Friday, May 7, 2021

Best XI from the World Cup group stage


tiamin rice

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Portugal at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk on June 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ

A thrilling 48 games have gone by, perhaps, 47 because of the dour, goalless game between France and Denmark. Nevertheless, the World Cup has served up an impressive level of entertainment for spectators in Russia and throughout the World. There’s the shock of Germany to grapple with, regardless of history suggesting it was bound to happen. France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014. Alongside, there’s also the disappointment that no African qualified out of their group. It was harrowing that Nigeria couldn’t produce a win or a draw over a misfiring Argentina side while Senegal lost out because of their disciplinary record. Just a little less meat and cynicism on the challenge and it might not have been all glum for African teams.

Besides the glum, there have been glamorous moments and players that have shone brightly in the World Cup so far. Here are XI players that did well in the group stages of the World Cup.

Cho Hyun-woo (South Korea)

Cho was unbelievable in the game agisnt Germany. The South Korean goalkeeper pulled off many impressive saves to keep the defending champions at bay and ultimately put them out of the World Cup.

Kieran Trippier

Trippier’s deliveries at the World Cup have been top notch, making the Three Lions threatening from set pieces. He also has looked assured defensively, though he has not been really tested.

Diego Godin (Uruguay)

The conductor of the impregnable defence of Uruguay, Godin put it a solid shift in the heart of the defence to protect his goalkeeper from conceding any goal in the group stages of the World Cup.

Andreas Granqvist (Sweden)

The bulky central defender played with heart in every group stage game, leading the defence tackling, heading and clearing. He was also instrumental in their qualification to the round of 16 with the two penalties he scored for Sweden.

Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia)

Kolarov’s stunning free kick against Costa Rica slips him into the list. Defensively, he was shown up by Brazil’s wingers but the left backs in the World Cup have not been so great, so Kolarov sneaks in.

Isco Alarcon (Spain)

Loose-hipped Isco has shown he’s the most important player for the Spanish national team taking the mantle from Andres Iniesta. The Real Madrid midfielder has been effective with his passes, dribbles and movements across the pitch for La Furia Roja.

Luka Modric (Croatia)

The metronomic midfielder continues to show his quality whenever he takes to the field. With Croatia, he hasn’t disappointed. His superb goal against Argentina just went on to further show how brilliant the little maestro is, the dribble and the feints before the fierce strike past the goalkeeper were just amazing.

Phillipe Coutinho (Brazil)

Alongside and perhaps better than Neymar, Coutinho has been excellent for Brazil. He scored Brazil’s opening goal of the World Cup against Switzerland before he scored the late goal against Costa Rica.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

His hat-trick against Spain showed Ronaldo was taking no prisoners. Ronaldo’s brilliant free kick in the game still remains etched in many memories. He followed it up with a fourth minute header against Morocco.

Harry Kane (England)

With five goals in the group stages, Kane is ahead as the highest goal scorer at the World Cup. It was in the game he didn’t feature that his importance became even clearer. Kane showed his ruthless streak in the game against Tunisia where he scored two goals. His ice cool finishes from the spot and a third goal against Panama has given the striker the edge in the race for the Golden boot.

Eden Hazard (Belgium)

The lively forward has been a creative force for Belgium also keeping things moving. His runs with the ball have been crucial for Roberto Martinez’s side as he has grabbed two goals and an assist.

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