Barcelona target Thomas Meunier among our top five World Cup full-backs

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Kieran Trippier is the definition of a late bloomer. He only made his international debut aged 26, and it was even later that he became the undisputed first-choice player for his club side, Tottenham.

At 27, however, he’s finished a World Cup topping the list of players who created the most goalscoring chances – beating far more heralded players like Neymar and Eden Hazard.

When a right wing-back is that influential for his side, it’s not surprising that he’s atop our full-back rankings for the World Cup.

Here, we have selected our top five:

1. Kieran Trippier, England

No player created more chances at the World Cup than England’s Kieran Trippier – a remarkable statistic for a player who made his international debut barely a year ago.

His play from right wing-back role was instrumental in the Three Lions’ run to the semi-finals, and he capped it with a stunning free-kick that, for a while, had England with one foot in the final.

Unlikely star: Kieran Trippier.

2. Sime Vrsaljko, Croatia

Vrsaljko personifies the battling, gritty nature of this Croatia team. The Atletico Madrid man twice shrugged off injuries during the World Cup to ensure he didn’t missed a single game of consequence.

And, as one would expect of an Atletico defender, the right-back is a player who gives absolutely no quarter. To his credit, he was just as effective a presence in attack as well.

Vrsaljko played with typical Atletico spirit.


3. Thomas Meunier, Belgium

The Paris Saint-Germain man has gone under the radar in recent years after breaking through as one of Europe’s most promising young talents. However, this summer, the 26-year-old reminded everyone of his talent with some superlative displays from right wing-back.

Indeed, it is that quality which has led to speculation Barcelona are keen to bring him to Camp Nou.

Meunier’s marauding presence up and down the flank, along with his crossing ability and his penchant to get in the box, marked him out as one of the most dangerous players at the World Cup.

Meunier is a reported Barcelona target.

4. Mario Fernandes, Russia

Mario Fernandes would have been nowhere near a pre-tournament list of the World Cup’s best full-backs but he ended up proving to be a vital cog during the hosts’ surprise run to the quarter-finals.

He scored a vital equaliser in extra-time of the last eight against Croatia, although that was overshadowed somewhat by his penalty miss in the shoot-out. Still, the CSKA Moscow man was an excellent figure in attack and defence for his side.

Fernandes enjoyed a consistent Finals for the hosts.

5. Mikael Lustig, Sweden

Sweden’s plucky run to the quarter-final was underpinned by a resilient defence, and Lustig’s showings at right-back were vital to a rearguard that kept three clean sheets in five matches. It was telling that when he was suspended for the loss to England, Sweden’s right flank was instantly a problem.

The Celtic star also formed a key part of Sweden’s attack, creating six changes from his right-back berth, and emerged from this tournament with his reputation enhanced.

Lustig was a big miss for Sweden in their quarter-final against England.

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Mother of Brazil international Taison is found safe and well after being kidnapped from her home

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Taison training in Russia with the Brazil squad.

The mother of Brazil international Taison was kidnapped on Monday by an armed gang but released within hours after police located their hideout.

Security camera footage showed Rosangela Freda being lured to the security gates in front of her home in Pelotas, southern Brazil, by a man delivering flowers and bundled into a car.

Taison, who was a member of the Selecao World Cup squad that exited following a 2-1 defeat in the quarter-finals to Belgium, plays for the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk.

Freda was kidnapped in the neighbourhood of Navegantes and taken to a house in Monte Bonito on the outskirts of the city, but was found safe just an hour later.

“She is well. Apart from the fright, there is no injury,” said detective Rafael Lopes, adding that the gang did not have time to issue a ransom demand.

Lopes said police had found the gang’s hideout after officers spotted the getaway vehicle, a white Fiat Siena, from a description broadcast on police radio.

“We closed the circle around the place where the car had been seen,” he said. “In less than an hour we found where she was being held and released the victim.”

When police approached the house, one man escaped and four were arrested. The man who escaped was recognised by one officer as a known local criminal with a record for homicide and drug crimes.

Brazil were beaten in the last eight by Belgium.

Brazil were beaten in the last eight by Belgium.

Two others also had criminal records. Police found a .44 revolver, a shotgun, cocaine and marijuana in the house.

Freda was found with her hands tied behind her back in a garage at the back of the property.

Paulo Storani, a former police captain and security specialist in Rio, said kidnapping had largely died out in major Brazilian cities because of improved police methods and security cameras, though “lightning kidnaps”, where crooks lead a victim to a cashpoint, still occurred.

In a television interview last year, Taison cried as he paid tribute to the sacrifices his mother, a maid, and father, a labourer, had made for him.

He began his career at Progresso, a Pelotas amateur team. In June, he shared on Instagram a photograph from Sochi of him hugging his mother.

“I’ll do anything to see a smile on your face, Mum, because you always did everything for my happiness,” he wrote.

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Real Madrid target Thibaut Courtois tops our World Cup goalkeeping rankings

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Thibaut Courtois' Golden Glove at the World Cup was justly deserved.

The World Cup always serves as a stage for goalkeepers to make a name for themselves – think Keylor Navas, David Ospina, and Guillermo Ochoa at the last edition – but this summer has seen some established shot-stoppers enhance or restore their reputations.

Thibaut Courtois‘ displays for Belgium are a case in point, as the keeper has recovered from a middling season to re-establish himself as one of the best at his position again, winning the tournament’s Golden Glove award.

The Chelsea man tops our World Cup goalkeeping rankings – here’s a look at our full top five.

1. Thibaut Courtois, Belgium

Courtois has bounced back after a season in England which saw critics sharpen their knives as he looked short of the form that had marked him out as one of the world’s best.

He’s been the outstanding keeper at the World Cup, producing several brilliant saves along the way, not least in Belgium’s big quarter-final win over Brazil against Neymar in the dying minutes.

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH58-BRA-BEL

2. Hugo Lloris, France

Hugo Lloris has alternated between solid and spectacular this summer, providing a reliable presence as France’s last line of defence and producing some vital saves along the way.

The stunning diving stop he made in the semi-final against Belgium to deny Toby Alderweireld and preserve France’s 1-0 lead, could end up counting as a World Cup-winning save – and should hopefully overshadow his howler in the final.

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final

3. Danijel Subasic, Croatia

Until the World Cup final, Croatia had conceded only five goals all tournament, with Subasic standing firm behind a resilient defence.

His heroics in two straight penalty shootouts, against Denmark and Russia, will never be forgotten in Croatia, even if the Monaco man was unable to punctuate those two performances with a career highlight. The toe of his boot on several further looks also denied Harry Kane in the semi-final.

Croatia v Denmark: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

4. Jordan Pickford, England

England’s surprise run to the semi-finals has seen Pickford’s reputation grow immensely, after a season where his form at Everton was at times at questionable.

He produced some wonderful saves throughout the tournament and denied Carlos Bacca from the spot to end help end England’s penalty hoodoo. That and his distribution was key to England’s play.

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH56-COL-ENG

5. Kasper Schmeichel, Denmark

Kasper Schmeichel was unfortunate to end the Round of 16 tie against Croatia on the losing side, because his performance up to that game, and in it, had been excellent. He saved a penalty from Luka Modric during that game, and then produced more saves in the penalty shootout, only for Subasic to upstage him.

Still, the Leicester stopper’s performances only confirmed his status as one of Europe’s leading goalkeepers.

TOPSHOT-FBL-WC-2018-MATCH37-DEN-FRA

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