World Cup 100: Ranking the Top Players in Russia After Semi-Finals

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 11, 2018

World Cup 100: Ranking the Top Players in Russia After Semi-Finals

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    Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    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.


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    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)


    Top 10 Goalkeepers
    1Kasper Schmeichel (Stay)Denmark
    2Thibaut Courtois (Stay)Belgium
    3Jordan Pickford (+5)England
    4Danijel Subasic (-1)Croatia
    5Guillermo Ochoa (-1)Mexico
    6Jo Hyeon-woo (-1)South Korea
    7Hugo Lloris (+2)France
    8Alireza Beiranvand (-2)Iran
    9Robin Olsen (-2)Sweden
    10Yann Sommer (Stay)

Right-Backs/Right Wing-Backs

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    YURI CORTEZ/Getty Images

    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)


    Top 10 Right-Backs/Right Wing-Backs
    1Kieran Trippier (Stay)England
    2Mario Fernandes (Stay)Russia
    3Sime Vrsaljko (+1)Croatia
    4Thomas Meunier (-1)Belgium
    5Benjamin Pavard (+1)France
    6Martin Caceres (-1)Uruguay
    7Ramin Rezaeian (Stay)Iran
    8Luis Advincula (Stay)Peru
    9Henrik Dalsgaard (Stay)Denmark
    10Moussa Wague (Stay)Senegal

Left-Backs/Left Wing-Backs

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    Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

    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)


    Top 10 Left-Backs/Left Wing-Backs
    1Diego Laxalt (Stay)Uruguay
    2Ludwig Augustinsson (Stay)Sweden
    3Lucas Hernandez (+1)France
    4Yuto Nagatomo (-1)Japan
    5Yuri Zhirkov (Stay)Russia
    6Youssouf Sabaly (Stay)Senegal
    7Jesus Gallardo (Stay)Mexico
    8Ashley Young (Stay)England
    9Ivan Strinic (Stay)Croatia
    10Ehsan Haji Safi (Stay)Iran


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    PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

    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)


    Top 20 Centre-Backs
    1Andreas Granqvist (Stay)Sweden
    2Diego Godin (Stay)Uruguay
    3Raphael Varane (+11)France
    4John Stones (-1)England
    5Harry Maguire (-1)England
    6Yerry Mina (-1)Colombia
    7Jose Gimenez (-1)Uruguay
    8Thiago Silva (-1)Brazil
    9Miranda (-1)Brazil
    10Samuel Umtiti (New!)France
    11Manuel Akanji (-2)Switzerland
    12Toby Alderweireld (-2)Belgium
    13Simon Kjaer (-2)
    14Morteza Pouraliganji (-2)Iran
    15Jan Vertonghen (-2)Belgium
    16Kyle Walker (-1)England
    17Domagoj Vida (-1)Croatia
    18Ilya Kutepov (-1)Russia
    19Nikola Milenkovic (-1)Serbia
    20Carlos Salcedo (-1)

Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders

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    TF-Images/Getty Images

    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)


    Top 20 Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders
    1N'Golo Kante (Stay)France
    2Luka Modric (Stay)Croatia
    3Paul Pogba (Stay)France
    4Casemiro (+1)Brazil
    5Ivan Rakitic (+3)Croatia
    6Kevin De Bruyne (-2)Belgium
    7Philippe Coutinho (-2)Brazil
    8Roman Zobnin (-1)Russia
    9Andres Iniesta (Stay)Spain
    10Jordan Henderson (Stay)England
    11Valon Behrami (Stay)Switzerland
    12Idrissa Gueye (Stay)Senegal
    13Hector Herrera (+1)Mexico
    14Nahitan Nandez (+1)Uruguay
    15Wilmar Barrios (+1)Colombia
    16Jesse Lingard (-3)England
    17Omid Ebrahimi (Stay)Iran
    18Gaku Shibasaki (Stay)Japan
    19Marcelo Brozovic (New!)Croatia
    20Axel Witsel (Stay)Belgium

Attacking Midfielders/Wingers

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    /Getty Images

    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)


    Top 20 Attacking Midfielders/Wingers
    1Kylian Mbappe (+1)France
    2Eden Hazard (-1)Belgium
    3Isco (Stay)Spain
    4Aleksandr Golovin (Stay)Russia
    5Ante Rebic ()Croatia
    6Denis Cheryshev (Stay)Russia
    7Antoine Griezmann ()France
    8Nordin Amrabat ()
    9Takashi Inui ()Japan
    10Hirving Lozano ()Mexico
    11Dries Mertens ()Belgium
    12Ivan Perisic ()Croatia
    13Neymar (Stay)Brazil
    14Rodrigo Bentancur (-StayUruguay
    15Andre Carrillo (Stay)Peru
    16Carlos Vela (Stay)Mexico
    17Juan Quintero (Stay)Colombia
    18Yurary Poulsen (Stay)Denmark
    19Xherdan Shaqiri (Stay)Switzerland
    20Shinji Kagawa (Stay)Japan


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    YURI CORTEZ/Getty Images

    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)

    Top 10 Strikers
    1Romelu Lukaku (Stay)Belgium
    2Harry Kane (Stay)England
    3Edinson Cavani (Stay)Uruguay
    4Artem Dzyuba (Stay)Russia
    5Cristiano Ronaldo (Stay)Portugal
    6Mario Mandzukic (+3)Croatia
    7Luis Suarez (-1)Uruguay
    8Diego Costa (-1)Spain
    9Olivier Giroud (-1)France
    10Ahmed Musa (Stay)Nigeria



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