World Cup 100: Ranking the Top Players in Russia After the Final
The 2018 World Cup is now in the books. France won a thrilling final against Croatia on Sunday, lifting the trophy for the first time since 1998.
It's time to update our World Cup 100—a position-by-position ranking of the top-performing players in Russia—for the last time. With every match played, every performance delivered, it's time to make a definitive judgement.
We've watched every game, rated every player and constructed a top 10 or 20 for each spot and crowned the kings of each. Bear in mind that only performances at the World Cup were considered for these rankings. Reputations count for nothing.
In terms of categorising player positions, we've introduced the following rule:
- If someone played multiple positions, he is placed in the one he played the most minutes in.
- If he 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 appeared in more matches than others. In such instances, those who kept consistently higher performances over a larger number of games were rewarded with a higher rank.
Thibaut Courtois rounded off a brilliant campaign with a clean sheet in the third-placed playoff. His excellence wasn't given that much airtime over the course of the tournament—presumably because he didn't go through a penalty shootout—but he made excellent saves every step of the way, becoming a genuine factor in his nation's run.
He's a deserved winner of the Golden Glove.
The only goalkeepers that were left with a chance of challenging Courtois for the award were Hugo Lloris, who made a horrendous error in the final, and Danijel Subasic, who conceded more goals (four) than shots saved (three) in the final.
Biggest rise: Thibaut Courtois (+1)
Biggest fall: Hugo Lloris (-3)
|1||Thibaut Courtois (+1)||Belgium|
|2||Kasper Schmeichel (-1)||Denmark|
|3||Jordan Pickford (Stay)||England|
|4||Danijel Subasic (Stay)||Croatia|
|5||Guillermo Ochoa (Stay)||Mexico|
|6||Jo Hyeon-woo (Stay)||Korea Republic|
|7||Alireza Beiranvand (+1)||Iran|
|8||Robin Olsen (+1)||Sweden|
|9||Yann Sommer (+1)||Switzerland|
|10||Hugo Lloris (-3)||France|
Roberto Martinez's full-throttle attacking tactics suit Thomas Meunier well. He was one of Belgium's best performers in Russia, and his goal against England on Saturday was the cherry on top of an impressive-looking cake.
It wasn't enough to overhaul our top two, though.
Mario Fernandes was incredible for Russia, while Kieran Trippier was arguably England's best player. Between them, they offered forward drive, excellent defending and set-piece mastery.
Biggest rise: Thomas Meunier (+1)
Biggest fall: Sime Vrsaljko (-1)
|1||Kieran Trippier (Stay)||England|
|2||Mario Fernandes (Stay)||Russia|
|3||Thomas Meunier (+1)||Belgium|
|4||Sime Vrsaljko (-1)||Croatia|
|5||Benjamin Pavard (Stay)||France|
|6||Martin Caceres (Stay)||Uruguay|
|7||Ramin Rezaeian (Stay)||Iran|
|8||Luis Advincula (Stay)||Peru|
|9||Henrik Dalsgaard (Stay)||Denmark|
|10||Moussa Wague (Stay)||Senegal|
Only two of the top 10 left-backs played this weekend, as England's Ashley Young didn't play and Belgium's rotation of options at this position produced no stellar long-term performers.
Fortunately, one of the performances was worth talking about: Lucas Hernandez's. Another powerful, combative showing completed an excellent World Cup for him, and he even picked up an assist for Kylian Mbappe's strike. He ends up on top.
Biggest rise: Lucas Hernandez (+2)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-1)
|1||Lucas Hernandez (+2)||France|
|2||Diego Laxalt (-1)||Uruguay|
|3||Ludwig Augustinsson (-1)||Sweden|
|4||Yuto Nagatomo (Stay)||Japan|
|5||Yuri Zhirkov (Stay)||Russia|
|6||Youssouf Sabaly (Stay)||Senegal|
|7||Jesus Gallardo (Stay)||Mexico|
|8||Ivan Strinic (+1)||Croatia|
|9||Ashley Young (-1)||England|
|10||Ehsan Haji Safi (Stay)||Iran|
The centre-backs were consistently hard to judge, as many of them struggled to find a consistently high level.
That's why two centre-backs who bowed out at the quarter-final stage still occupy the top spots. Having held the positions to this point, they don't deserve to be displaced.
Harry Maguire impressed enough in the third-place game to overtake John Stones, and Raphael Varane look unsettled enough not to take his presumed path to the top.
