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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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