After 31 days, 64 games and 169 goals, one the greatest World Cups of all time came to a close on Sunday, as France beat Croatia 4-2 in a memorable final to win it for the second time.
The tournament has been lit up by a string of stunning performances from the best players in the world. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick to Kylian Mbappe’s brace against Argentina, there have been some unforgettable individual displays.
Here we pick out our Team of the Tournament, taking a look at the best 11 players from this summer’s spectacle in Russia…
GK: Jordan Pickford
Thibaut Courtois may have got his hands on the Golden Glove, but Pickford’s performances in helping England reaching the semi-finals cannot be underestimated. A penalty save in the shootout win against Colombia and three superb stops against Sweden in the quarter-finals helped the Three Lions believe they could reach the final. Despite a number of excellent saves in the semi-final against Croatia, Pickford’s efforts went unrewarded, as England were knocked out. Errors in the final from both Hugo Lloris and Danijel Subasic cost them a place.
RB: Kieran Trippier
Quite how England would have fared without the marauding Tottenham Hotspur man on the right wing is anyone’s guess. Trippier’s delivery from both set pieces and open play proved fundamental for the Three Lions. The right-back was incredibly the World Cup’s chief creator, setting up 24 chances for his teammates across the tournament. Trippier’s excellent free-kick in the semi-final was not enough to book a final spot, but helped cement his place in our World Cup XI ahead of Thomas Meunier.
CB: Raphael Varane
The Real Madrid man is going to need a new trophy cabinet. At just 25 years-old, Varane has quite the haul – the World Cup, the Champions League (four times) and La Liga (twice). He was exceptional for the eventual winners throughout the tournament, forming an excellent understanding with Barcelona star Samuel Umtiti. Varane made 39 clearances, 47 recoveries and five blocks at the World Cup, with his heroic defensive display against Belgium in the semi-finals his standout performance in Russia.
CB: Andreas Granqvist
Diego Godin and Harry Maguire may feel a little aggrieved, but Granqvist’s leadership of Sweden was deserving of a place in the team. The 33-year-old was an exemplary captain, helping his nation finish top of a group containing 2014 winners Germany and the entertaining Mexico. He made 43 clearances, 32 recoveries and 12 blocks in his five games, as well as netting two penalties, and could do little about Sweden’s exit at the hands of England.
LB: Jan Vertonghen
With Nacer Chadli or Yannick Carrasco on the left-wing for Belgium throughout the tournament, Vertonghen – part of a back three more often than not – spent much of his time covering at left-back for Roberto Martinez’s side. Scorer of a vital goal in the comeback win against Japan, atoning for a slight error, the Tottenham man had an excellent tournament defensively. Vertonghen made 22 clearances and 32 recoveries to help Belgium to their best-ever World Cup finish.
CM: Paul Pogba
Having faced so much criticism throughout the season with Manchester United, Pogba went a long way to silencing the critics thanks to his performances in Russia. Forming an excellent understanding with midfield partner Kante, Pogba was superb on the ball and offered protection defensively when required. The 25-year-old completed 83% of his passes over the course of the tournament and netted a deserved goal in the final.
CM: N’Golo Kante
He may have saved his worst performance of the tournament for the final, but by that stage Kante had done enough to earn his spot. Superb up until the showpiece in Moscow, the Chelsea man covered an astonishing amount of ground to help France win back possession and control proceedings on their way to the final. Kante made 61 recoveries and 11 clearances, covering an impressive 30km when not in possession of the ball.
CM: Luka Modric
The Real Madrid man has been regarded as one of the finest midfielders of his generation for years now, but away from the plethora of headliners at the Bernabeu, this was his chance to stand out. He did just that. Modric lead by example to help Croatia to their first-ever World Cup final. Goals against Nigeria and Argentina, as well as converting from the spot in both shootouts – despite missing an extra-time penalty against Denmark – prove his contribution was invaluable to Zlatko Dalic’s side.
RW: Kylian Mbappe
Aged just 19, Mbappe took the tournament by storm, breaking a host of records along the way. France’s youngest scorer at a World Cup. The first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele. Only the third teenager to play in a World Cup final. The PSG man was sensational for Didier Deschamps’ side, netting against Peru, Argentina and Croatia to help France to their second World Cup triumph. It’s frightening to think Mbappe may be able to feature at another four World Cups.
