In a World Cup that ended up being the third-most prolific of all time, high-class defending was at a premium. But there were a few exponents of football’s less loved art who stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Diego Godin was a prime example, as the centre-back who seems like a throwback to a bygone era, showed yet again why he’s considered one of the best defenders in the world.
The Uruguay man duly tops our World Cup centre-back rankings – here’s the full top five.
1. Diego Godin, Uruguay
Uruguay are blessed with attacking stars like Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, but no player personifies the team more than Diego Godin. The Atletico Madrid man gives no quarter and fights until his dying breath, much like his team.
Every bit the classic warrior-defender, the 32-year-old was at his best in the World Cup as he anchored a miserly defence that conceded just three times en-route to the quarter-finals, dominating in the air and serving as a roaring, inspirational leader.
2. Harry Maguire, England
Everyone knew a player named Harry would star for England at the World Cup. Nobody thought it would be Maguire, not Kane. As he has been at every stage of his rise to stardom, Maguire was a revelation this summer.
The Leicester City defender was a towering presence in the air in both his box and the opposition’s, and always looked unruffled on the ball. It was his goal that put England in the driver’s seat in the quarter-final.
3. Raphael Varane, France
Raphael Varane has long been marked out as one of the best young defenders in the world, but he’s had a shaky couple of years for Real Madrid. However, this summer, Varane took the next step on the journey to realising his potential.
The 25-year-old looked like he was relishing his role as the senior man in the heart of France’s defence, leading that rearguard to a World Cup title – and for good measure, he added a crucial knockout stage goal as well.
4. Jose Gimenez, Uruguay
The other half of Uruguay’s indefatigable central defensive partnership, Jose Gimenez was about as much of a warrior as Godin, with the duo close to unbeatable.
It’s remarkable that at 23-years old, Gimenez has carved out a reputation for himself as just as hard-nosed and reliable defender as senior colleague Godin – a reputation that grew even more at this World Cup.
5. Domagoj Vida, Croatia
Barring a controversy over a couple of politically charged videos, Domagoj Vida was the Croatian centre-back who made the least headlines. While Dejan Lovren was wondering why he’s not regarded as one of the world’s best defenders, Vida was the one putting in outstanding performances at the heart of his team’s defence.
And he was a dangerous presence in attack, as well, scoring a vital goal in Croatia’s quarter-final win over Russia and bagging an assist in the final, setting up Ivan Perisic’s first-half equaliser. The Besiktas man, who has been linked with Liverpool, was everywhere.
Know more about Sport360 Application