DAN’s Last World Cup diary by Dan Smith
After a month of following the 2018 World Cup here are the men who impressed me in Russia….
This is my team of the tournament. Tell me yours in the comments
Subasic ( gk)- Croatia/Monoco
The endearing thing about Croatia’s run to the final is how many times they could have realistically been eliminated. You could go all the way back to their qualifying campaign which was so bad they sacked their manager, having had to go through the back doors in the play offs, luckily drawing a poor Greece team. Any side that gets to a final thanks to two penalty shoot out successes, plus conceding only once in their group, their keeper deserves credit.
Yerry Mina (cb) – Colombia
One of the themes of this competition has been the goal scoring defender, especially from set pieces. All three of Mina’s headers were crucial. He gave his country the lead against Poland, sealed qualification in the win over Senegal and was responsible for the England game going to penalties. While the South American’s lost some friends with their physical approach, Mina perhaps had to do that due to a lack of protection.
Diego Godin ( cb) – Uruguay/ Atletico Madrid
There was something romantic about watching Uruguay. In an era where everyone bases their defenders on who’s confident with the ball at their feet and can start attacks, the South Americans have two centre backs who love to ……. Defend. Godin is passionate about the art of defending, getting his head to things and throwing his body in front of shots. His country benefit from a partnership developed weekly at Atletico Madrid, the only unit not to concede a goal in the group stages
Raphael Varane (cb) -France /Real Madrid
France have so many attacking options which causes debate, it often gets forgotten that they didn’t even take their first choice defence to Russia. While Varane has had a huge reputation for years, many doubted he had the mentality to lead the team without an experienced partner. Clean sheets against Uruguay and Belgium were huge.
Trippier( Rb) – England/ Spurs
Hi reputation grew in Russia. His delivery from corners and free kicks were deadly, crucial when you consider that 80 percent of three lions goals came from set pieces. This was a competition which showed that if you are organised from dead ball situations you can go far.
Mbappe (ls) -France/PSG
To put into perspective the impact he made in Russia, the only other teenager to score in a World Cup Final was a certain Pele. He produced the best individual performance against Argentina. He didn’t shine in every game but he is perhaps too young to expect consistency. He could play on the left hand side of this eleven, as his defensive discipline is underrated.
Kante (cm ) – France/Chelsea
Won’t get the headlines that his teamates will get but in many ways the last month sums up his career perfectly. Always reliable, does the simple things well before giving the ball to the more technically gifted individuals. Wherever it was the French winning in second gear, playing for a 0-0 against Denmark or defending 1-0 wins in the latter stages, Kante was their most consistent performer.
Rakitic (cm) – Croatia/Barcelona
Unlike other sides, Croatia found the right balence with everyone in their midfield knowing their jobs. The ongoing theory was that this ageing squad would tire, especially as they were forced to play three lots of extra time. This proved to be a myth unfounded. They simply used their technical skills to keep the ball better then anyone else meaning if they were exhausted you couldn’t tell.
Modric (cm ) – Croatia / Real Madrid
For years the poster boy of Croatian football this was Modric’s finest hour
He didn’t have to prove he was technically great on the ball, the universe already knew that. This was the competition where he used his footballing brain to the maximum. When he got physically tired he used all of his experience to keep possession with a range of passes. He was rightfully emotional to win the golden ball as he perhaps realises that such a small nation might never reach these levels again.
Lukaku (cf) – Belgium/Man United
Contributed so much more to his team then just four goals. More then any other striker he played in a way to help get the best out of others. For years now Belgium have had a golden generation but Martinez seemed to find a balance with individual talent working together for the sake of the team.
Kane (cf)- England/Spurs
Felt I had to pick him as he finished top scorer. He has to be considered the most fortunate golden boot win ever. Half of his goals were penalties and he seemed to tire in the knockout stages. Nonetheless there are other strikers who didn’t make the most out of facing limited opposition.