With no out-and-out striker truly standing out over the course of the tournament, Griezmann gets the nod. Playing just off Olivier Giroud from the second game, Griezmann excelled for Deschamps’ side. Three confidently-taken penalties and a fortuitous strike against Uruguay, as well as assists for Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti in the knockout stages, highlight Griezmann’s worth. His teasing free-kick also led to the opener in the final.
LW: Eden Hazard
Belgium’s captain played a key role in helping his nation to their best-ever World Cup finish. Hazard troubled defenders every time he got possession, linking up superbly with Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. The Chelsea man netted three goals and grabbed two assists, including a superb cross for Marouane Fellaini to net the vital equaliser in the comeback win against Japan. The Real Madrid target was fully deserving of the Silver Ball.
Dejan Lovren believes France “didn’t play football” as they overcame Croatia 4-2 in a controversial World Cup final on Sunday.
Croatia took maximum points in the group stage and surpassed all expectations by digging deep to reach Sunday’s Luzhniki Stadium showpiece.
Zlatko Dalic’s side started superbly and looked the brighter team for large chunks of the match, only for France to ride their luck and eventually emerge victorious.
Liverpool defender Lovren was gutted to have lost the final and criticised the approach taken by Didier Deschamps’ team – just as defeated semi-finalists Belgium did.
“I think we have been better today and overall we have been better,” the Croatia centre-back said.
“France didn’t play football. They waited for their chance and they scored.
“They had their one tactic and you have to respect it. They played every game of the tournament like that.”
Lovren’s assessment of the officiating was just as cutting as his comments about France.
The free-kick that brought the opening goal was a contentious award, and it got worse from a Croatian perspective when the video assistant referee intervened and encouraged the on-field official, Nestor Pitana of Argentina, to take another look at a possible handball in the area by Ivan Perisic.
Pitana gave the penalty after minutes of deliberation in front of the monitor to leave Croatia infuriated, with Lovren describing it as a “critical moment”.
“I’m disappointed because we lost the game but played much better football than them,” Lovren said.
“I am proud of what we achieved, second in the world. I’m proud of everyone and for the country. We have regrets now when we look at decisions but it doesn’t make sense anymore.
“It’s hard to describe. Maybe after a couple of months I will have everything straight. It’s hard now as I am some moments sad and some moments happy. Overall I am proud.
“We played beautiful football and when we didn’t have the ball we stayed compact. But they had their chances and they scored.
“France have been one of the favourites to win the World Cup and they did. But nobody understands the rules.
“Our guy couldn’t possibly react so why did he (Pitana) give it?”
Uff, tesko je naravno prihvatit ovaj poraz, ali znate sta ponosan sam kao nikad do sad u svome zivotu. Na svoje suigrace,cijeli strucni stozer, fizioterapeute, ekonome itd…Ponosno danas mogu reci da smo dali sve od sebe, dali smo sve za nasu zemlju! Hvala vama svima koji su nas bodrili ovdje na svjetskom prvenstvu, hvala svim ljudima u Hrvatskoj koji su bili sa nama i vjerovali u nas, jer bez vas nebi bilo ovo moguce. Disali smo kao jedna dusa proteklih 53 dana…necemo ovo nikad zaboravit! Hvala vam od srca ❤️ #iznadsvihhrvatska
Asked if VAR needs work, Lovren said: “Definitely. Of course it needs to improve. Sometimes it is a penalty and sometimes not. I really don’t understand. So everything is still on the ref. A lot of people say it’s not a penalty but what can we do now?”
This could be the best it gets for this star-studded generation of Croatian players.
Lovren, Ivan Rakitic and Perisic will all be well into their 30s when the next World Cup comes around, as will Golden Ball winner Luka Modric.
“I wish we were all 24 still, especially Luka,” Lovren said.
“There is a time when something needs to end and it will depend on individual players.
“I still think I can give enough, I feel young for a defender.
“For the rest, I wish Luka could still play. He showed today he deserves to be the number one of the tournament and in the world. I am really proud of him.
“At least now he can be a contender (to win FIFA’s player of the year award). I don’t see why he wouldn’t be in the top three at least. He took the best player of this tournament so if he is not now in the best three in the world then I don’t know what to say.”
England produced a memorable run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia and several players were crucial to their campaign.
Check out the top five England players at the World Cup and see who finished in the number one spot.