhile was tougher to decide and so I ran a Twitter poll with you selecting Jonas Knudsen to start ahead of Ashley Young. 

Whilst Young impressed on the wing with his 17 crosses, Knudsen is a solid left back with an exceptional long throw which can cause problems in box so can see why Knudsen topped the poll. 

 

Midfield

  • Luka Modric (Croatia)
  • Jordan Henderson (England)
  • Denis Cheryshev (Russia)
  • N’Golo Kante (France)
Embed from Getty Images

If want a solid midfield who can control the ball and create chances then look no further than; Luka Modric, Jordan Henderson and Denis Cheryshev.

Unlike Modric and Henderson, Cheryshev entered this World Cup in terrible form but finished as amongst the top goal scorers with four goals and isn’t afraid to test the defence from within and outside of the box.

Henderson and Modric meanwhile are dangerous when in possession and capable of mixing their pass distance between short and medium to great effect with nine combined crosses and 23 deliveries into box.

This midfield is definitely one that would be fiercely difficult to unlock because Cheryshev will cause trouble attacking down left

Kante meanwhile is my preferred midfield sub because although his passing numbers are significantly better than Henderson, the England star varies his pass distribution more in terms of impact.

Although Kevin De Bruyne has been exceptional for Belgium, what made me go for Kante is his ability to control midfield and set up others to produce the goods which would benefit Modric and Cheryshev when attacking. 

 

Forward

  • Harry Kane (England)
  • Kylian Mbappe (France)
  • Andre Carrillo (Peru)
  • Raheem Sterling (England)
  • Lionel Messi (Argentina)
  • Neymar (Brazil)

 

 

 

This area was without doubt the most easiest to select because these six stars have all shone for different reasons. 

Starting with Kane, he might be top scorer but has demonstrated an ability to drop deep to help out his teammates despite being their key man up front. 

He has also been involved when up front in trying to make chances from crosses and even scored from his back heel, highlighting how strong he has been in the central striker role compared to likes of Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah. 

On flanks, I have gone with Carrillo and Mbappe because for me, those two have been electrifying down the flanks. 

Whilst Mbappe looks the complete package in terms of an attacking forward/winger, Carrillo really was just unlucky in that Peru didn’t give him much help to make more of his crosses from down the right.

If Carrillo had teammates who could maximise his pace and crossing ability then he would probably of been talked about more. 

Personally, he has been one of my stand out players outside of those who exited at group stage, alongside Beiranvand.

Subs wise, the following players all impressed me for very different individual reasons to earn their spots on bench.

Embed from Getty Images

Sterling is an obvious pick because he has been just exception in creating chances for Kane and others.

He however needs to be sharper in his decision making because more attempts were blocked than either on/off target but with a club manager in Pep Guardiola and the upcoming winter break, hopefully this tournament will kick-start Sterling’s roar into a deadly goal maker for Euro 2020.

Although he disappointed, Messi deserves an inclusion for his ability to motivate his teammates in the face of adversary as Argentina found themselves in against Croatia.

Without his talks and opening the scoring, Argentina probably would of stumbled out at group stage, making Messi’s motivational ability something which is key to any XI and he should have a bright coaching future ahead when retires.

Finally, Neymar has to go on this list because if ever needs someone to disrupt play in latter stages no matter how controversial, Neymar is the man who will do that job. 

That however doesn’t take away from his ability to create chaos from both in and outside box, with 13 shots on target. 

Cut out the diving and I would of probably put Neymar in starting 11 ahead of Carrillo, such is his quality. 

 

Manager

There have been so many managers who have impressed from Gareth Southgate to Didier Deschamps to Zlatko Dalic, making deciding who the best manager was a really difficult one.

In end, I feel that this manager would get the best out of this XI and take risks with formation mid-match if necessary. 

That man is Roberto Martinez because he has done wonders with Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’. 

Under the ex Wigan boss, they scored 16 goals with an attacking style of play and with a fierce midfield and attack, he would be the perfect fit for this XI. 

He also guided them on a 24 match unbeaten run from September 2016 which underlines his managerial talent in guiding Belgium to their best ever World Cup finish of third. 

In fact, he has taken various risks like playing De Bruyne as a false number nine from mid tournament and bringing on Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli opposite Japan, forcing a formation tweak which successfully saw them snatch a late 3-2 victory. 

Those sort of risks could of backfired but they somehow worked wonders, particularly with De Bruyne as that alteration came at Quarter Final stage against Brazil when most teams know their best tactics and formation.

All of those reasons above highlights Martinez’s qualities as shown over past month and for this XI, he would be the ideal man to extract the best out of the starting eleven whilst have variables available on bench if needed. 

 

 

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