World Cup 100: Ranking the Top Players in Russia After Semi-Finals
The World Cup 2018 final is now in sight. We've always known when it will be played—Sunday, July 15—but we now know who will contest it, too: France and Croatia.
With the semi-finals done, it's time to update our World Cup 100—a position-by-position ranking of the top-performing players in Russia. It will be the penultimate edition, with another coming on the night of the final. We've watched every game, rated every player and constructed a top 10 or 20 for each spot and crowned the kings of each. We have updated it after every round of matches.
Bear in mind that only performances at the World Cup were considered for these rankings. Reputations count for nothing. Play well in Russia and be rewarded; don't, and you won't find your name here.
In terms of categorising player positions, we've introduced the following rules:
- If a player has played multiple positions, he is placed in the one he's played the most minutes in.
- If he has played the same number of minutes in two separate positions, he is placed in the one he played in most recently.
Because of team eliminations and rotating lineups, some players have played in more matches than others. In such instances, those who have kept consistently higher performances over a larger number of games were rewarded with a higher rank.
You can view the previous edition here.
With all of the attention on Belgium's formation, tactics and attacking talent and whether Marouane Fellaini should be on the pitch, Thibaut Courtois' strong World Cup has flown too far under the radar.
He's made crucial stops in every match played, bailing out defensive errors, securing victories or limiting damage.
Jordan Pickford played an aggressive, effective game against Croatia. He made a hash of things once, but he generally punched and swept well. He also made a big save from Mario Mandzukic in extra time.
Biggest rise: Jordan Pickford (+5)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-2)
|1||Kasper Schmeichel (Stay)||Denmark|
|2||Thibaut Courtois (Stay)||Belgium|
|3||Jordan Pickford (+5)||England|
|4||Danijel Subasic (-1)||Croatia|
|5||Guillermo Ochoa (-1)||Mexico|
|6||Jo Hyeon-woo (-1)||South Korea|
|7||Hugo Lloris (+2)||France|
|8||Alireza Beiranvand (-2)||Iran|
|9||Robin Olsen (-2)||Sweden|
|10||Yann Sommer (Stay)||Switzerland|
It will take something special in the final for any right-back to topple Kieran Trippier from the top spot here. England may have lost their semi-final, but he was brilliant again, netting a lovely free-kick and locking down his flank for long periods.
Despite the brilliant showing, Trippier wasn't the best right-back on the pitch. Sime Vrsaljko, suggested to be injured and unlikely to play the game beforehand, dominated the wing for Croatia. He swung in the cross that Ivan Perisic converted and cleared a goal-bound header off the line.
Biggest rise: Multiple (+1)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-1)
|1||Kieran Trippier (Stay)||England|
|2||Mario Fernandes (Stay)||Russia|
|3||Sime Vrsaljko (+1)||Croatia|
|4||Thomas Meunier (-1)||Belgium|
|5||Benjamin Pavard (+1)||France|
|6||Martin Caceres (-1)||Uruguay|
|7||Ramin Rezaeian (Stay)||Iran|
|8||Luis Advincula (Stay)||Peru|
|9||Henrik Dalsgaard (Stay)||Denmark|
|10||Moussa Wague (Stay)||Senegal|
Lucas Hernandez might want to consider a few things after this World Cup.
His all-action, determined displays in Russia have been key to France's defensive solidity and will have turned heads. If Atletico Madrid restrict him to being a role player again in 2018-19, he might fancy asking for a bit more elsewhere.
His jump above Yuto Nagatomo is the only move in this section. Ashley Young and Ivan Strinic both struggled in the other semi-final, so they each stay put.
Biggest rise: Lucas Hernandez (+1)
Biggest fall: Yuto Nagatomo (-1)
|1||Diego Laxalt (Stay)||Uruguay|
|2||Ludwig Augustinsson (Stay)||Sweden|
|3||Lucas Hernandez (+1)||France|
|4||Yuto Nagatomo (-1)||Japan|
|5||Yuri Zhirkov (Stay)||Russia|
|6||Youssouf Sabaly (Stay)||Senegal|
|7||Jesus Gallardo (Stay)||Mexico|
|8||Ashley Young (Stay)||England|
|9||Ivan Strinic (Stay)||Croatia|
|10||Ehsan Haji Safi (Stay)||Iran|
Across great players' careers, there are moments when they elevate themselves and enhance their reputation in the footballing world. Tuesday night's World Cup semi-final between France and Belgium was one of those moments for Raphael Varane.
His central defensive partner, Samuel Umtiti, scored the only goal of the game, but Varane's incredible showing in his own box ensured Les Bleus held out. Key headers, clearances and tackles flowed all night long; it was incredible to watch.
England's trio of centre-backs had a tough night against Croatia, starting strongly but seeing errors creep in. Kyle Walker and John Stones were each culpable for goals conceded.
