Well, we’ve made it to the business end of the biggest sporting spectacle in the world. 56 matches done, and eight teams remain. A World Cup that’ll be remembered for VAR, champions failing, stoppage time goals, and penalties galore. But there’s always time for reflection later. Let’s look ahead and show you who we think will be standout performers during the final 8 games. Here is our pick for the best team we can assemble from the 8 remaining nations.
It took a penalty shootout to settle it, but the hosts @teamrussia are through and @sefutbol are out!!! ???✅ … #Eurosport #Sport #HomeOfSport #Football #Futbol #Soccer #World #Cup #WorldCup #FIFA #FIFAWorldCup #WorldCup2018 #FIFAWorldCup2018 #Russia #RussiaWorldCup #Moscow #Kremlin #WC #Tournament #Penalties #Shootout #Akinfeev #IgorAkinfeev #Spain #Russia #ESP #RUS #ESPRUS #ESPvRUS
Russia has been stingy on defence, and a lot of that can be attributed to their veteran captain. Akinfeev, with 14 saves has been a rock in front of goal, surviving an onslaught from the Spanish frontline, and then saving two important penalties in the shoot-out. If Russia has to go further, it’ll be up to their experienced talisman to do what he does best.
This isn’t much of a surprise considering Godin is considered one of the world’s best centre-backs. But to concede just 1 goal in four matches is an achievement. Uruguay has done just that, and it’s in no small part to their Captain. Godin has carried over his form from the group stages to the knockouts, and teams are wary of his presence in the box, both in defence and offence. This could be the year Uruguay make it farther than they have in recent times, and that’s exactly what their captain will be hoping for.
Having taken over the armband from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016, Granqvist was instrumental in the Swedish team’s qualifying campaign, knocking out 2006 champions Italy. At 33, it’s his first World Cup, and what an impact he’s had. With two goals to his name, Granqvist will be hoping he doesn’t have to get on a flight home until the 16th of July. Finishing top of the group over champions, Germany, and perennial World Cup hopefuls Mexico, Sweden have already exceeded expectations, and now have set loftier goals to achieve.
Despite all the talk about Brazil’s forwards and attacking play, their successes in this tournament are largely due to fundamental defending. After a scare in their first match against Switzerland, Thiago has pulled the defence together, and are yet to concede. The memory of the 7-1 drubbing in 2014 is still fresh in every Brazilian’s mind, and with the year Silva has been having, it could very well be the year all is forgotten.
What? Is he really 19? You’d be forgiven for thinking this wunderkid is an experienced campaigner, with all his fancy footwork, pace, and vision. Coming into the world’s biggest stage with the weight of a country on your shoulders isn’t an easy task, but Mbappe hardly seems to have broken a sweat. He wasn’t even born when France won the World Cup back in 1998, but he seems determined to bring it back this time. His excellent run against Argentina to win the penalty gave France the upper hand, and when they lost it, he took it upon himself to bring it back with two goals. Touted as the natural successor to Messi and Ronaldo, Mbappe is France’s brightest star. France is highly tipped to get to the finals, and you can be sure Mbappe is a big reason why. Again, he’s only 19!
A natural full-back, Trippier has been used in this World Cup as a winger by Southgate. And it’s a gamble that’s paid off. Trippier has been phenomenal for England with his dangerous balls curving and dipping into the box. His runs along the right side with full back Ashley Young have been nightmarish for defenders. He’s also a tenacious defender, always nipping at the opponent’s feet, and yapping in their ear. His cool and calm demeanour during the shootout against Colombia was proof that he’s part of the New England, one that relishes and thrives in pressure situations.
When you start your campaign off with a goal that is touted as the goal of the tournament, it’s hard to improve. But Coutinho isn’t your average player. Quick, strong, wily, and extremely talented, Coutinho constantly spearheads the Brazilian attack with dangerous balls finding the trio of Neymar, Jesus, and Willian. With 2 goals and an assist to his name, Coutinho is standing out as one of the players of the tournament and is on a mission to help Brazil reclaim their lost glory. And we wouldn’t put it past him to achieve that.
Talk about seizing the moment. Coming off the bench for Russia in their 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia, Cheryshev made an instant impact with 2 goals. He scored against Egypt too and is now in contention for the Golden Boot. Pretty good for a man once considered Real Madrid’s worst prospect. Cheryshev is determined to prove himself not only to the European Club circuit but his national team. And what bigger moment than at home?
Coming off a third consecutive Champions League title, Modric, along with Rakitic and Perisic, has shown the world why this team is considered Croatia’s golden generation. Having been given a more central attacking role in this formation, Modric has been absolutely deadly with his killer through passes, work rate, and vision. His wonder goal against Argentina will be considered an absolute classic (no mean feat in a world cup full of great goals), and his calm presence has kept Croatia in the hunt. Reminiscent of Croatia’s underdog story in France ’98, Modric will be keen to prove this isn’t a fluke, and Croatia is a force to be reckoned with.
Dubbed the greatest modern English footballer, Kane came into this tournament determined to uphold that title, and he’s doing just that. The English were touted as a team that would fail, as they inevitably do at big tournaments, but Kane is proving all the pundits wrong. The current favourite for the Golden Boot with 6 goals, Kane has converted 4 goals from the penalty spot and has a hat-trick to his name. Still only 24, and with one of the youngest teams in the tournament, England looks good for the future, but Kane isn’t waiting. He wants glory, and he wants it now.
It’s hard to stand out when you have names like Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne as your teammates, but Lukaku has been brilliant for Belgium. With 4 goals to his name, Lukaku is living up to the hype as one of the great forwards of the tournament. His deft touches and finishes are contradictory to his sturdy frame, but that’s what makes him great. His leave for Chadli in the nail-biter against Japan is proof of his vision and creator like mentality. Lukaku is paramount to Belgium’s success and could help them to their first ever World Cup glory.
We can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the coming weeks. What are your thoughts? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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