Biggest rise: Toby Alderweireld (+3)
Biggest fall: Multiple (-1)
|1||Andreas Granqvist (Stay)||Sweden|
|2||Diego Godin (Stay)||Uruguay|
|3||Harry Maguire (+2)||England|
|4||Raphael Varane (-1)||France|
|5||John Stones (-1)||England|
|6||Yerry Mina (Stay)||Colombia|
|7||Jose Gimenez (Stay)||Uruguay|
|8||Thiago Silva (Stay)||Brazil|
|9||Toby Alderweireld (+3)||Belgium|
|11||Samuel Umtiti (-1)||France|
|12||Manuel Akanji (-1)||Switzerland|
|13||Jan Vertonghen (+2)||Belgium|
|14||Simon Kjaer (Stay)||Denmark|
|15||Morteza Pouraliganji (Stay)||Iran|
|16||Kyle Walker (Stay)||England|
|17||Domagoj Vida (Stay)||Croatia|
|18||Ilya Kutepov (Stay)||Russia|
|19||Nikola Milenkovic (Stay)||Serbia|
|20||Carlos Salcedo (Stay)||Mexico|
Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders
The beauty of football is found in its unpredictability. You never know what's going to happen.
N'Golo Kante's horror show in the final could not have been foreseen. He had been the tournament's best central midfielder to that point, but he was woefully off the pace on Sunday. The performance was bad enough to push Golden Ball winner Luka Modric into first.
Kevin De Bruyne's ability to slice and dice with his passing is well-known, but particularly so in England, where he does it on a weekly basis. England and John Stones succumbed to it on Saturday, proving practice (against certain things) does not always make perfect.
Marcelo Brozovic is a big mover thanks to his battling performances over the final two games.
Biggest rise: Marcelo Brozovic (+10)
Biggest fall: Casemiro (-2)
|1||Luka Modric (+1)||Croatia|
|2||N'Golo Kante (-1)||France|
|3||Paul Pogba (Stay)||France|
|4||Kevin De Bruyne (+2)||Belgium|
|5||Ivan Rakitic (Stay)||Croatia|
|7||Philippe Coutinho (Stay)||Brazil|
|8||Roman Zobnin (Stay)||Russia|
|9||Marcelo Brozovic (+10)||Croatia|
|10||Andres Iniesta (-1)||Spain|
|11||Jordan Henderson (Stay)||England|
|12||Valon Behrami (Stay)||Switzerland|
|13||Idrissa Gueye (Stay)||Senegal|
|14||Hector Herrera (-1)||Mexico|
|15||Nahitan Nandez (-1)||Uruguay|
|16||Wilmar Barrios (-1)||Colombia|
|17||Jesse Lingard (-1)||England|
|18||Omid Ebrahimi (-1)||Iran|
|19||Gaku Shibasaki (-1)||Japan|
|20||Axel Witsel (Stay)||Belgium|
Eden Hazard put in a spectacular showing against England on Saturday, weaving his way through tackles and fooling defenders consistently. His late goal to wrap up the win was well-deserved.
After such a performance, it was going to take something remarkable from Kylian Mbappe in the final to stave him off for the top spot. While Mbappe did score a lovely goal, Hazard deserves top billing on balance.
Ivan Perisic is a big mover due to his impressive performances in Croatia's two most important games. He overtakes Ante Rebic, who started fast but trailed off gradually.
Biggest rise: Ivan Perisic (+8)
Biggest fall: Aleksandr Golovin (-3)
|1||Eden Hazard (+1)||Belgium|
|2||Kylian Mbappe (-1)||France|
|3||Antoine Griezmann (+4)||France|
|4||Ivan Perisic (+8)||Croatia|
|5||Ante Rebic (Stay)||Croatia|
|7||Aleksandr Golovin (-3)||Russia|
|8||Denis Cheryshev (-2)||Russia|
|9||Nordin Amrabat (-1)||Morocco|
|10||Takashi Inui (-1)||Japan|
|11||Hirving Lozano (-1)||Mexico|
|12||Dries Mertens (-1)||Belgium|
|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|
Saturday's match between Belgium and England pit the top two strikers of the tournament against one another. It was a chance for one of them to assert their dominance over the position and end their spell in Russia on a high. We expected fireworks.
Instead, both Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane looked off-colour. Lukaku worked some good positions but was consistently stopped one-on-one, while Kane wasn't moving in the way he usually does, as his predatory instincts in the box were strangely missing.
Biggest rise: None
Biggest fall: None
|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 (Stay)||Croatia|
|7||Luis Suarez (Stay)||Uruguay|
|8||Diego Costa (Stay)||Spain|
|9||Olivier Giroud (Stay)||France|
|10||Ahmed Musa (Stay)||Nigeria|