Biggest rise: Raphael Varane (+11)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-2)
|1||Andreas Granqvist (Stay)||Sweden|
|2||Diego Godin (Stay)||Uruguay|
|3||Raphael Varane (+11)||France|
|4||John Stones (-1)||England|
|5||Harry Maguire (-1)||England|
|6||Yerry Mina (-1)||Colombia|
|7||Jose Gimenez (-1)||Uruguay|
|8||Thiago Silva (-1)||Brazil|
|10||Samuel Umtiti (New!)||France|
|11||Manuel Akanji (-2)||Switzerland|
|12||Toby Alderweireld (-2)||Belgium|
|13||Simon Kjaer (-2)||Denmark|
|14||Morteza Pouraliganji (-2)||Iran|
|15||Jan Vertonghen (-2)||Belgium|
|16||Kyle Walker (-1)||England|
|17||Domagoj Vida (-1)||Croatia|
|18||Ilya Kutepov (-1)||Russia|
|19||Nikola Milenkovic (-1)||Serbia|
|20||Carlos Salcedo (-1)||Mexico|
Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders
Another week, another sublime performance from N'Golo Kante. He gave no quarter, mopped up relentlessly in midfield and even led surges forward at times.
Luka Modric played well, too, but his performance wasn't strong or impactful enough to dislodge Kante at the top. His midfield partner, Ivan Rakitic, continues to creep up, though, securing a place in the top five.
Kevin De Bruyne had an uncharacteristically sloppy semi-final. The second half was a real struggle for him, as he misplaced passes and committed errors that forced him into fouls. Jesse Lingard wasn't great against Croatia, so he drops below three players who didn't play this round.
Biggest rise: Ivan Rakitic (+3)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-2)
|1||N'Golo Kante (Stay)||France|
|2||Luka Modric (Stay)||Croatia|
|3||Paul Pogba (Stay)||France|
|5||Ivan Rakitic (+3)||Croatia|
|6||Kevin De Bruyne (-2)||Belgium|
|7||Philippe Coutinho (-2)||Brazil|
|8||Roman Zobnin (-1)||Russia|
|9||Andres Iniesta (Stay)||Spain|
|10||Jordan Henderson (Stay)||England|
|11||Valon Behrami (Stay)||Switzerland|
|12||Idrissa Gueye (Stay)||Senegal|
|13||Hector Herrera (+1)||Mexico|
|14||Nahitan Nandez (+1)||Uruguay|
|15||Wilmar Barrios (+1)||Colombia|
|16||Jesse Lingard (-3)||England|
|17||Omid Ebrahimi (Stay)||Iran|
|18||Gaku Shibasaki (Stay)||Japan|
|19||Marcelo Brozovic (New!)||Croatia|
|20||Axel Witsel (Stay)||Belgium|
Last week, Eden Hazard moved above Kylian Mbappe at the top of this section. This week, they swap right back.
Hazard was good in the first half of Belgium's semi-final, but he fizzled out in the second, as he seemingly ran out of ideas. Mbappe, meanwhile, was a menace throughout. Initially, he was the key outlet in attack dribbling forward, and he later became a pressure-relief mechanism to close out the game.
Ivan Perisic was the epitome of a game-winner against England, netting the equaliser and assisting the winner. He also smacked the post between the two actions.
Biggest rise: Ivan Perisic (+7)
Biggest fall: Nordin Amrabat (-3)
|1||Kylian Mbappe (+1)||France|
|2||Eden Hazard (-1)||Belgium|
|4||Aleksandr Golovin (Stay)||Russia|
|5||Ante Rebic ()||Croatia|
|6||Denis Cheryshev (Stay)||Russia|
|7||Antoine Griezmann ()||France|
|8||Nordin Amrabat ()||Morocco|
|9||Takashi Inui ()||Japan|
|10||Hirving Lozano ()||Mexico|
|11||Dries Mertens ()||Belgium|
|12||Ivan Perisic ()||Croatia|
|14||Rodrigo Bentancur (-Stay||Uruguay|
|15||Andre Carrillo (Stay)||Peru|
|16||Carlos Vela (Stay)||Mexico|
|17||Juan Quintero (Stay)||Colombia|
|18||Yurary Poulsen (Stay)||Denmark|
|19||Xherdan Shaqiri (Stay)||Switzerland|
|20||Shinji Kagawa (Stay)||Japan|
Neither of our top two strikers performed well in the semi-finals. Romelu Lukaku was contained well by France, while Harry Kane didn't make a huge impact against Croatia (other than missing a golden chance from close range). They will get another opportunity (the third-place play-off) to impress, though.
The only significant mover in this section is Mario Mandzukic, who scored the extra-time goal that secured Croatia's passage to the World Cup final. He was alive and alert when the defence wasn't, reaping the benefits.
Biggest rise: Mario Mandzukic (+3)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-1)
|1||Romelu Lukaku (Stay)||Belgium|
|2||Harry Kane (Stay)||England|
|3||Edinson Cavani (Stay)||Uruguay|
|4||Artem Dzyuba (Stay)||Russia|
|5||Cristiano Ronaldo (Stay)||Portugal|
|6||Mario Mandzukic (+3)||Croatia|
|7||Luis Suarez (-1)||Uruguay|
|8||Diego Costa (-1)||Spain|
|9||Olivier Giroud (-1)||France|
|10||Ahmed Musa (Stay)||Nigeria|